Lenten Lunch: Menchanko Tei & Oms/B Make Mean Meatless Soups
And here we are, the fourth Friday in Lent. You can do it Catholics, two more to go! We’ve covered some of the fried fish options, but what if you gave up fried things (Brownie!) or have been sick enough that someone (Zach!) told you that if you’ve called in sick to work on Wednesday, you shouldn’t go have burgers off a truck as a sick-day lunch. Well, then it would be Asian vegetable soup time.
Lucky for me I work by 45th between Lex & 3rd, one of the best soup blocks in the city. Closer to Lex is Menchenko-Tei, your 2009 Winner of Best Japanese Soup. It might be the most upscale of the soup joints on the block, but it also has the better ambiance and quality. Lately, I’ve been partaking in the Vegetarian Menchenko which toes the ML line at $9.50. But this isn’t your ordinary bowl of noodles… the broth is a kelp seaweed based miso, the noodles are cooked in a cast iron pot (still to perfect al dente like when Zach visited oh so many years ago), and the fresh vegetables are more plentiful than usual. It’s the broth on this that really makes it a winner, its vegetable-based giving it a lighter, more subtle taste then most Asian soups we’re used to. And it’s not too salty like 99% of the broth in this city. I know, you guys probably like salty, but I’m a lady and too much salt can take me from “okay” to “muffintop” in no time. Controlling your salt level is a plus in my book. For $9.50, you get a decent size portion, I usually can’t eat it all and end up staying pretty full through the afternoon. So if you think eating a vegetable soup brings you closer to Jebus, you should pick this up.
For the more lenient types, the ones who think “well, if I choose to be ignorant about the base of the broth then it’s not a sin,” you can walk down the street to Oms/b. Oms/b has been serving udon for at least a year now… it’s not the best in the city, but it’s $6, made to order, has respectable udon noodles, and is full of these vegetable/”carriers of nutrients that will make me healthy for St. Patty’s Day” things. The most likely meat-based broth is also lower on the sodium side, but if you’re looking for an amount similar to a bowl of ramen from Menchanko-Tei, Men Kui Tei, or Sapporo, you’ll be disappointed. It does look comparable to sizes at Udon West (there isn’t currently an under $10 vegetable udon at Udon West.) If you were to go with this option, I’d supplement my Lenten Lunch with a few rice balls or some edamame to help me get through the afternoon. Or I’d walk back up the block to Menchenko-Tei.
Menchanko-Tei, 2 Locations
- 131 E. 45th St. (btw Lex & 3rd), 212-986-6805
- 43-45 W. 55th St. (btw. 5+6th), 212-247-1585
Oms/b, 156 E. 45th St. (btw. 3rd & Lex) 212-922-9788