Momofuku Noodle Bar

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I tagged this with Japanese, but it’s really another experiment in Asian fusion cuisine.  I have never found a fusion restaurant that I liked, but I kept hearing rave reviews about this place.  When describing the ramen at Momofuku, my co-worker said that it was like “Japan married Texas and had a baby.”  But after dining here for an early dinner, it only further reaffirmed my belief that more traditional dishes are far superior to fusion food.

We split an order of Oyster buns and each got the Momofuku Ramen.  The Oyster buns were like a variant of the Pork/Lamb Burgers they have at Xi’an Famous Foods, but not nearly as savory.  We got it for the Old Bay taste, which there were hints of; however I drowned those out with hot sauce, which I felt dramatically improved the bun.  It’s never a good thing when the dish is improved just by covering all of its original flavor with hot sauce.

The ramen was definitely different.  At first bite I thought it was amazing.  Well, the actual ramen was not that great, but the meat and the broth were so mouth-wateringly delicious.  Strangely though, after eating a little more, the delicious flavor of the meat had already lost its appeal.  I think this is one of those situations where they created too much of a positive high with the first bite, which couldn’t be maintained through the course of the meal.  My partner in crime seemed to be more disappointed than me; I at least enjoyed the first few moments of eating the ramen, whereas I don’t think she enjoyed any of it.  In fact, she didn’t even finish, and we ended up going around the corner to S’mac to get some quality mac & cheese.

Compounding the “different” taste of the ramen here with it’s price tag, I don’t think I’ll find myself dining here again.  Totto Ramen is still cheaper and better, and if you love meaty ramen, Totto Ramen serves a special ramen bowl right now which is a monster of a meal.  Better in terms of quality, quantity, and financially.  Personally, I still think Ippudo NY is the best ramen around Manhattan and it’s only two blocks away from Momofuku Noodle Bar.

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Vine Sake & Sushi

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I was so lazy today, and I didn’t want to go anywhere far.  After a year of living around Columbia University, I suppose it was about time I gave this joint a try.  Thank you Google Maps for the image, since I couldn’t seem to find one of this place on the internet.  That’s not really a surprise though.  It was a pretty bland place.  It most definitely was not good, but it wasn’t horrible enough for me to really say anything bad about it either.

We ordered Morningside Rolls, Philadelphia Rolls, Chicken Katsu Bento Box, and a Tofu Pad Thai.  Everything tasted exactly the way I would expect it to from a very average quality Asian restaurant.  The pad thai tasted like generic noodles with generic sweet sauce.  The Philly rolls tasted like generic cream cheese (not even Philadelphia cream cheese) and your everyday tuna.  Chicken katsu was a fried piece of chicken that was neither tasteless nor tasty.  The Morningside rolls were, I’m guessing, an innovation of theirs, but it just tasted like fish and veggies rolled together.  Their innovative roll definitely did not leave an impression, especially after I had just tried the Sushi Samba rolls the other day.  but the portions here were “American-sized” and bigger than the average sushi place.  Never in my life have I seen such a big bento box; I think most I’ve encountered are only about half the size of the one at this place.

Well, this restaurant gets points for being close to where I was when I wanted dinner, and it gets points just for not being horrible.  I was sad to say that even on my way out, I did not see a single table with food on it that I thought looked especially interesting or appealing.  But the waitress did yell at us while we were leaving.  Well, we thought they were yelling at us, but they never did get the attention of whoever they were yelling at.  Someone probably forgot something.  The employees were almost nice enough to give some extra effort to return it, almost…

Sushi Samba

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Since restaurant week in NYC has apparently become restaurant month, I decided to pop into Sushi Samba for lunch as it was just a few steps from my workplace.  It is well known in Las Vegas for attracting all the stars of Entourage for its grand opening.  Too bad when I stopped in for lunch here, there were no famous stars, or perhaps I just didn’t recognize who they were.  But the entire restaurant was pretty empty; I suppose Monday’s are the worst for restaurants.  Nevertheless, the atmosphere was very nice and chic, with the sushi bar in the middle and Japanese samba-esque music playing ambiently in the background.  There was a back room that looked like it may be an opium den where I did not venture, instead I opted for the bar, where I unfortunately could not see the sushi chef performing his art because the glass was covered with condensation.  Still, I eagerly awaited my first taste of Japanese-Brazilian-Peruvian fusion sushi.  I had heard nothing but good things.

My meal started with the Yellowtail Tiradito, which was  four pieces of very fresh tasting yellowtail in a jalapeno and lemongrass sauce.  Exceptional.  I would love to have eaten an entire mountain of this stuff.  I attribute the flavor choices for the sauce to the South American influence, but the flavors just intertwined with the thinly sliced fish so perfectly that it danced upon my tongue with beautiful subtlety.

This made me anticipate the Samba Sushi Plate that much more.  This plate came with the typical tuna, red snapper, salmon, and yellowtail.  I watched carefully to see who prepared it behind the sushi bar.  It was clear that one of the two was a sushi chef in training.  Thankfully, my meal was prepared by the pro, or at least the one that was more pro of the two.  And it really showed once I got past the four everyday sushi pieces to the peruvian shrimp roll.  Soft rice on the outside, crunchy shrimp on the inside, a dabble of subtle yellow sauce on top (I think peruvian corn sauce?), and a simple piece of cilantro on top.  This roll pleased me greatly.  It appears that all those good things I hear about Japanese-Peruvian fusion cuisine were indeed true, at least from my point of view.  It took no time for me to clean up this plate, but I did my best to hold back and savor the delicious taste.

I finished off the meal with the Sorvete Trio, which was really just three flavors of sorbet.  I was not pleased to find that my pisco, shiso, pineapple sorbet had become a strawberry, mango, pineapple sorbet.  Typical fruity sorbet, good tasting but not what I wanted or expected.  They had already shorted me by not offering the unlimited samba iced tea which lunch was supposed to come with.  I didn’t speak about it, but then again, I don’t believe that it should be necessary for me to do so.

The place is indeed slightly pricey, but the sushi innovations here are quite delectable, and I liked it quite a lot.  Whether or not I revisit may depend on the service.  I don’t like not being offered my complimentary iced tea, and I don’t like being uninformed  about significant changes in my order, such as the sorbet flavors.  Poor performance by the server, and she was even so eager to tell me her name too.  But she was clearly an amateur, I suppose I will refrain from publicly denouncing her by name here.

Naruto Ramen

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I love Naruto the anime and manga!  Naruto loves ramen!  Naruto Ramen must be a great place!  I had been craving a visit to this place for quite a while, but because of its relatively inconvenient location for me as a west sider, I hadn’t made the trip yet.  But finally, the day had arrived.  It was only given a 3.5 on Yelp, but that didn’t discourage me.  I know that many Yelpers do not necessarily share the same tastes as me so it was still worth a shot.

I ordered the Tantan Ramen and my partner in crime went with the Naruto Ramen, which I assume should actually be the most popular and best ramen that this quaint little shop offers.  In addition, we tried the handmade gyoza, which I had seen signs for outside.  It’s supposed to be one of their famous dishes.

Unfortunately, nothing at this place lived up to the hype, except for maybe the setting.  The food was as unimpressive as it gets.  The order of six gyoza varied greatly in taste, from acceptable to outright bad tasting, being overpowered by a strong chive or scallion type taste.  My Tantan Ramen also fell in the acceptable range of tastes.  Probably the spicyness covered up most of the lack of taste from the soup.  The noodles were cheap and doughy, not the kind I expect from a quality ramen store.  I thought that the store’s #1 ramen would taste a little better.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  I tried one bite of the Naruto Ramen and I was done.  It pales in comparison to the other leaders that I have been pampered by such as Ippudo NY and Totto Ramen.

I probably won’t be back here, but I would compliment the place by saying it is better than horrible.  I hope my next ramen adventure won’t be so disappointing.  I won’t be fooled by these stores using the names of my favorite anime/manga again!  At least, I won’t be fooled by it anytime soon… I hope…..