My first review from our trip stateside (though we’ll be flitting across countries to keep you dear readers on your toes). This time to what was my favourite meal in New York… and of course what else does one find in New York but fantastic Japanese food? Not three blocks from Central park, nestled amongst offices, and other non-descript buildings you would be easily forgiven for wandering past Naruto, were it not for the delicious sweet scents of Japanese cooking wafting from the door. When it comes to Japanese food, ramen is one of the most ubiquitous dishes known in the West- often found in student dormitories in its most bastardised form, dehydrated; a fresh version is exquisite and though simple to make is difficult to master. This place is perhaps as close as one can get to a ramen bar outside of Japan. Huddled amongst (and at times squashed against) strangers, we take our seats at a small wooden bar stretched across the length of the kitchen. Proximity to kitchen ensures service is lightning fast and we didn’t wait any longer than 6 or 7 minutes for our food to arrive and costing a mere $10 per person for the entire meal. The chefs are fast and the knives faster still here in Naruto Ramen which had a mesmerising effect on ourselves and its other patrons.
“my taste buds were left dancing for more”.
I once worked with a chef who trained in Japan before heading off to University and this was my first real Japanese food experience since that point. The food was incredibly cheap, I’d go so far as to say under-priced for the quality and portions we received. To start, the Naruto buns. Steamed buns with lightly pickled fresh vegetables, slow cooked pork shoulder, which fell apart to the touch and a secret sauce- the base was Asian fish sauce but beyond that I was baffled other than its utter deliciousness. The mixture of the pork, secret sauce and soft dough was a textural delight and the acidity of the pickled vegetables cut through providing depth to each individual flavour.
For main we chose the signature Naruto ramen: pork, beansprouts, bamboo shoots, dried seaweed, tofu, spring onions, boiled egg and noodles in a meaty broth. I should say at this point we returned the very next day where I tried the curry ramen which was as equally good, but back to the food at hand. The ramen was delicious, the dish was hearty and warming which was fantastic for a cold December evening in New York and the vegetables were most welcome after so much beige during our travels across the U.S. The flavours held their own against the saltiness and strength of the broth which helped to balance the collective ingredients. Similar to the buns, the pork near-dissolved when touched, which given my prowess with chopsticks proved a little too difficult so I was grateful for the spoon. With so many components in one bowl each bite, chew and slurp was a new adventure in taste and my taste buds were left dancing for more (hence the second visit). Washed down with a cold asahi beer refreshed the flavours with each swig from the glass. On value alone I would struggle to recommend somewhere better to eat in New York and once paired with the level of craft in the food I can solemnly swear it’s a must. Should I return to New York, I know where my first stop will be.
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Naruto Ramen 1596 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10128
(Between 89th & 90th St)