Ramen Lab

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The snow started to come down early that Friday. I had plans to meet up with some friends, and decided it was the perfect opening for me to try Ramen Lab in the NOLITA section of Manhattan. Later we’d all be under the influence, so what better dish than Ramen to fortify the stomach. An acquaintance of mine, when I lived in Korea, always used to bemoan the lack of Ramen joints there. Having lived in Japan for many years, he would always say that at the end of a long night of drinking, it was Ramen that would sort you out. That made sense, In New York and much of the North East its pizza, but tonight it would be Ramen, albeit in reverse.

Ramen Lab is a peculiar place, not so much restaurant as it is an advertisement for the owners. Sun Noodle Corp. of New Jersery owns this spot, and it wasn’t until after I heard about the restaurants concept, that I learned noodle peddlers were the proprietors. You’ll have to get over it ( like companies adorning your favorite soccer teams jersey) I did, was easy.

The 12 seat space, stools huddled around the kitchen, invites a new chef to prepare a new ramen each month. A truly great concept in my opinion. While NYC has its fair share of Ramen joints, why not have more, 12 more a year to be precise. Expect long waits when you come hear, as space and time are factors. I got there right when it opened more or less, and still had to wait about 35 minutes. Put your name in and order prior to being seated. Typically on the menu is one vegetarian option, and one carnivorous choice. I went with that nights American Wagyu Miso ramen. The dish that night was brought to the table by Akira Hiratsuka and his team at Brooklyn Ramen.

The broth was decadent, a visible pot piled with clean white bones proof that it took some time to cultivate the rich flavor. Also present was the clear taste of ginger. The beef was tender as were the noodles, and they really anchored the dish. Scallion and corn brought color to the bowl, and the soft boiled egg a classic ramen touch. The menu offers a lot of a la carte options, each costing a dollar or two. This is typical in many of the ramen restaurants in New York these days, and not something I’m particularly fond of. It’s my opinion that an egg should come standard with your soup. They also charged extra if you wanted your broth spicy, so hot oil was additional, which I feel should definitely be a free option. Beyond this digression, flavor is front and center, and paired with an Orion Ramen Lab is a great start, or end, to any frigid New York Night.

Drunken Dumpling

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“New Dumpling Place Opens” read the headline, or at least that was the copy through the lense of my memory. It was just over a year ago when the Drunken Dumpling opened theirs doors. I had read about it in one online periodical or another, and was intrigued. It was most likely the allure of the largest soup dumpling this side of the Prime Meridian, but that was enough for me.

I had planned two separate occasions to visit, but was cut short both times. The first time it was a scheduling thing. I had gone at four, when they were closed between lunch and dinner, and my stomach demanded I go elsewhere. On the second occasion It was just too packed, and again my stomach protested waiting any longer, so I moved on.

As is often the case, third time is a charm. On a tepid summer day, my planned visit finally came together. Me and a friend stopped in for lunch, and quickly glanced over the menu. I like the fact that everything here is organic, and farm to table like. Lets be honest, I love dumplings, and I get them from all types of places. However, many dumpling places most likely don’t use the highest quality ingredients. Now this isn’t a knock on those places, I’m fine with that. But it is nice that there is a place like Drunken Dumping.

Many of the options are your classics, dumplings you’re no doubt familiar with, pork and chive anyone. They also have that large soup dumpling that I mentioned, but me and my compatriot decided to go with the classic soup dumplings. These were great, I personally really enjoyed them. I’m no expert when it comes to soup dumplings, but I thought they were excellent. Something you should consider if you visit.

The other dumpling choice we made to round out our meal was an interesting original (at least for me) that I’d never seen before. The chicken and cashew dumpling was delectable, light, and tasty. Add hot oil and soy sauce and you’re good to go.

Thái Son

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I live about 100 yards from this Thai Son location, needless to say its a pretty good neighborhood spot. I most recently ordered takeout from here during the cold snap we just experienced, the pho with beef brisket really hit the spot.

One way to gauge the merit of any restaurant, I feel, is if the the local police are patrons. This, of course, is because they walk they’re beat here each day. And wouldn’t you know, when I was leaving with my take out order the other day, two cops just happened to be walking in.

There are a ton of dishes and variations here, so no problem with choice. Beyond the Pho, which it seems many people like, they have a bunch of summer roll type dishes. Rice paper, fresh vegetables, shrimp, pork, hot sauce, peanut sauce… I’m in. Until I came here for dinner one time, rice paper was always a mystery to me…no longer, our waiter taught us how it works, as some of the dishes require your full engagement.

I suggest going here with an appetite, its filling and tasty. Its also very reasonable.

Hi-Collar

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A friend of mine suggested I visit this sake bar after its recent opening. I decided last night would be a good time to try it, so me and another friend went to check it out. Originally my intent was to sample a few of the sakes on offer, but was pleasantly surprised by the beer selection and decided I would try one of these first.

Hi collar is a classy place, but easy on the wallet, I found pricing to be reasonable. We tried the Yonayona Ale and an IPA, both really tasty. One of the things I particulary liked is that beer is served in chilled brass cups which serves the duel purpose of keeping your beer chilled and making you look cool. I would imagine its a similar feeling drinking out of a goblet of some sort, but I can’t remember having ever done that.

After the beer we sampled an unfiltered sake which was surprisingly smooth. When you order a glass, your sake comes in a small carafe, and they give you two shot glasses. Of course this is typical and great for sharing. The staff is knowledgeable and helpful when it comes to selection. Though I didn’t sample the food, it looks really good, authentic Japanese dishes. The bar tender also told me that the space doubles as a coffee shop during the day which I thought was a clever idea and use of the space. Definitely worth checking out for a drink in a laid back quite atmosphere. Also a great place for a date.

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Mediterraneo

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I’ve been meaning to come here for years. My friend used to live in the building adjacent and this place always looked cool. What will first draws your attention is the outdoor seating that wraps along the outside, its on the corner. There is plenty of outdoor seating, which is always nice. After having been, and siting inside, I would say this place has good ambiance, and a great layout overall. I really like the wrap around bar.

Beyond the aesthetics and feel, I was interested in trying the food. Passing by it always looked good, but you never know of course. When I arrived my friends has already ordered apps, so ended up just getting a dinner item. On my friends suggestion I ordered the pappardelle with duck ragu.

I’ll say this, when I go back I will order this again, it was outstanding. Definitely get the duck ragu.

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Minetta Tavern

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Checked out Minetta Tavern last night for the famed Black Label Burger. We went without reservations, to see if we could get a seat at the bar. There weren’t any available when we got there around 6, but only had to wait about 20 minutes before some opened up. While we waited we sipped a couple of drinks from the cocktail menue the Murray Sour-Yamazaki 12 Year Whisky, Cardamom-infused Agave Nectar, Fresh Lemon & Orange and the Minetta T-Punch-Rhum JM VSOP, Sirop de Canne Fresh Mint & Lime. I liked the T-Punch most out of the two, though it wasn’t a large portion, about a third of the tumbler it was served in. The Murray Sour was also good, and a much larger portion.

We ordered both the Black Label Burger and the Minetta Burger and split them. Both were good, but the Black Label is the superior burger here. It is ultimately savory and decedent, and when I go back I’ll forgo the Minetta Burger and just get this. I got a Founders Pale Ale with the meal and found it to be a good pairing. Burgers are served with a large portion of thinly cut fries, and when you finish the last pomme frite I’m betting you’ll be full.

Beyond this the atmosphere will transport you to an old New York, when I was there I heard two separate people reference the God Father. I would suggest maybe going when its less crowded, the guy in the sports coat next to me elbowed me several times. I could have done without that.

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Super Taste

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China town, and Eldridge Street in particular, is home to some of the cities best low key reasonable eateries. Super Taste can certainly count itself among them. As you walk down Eldridge, try not to blink or you might miss it. Like many of the shops its nondescript storefront is easy to pass. I suggest following the street numbers.

Known for its hand pulled noodle soups, I decided it might be good to check it out one icy night a couple of weekends ago. As promised by many reviewers, and a close friend, the soup I got didn’t disappoint. I got the duck, and found the broth to be really tasty. My companion got the beef, also good and without bones. It should be noted that the soup is more than enough food for most people. I was genuinely surprised at the amount of noodles they packed in. This makes for an exceptional value.

Beyond the soup, we also split the Oxtail with rice, which I wouldn’t recommend. If you feel you need something beyond the soup, maybe try the dumplings. I wish we had.

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Out Latin Food

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I go here for lunch from time to time. The lunch special is reasonable, coming in under eight bucks, and filling. I currently take a class twice a week after work, so I need a large lunch to sate my appetite. This works. I have yet to try the mexican offerings, but the latin lunch platter is pretty good. I suppose my taste buds are nostalgic for these flavors since leaving Washington Heights for Queens. Rice, beans, beef stew, hot sauce you can’t go wrong.

Sake Bar Hagi

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Off the busy streets near Times Square, down a narrow flight of stairs you’ll find Sake Bar Hagi. I’ve been going to this Izakaya for years now. Back when Ben first took me here, you could buy a bottle of Sake, have them write your name on it with a sharpie, and come back later to sip from that bottle once again. Really a great business model, but one that has been discontinued, for reasons legal I can almost be sure of.

This review isn’t to lament about the good old days, Sake Bar Hagi is still great, and the food still flatters. An Izakaya is a place for patrons to relax, have a few spirits, and unwind from work. All the while taking in small plates of food. It’s kind of like a pub, or maybe a tapas place, but of course its distinctly Japanese.

Sake(as the name implies) still very much flows, even if you can’t tag up a bottle for future consumption,the selection is good. Not in the mood for Sake, these types of establishments always have beer as well. Hagi has the typical, Sapporo, Kirin and some legacy foreign and domestic options. But of course we come here for the food, and there are a wide range of options. Yakatori is on offer, so chicken/beef/vegetable skewers. Similar to the skewers is the short rib, think LA galbi, think definitely worth it.

Sushi and shashimi abound, as well as other fish preparations. I got the mackerel last time, it was grilled, cooked perfect. You can also get dishes such as uni if your looking for something not typically on offer. I got the uni, okonomiyaki and I was all set.

Manhattan Japanese Bar

 

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