Sapporo’s Tonkatsu is a Surprise Stand Out
After a month of renovations, Sapporo (on 49th btw. 5+6th) came back with a vengeance last month, and was even crowned Midtown’s best ramen by the Village Voice. I tend to avoid the ravenous packs at places that have just made some arbitrary “Best of New York” list, but the call of crispy fried noodles with special seafood ANKAKE sauce was strong, so, last week, I stopped to answer it. Check out the dishes after the jump.
Sapporo doesn’t do delivery, which is a pain in the ass pretty inconvenient, but you can call ahead and pick up your order. While this way does beat waiting for a table, don’t let the line discourage you. The wait is usually totally bearable- the day I was there it was about five minutes long, even though there were several parties clogging the entryway around 1PM.
The new space is staid, having lost the grungy charm of the pre-renovated Sapporo where customers were packed in elbow-to-elbow. Sure, you have more room to maneuver, but I prefer eavesdropping and having to fend off the splash of my neighbor’s noodle soup.
I ordered the Special Sapporo Ramen, which is noodles in miso flavored soup with an “extra portion” of sliced pork, minced pork, fishcake, mixed vegetables, corn, scallions, and spinach. I was disappointed to find “extra portion” really meant “normal portion for a 100 pound girl”. Admittedly, the ramen has great texture, but the soup is bland. I would go for another soup next time, like the Shio Ramen (which is a salt-flavored soup.)
But the real purpose of stopping by Sapporo was to try at least one dish off the new lunch menu. Clearly, the crispy fried noodles with special seafood ANKAKE sauce caught my eye because who can ignore “ankake” in caps? The dish arrived smothered in thick seafood sauce with squid, bamboo shoots, baby vegetables, and tiny shrimp. It was large enough to feed two. The noodles were crunchy as if they were baked, but didn’t have quite the crispy oiliness to be a convincing fried dish. My dad, who loves fried noodles, would have said the pan (ok, wok. He would’ve said wok.) lacks heat; I say this dish lacks flavor. There is a spoonful of wasabi to cut through – or liven up – that goopy seafood aftertaste, but that seems like cheating to me. Overall, the order was good, but not great. I’d try the noodles again if they were covered in beef and beef sauce.
The winner of the day was breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet with tonkatsu sauce over expertly steamed rice. I’m deeply in love with rice lathered in thick sauce and meat, so I can’t imagine a more ideal rice dish than this. I liked the tonkatsu so much, I used the crispy noodles from the previous dish and dragged them through the sauce. I haven’t been to Japan, but I’ve had enough katsu curry rice dishes outside of Japan to say I like this one the best.
Sapporo’s clubby music probably makes it feel more social (therefore increasing the authenticity factor), but the new space still feels like it’s missing something, like flavor in its ANKAKE.
The + (What people who like this place would say)
- Prices fit comfortably within ML’s $10 limit
- Seems crowded, but the wait isn’t too long.
- Awesome pork cutlet with tonkatsu rice dish (even comes with miso soup!)
- As central as it gets, which is great if you want an authentic Japanese ramen experience without heading downtown.
The – (What people who don’t like this place would say)
- The “extra” portion of pork…isn’t.
- There’s not a long wait, but there’s nowhere to wait except at the awkward entryway.
- For a place that’s so hyped by the press, I expected more.
- This place no longer makes me feel like I’m in Japan. Lame!
Sapporo, 152 W. 49th St., btw. 6th & 7th 212-869-8972