Men Kui Tei
I’m not a ramen expert. I’ve never been to Japan. But I love Asian food, and the few experiences with ramen bars I’ve had here in New York City have been positive. I’m a huge fan of Momofuku. Probably because I love pork, and they do pork pretty darn well. Reading alot of the Momofuku backlash on places like Chowhound has gotten me well acquainted with what ramen afficianados consider more traditional ramen places in New York City. The truth is for someone just looking for decent lunch in Midtown, all three Midtown recommendations will yield delicious food. In fact I find it hard to compare three places that are all really good- but there are some small differences that may make a difference to different people.
One of the three places is right next to my office, and I wrote about it a few weeks ago. Sapporo. Highly recommended, and considered pretty authentic, many people claim it is the closest thing to a real Japanese ramen place. I enjoyed my lunch there, and I’ll definitely recommend it and eat there again. But for some people, Sapporo might be a far walk, or a little too authentic (i.e. dirty) and the ingredients are on the cheap side. So with that in mind, you have another option: Men Kui Tei on 56th between 5th & 6th ave.
In comparison to Sapporo, Men Kui Tei is definitely a more “business” environment. The decor is a little nicer (if that’s what you’re into), but it’s also a lot smaller, and fills up much easier (a big drawback if you are in a rush and don’t get there early enough). In fact, we got there at 12:15pm, and still have to wait 5 minutes for a table. By the time we left at 12:50, there were about 8-10 people lined up along the wall inside the doorway. I would definitely recommend getting there early. In fact, they even offer an Early Bird special. Get there before 12:15pm and an order of Gyoza are $2.50 (instead of $4) and the “Set Menu” Curry Rice or Fried Rice is $1.50 (instead of $3.00).
Pictures of what we got, and the +/- after the jump…
fried pork dumplings ($4.00)
miso flavored noodle soup w/ roast pork, bean sprout, bamboo shoot and scallion ($7.50)
cold noodle salad with sesame seed sauce, bean sprouts, chopped roast pork, cucumber, egg, imitation crab and pickled ginger $8.50
To me, you can’t go wrong with Gyoza. Some people may be able to find fault with these, but they tasted fine to me. The Miso Ramen was delicious, with a much better quality of pork then Sapporo. The Hiyashi Ramen is a perfect summertime treat. It is described as cold noodle salad, but since there is some cold broth at the bottom, I like to think of it more like a cold soup. All the toppings were delicious, and because the pork was chopped, it seemed better and less fatty then the roast pork in the hot soup.
All in all I really enjoyed my lunch, and while I’m sure many people will disagree with me, I think Men Kui Tei is now my favorite Ramen place in Midtown. But I will still go to Sapporo on those days when I don’t feel like walking… In the end, we don’t have enough good places in Midtown to rule out one or the other. They’re both great- and are worth the trip!
- Reasonably priced, quick and delicious
- Great cold soup dishes for the summertime
- Early bird specials if you are willing to show up before 12:15pm
- A little bit nicer decor then Sapporo and the ingredients seem a little better
- If you work on the North or North East side of Midtown- this is your place
- If you work close to Sapporo and enjoy it, this might not be worth the extra walk (but it’s still a good place to try!)
- Really small, so it gets pretty crowded, pretty quick. You’ve got to get there early if you don’t want to wait
- It’s a more “business” enivronment then Sapporo, which may seem more authentic to some
- Cash only, no credit cards
Men Kui Tei, 60 W. 56th St. (btw. 5 & 6th), 212-757-1642