New ramen joints

As the winter chill sets in, TONY checks out the latest crop of ramen-ya to bring their steaming, noodle-packed soups to NYC.

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  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Tabata Noodle Restaurant

    Tabata Noodle Restaurant

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Tabata Noodle Restaurant

    Tabata Ramen at Tabata Noodle Restaurant

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Tabata Noodle Restaurant

    Tan tan men at Tabata Noodle Restaurant

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Tabata Noodle Restaurant

    Tabata Noodle Restaurant

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Tabata Noodle Restaurant

Tabata Noodle Restaurant

Tabata Noodle Restaurant
While Japan has its share of cultish, destination ramen-ya, the majority of its shops are humble, stop-and-slurp spots—no-frills lunch counters built for quick, satisfying meals. With its location in the shadows of Port Authority, Tabata has the potential to be a much-needed filling station for commuters and midtown workers looking for ten minutes of bliss hunched over a steaming bowl. But while the place is consistently bustling, it's hard to see why.

A wraparound counter facing the open kitchen provides a convivial place to post up, though the boisterous greetings and shouting of orders feel forced, particularly since many staffers aren't native speakers. This is authenticity la Benihana, a show for the lunchtime hordes. Not that the Burmese owners are trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes: The menu skips the pedantic devotion to regional guidelines in favor of a something-for-everyone approach. The namesake Tabata Ramen is a clear nod to Southeast Asia, with a curried coconut broth similar to curry laksa. It looks plenty appealing, the burnt-orange soup dotted with oil and flecked with cilantro, but grayish nubs of chicken and thin, flaccid noodles spoil the otherwise tasty dish.

For a quick bite before hopping a Greyhound, you could do worse than the tan tan men, a chili-oil-laced ramen variant that has its roots in Szechuan-style dandan noodles. The reddish stock is thick with sesame paste, and the minced pork piled on top delivers a warming kick; when combined with those same overcooked noodles, though, it brings to mind an oversauced spaghetti bolognese. More-familiar Japanese options are also problematic, hampered by subpar ingredients and careless preparation. On one visit, bland gyoza were stuck together in one giant piece, their flimsy wrappers easily ripping when pulled apart. And the miso ramen has none of the nutty sweetness or cloudy depth that makes the style distinctive—it looks and tastes more like a salty chicken broth with a slap-up stir-fry (limp cabbage, crinkle-cut carrots, rubbery pork) dumped on top.

Our advice: Blow off your next appointment, trek 12 blocks north to Totto Ramen and get in line with the other fanatics. You won't regret it.

Vitals


540 Ninth Ave between 39th and 40th Sts (212-290-7691)

Average bowl of ramen: $9

Eat this: Tan tan men


Ramen Misoya | Chuko | Tabata Noodle Restaurant


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Users say

1 comments
racist
racist

get over yourself. do you think only japanese people can make ramen? your stupidity is only outshined by your ignorance.