Tabata Noodle is Worth a Visit, or Two or Three

Tabata Exterior

One of the things that I love about ramen joints in New York City, is the sheer variety of options and riffs on noodle soup that one finds on the typical menu. Walk into Ippudo, Men Kui Tei, or Sapporo, and you’ll find the traditional, the experimental, and in the case of Tabata Noodle, a truly multi-national take on ramen. According to Julia Moskin of the New York Times, the owner of Tabata, Linn San Maung, as well as most of the staff are Burmese. Thusly, the ramen at Tabata seeks to marry Chinese, Indian and Thai (the primary flavors of Burmese cuisine) influences into a happy handshake with traditional Japanese ramen procedures. And with over a dozen variations of ramen, ranging from the more traditional Tan Tan Men to a crazy coconut based concoction that Danny seemed to enjoy, there are plenty of reasons to come back time and time again.

Interior of Tabata

The interior of Tabata stands in stark contrast to the neighborhood. Hurry past the bums outside of Port Authority and duck into the brightly lit restaurant amidst an enthusiastic cheer of Irasshaimase!! (Please come in!) from the friendly staff. You could happily slurp elbow to elbow with your fellow diners at the counter, or take a seat at one of the cozy tables in the back. Whatever you choose to do, the waiter will plunk down a small salad with sesame dressing as soon as you’re seated – a nice little touch if somewhat unnecessary.

Gyoza at Tabata

The appetizer menu offers interesting options, which again reflect the heritage of the progenitors. For the traditionalist, there’s edamame, gyoza, agedashi tofu, and pork chasu. These sit alongside wasabi shumai and other dumplings that one might find at a dim sum restaurant. Unfortunately my gyoza ($5), which were likely frozen, had probably seen better days. They were gummy bullets of dry meat and dull skin, served unappealingly luke-warm. But on the other hand, given the generous size of their noodle soups, appetizers are an overkill – and you can supplement your meal with a $3 curry rice if you’re really that hungry.

Tan Tan Men at Tabata

Both Julia Moskin and Lauren Shockey at Fork in the Road spoke dreamily of the Tan Tan Men ($9), a rich and nutty broth which gets its legs from long simmered pork bones and plenty of sesame. If your ideal bowl of ramen involves the rich, milky, tonkotsu style broth, you’re going to like the Tan Tan Men. Amidst the velvety broth, there’s roasted sesame seeds and plenty of ground pork. There are noodles of course, which reminded me of the flimsy noodles that one might find at Sapporo or Men Kui Tei, as opposed to the springy noodles served a few streets up at Totto Ramen. But whatever style you prefer, the curly garlic noodles at Tabata are unquestionably filling and satisfying.

Tan Tan Men at Tabata

Like other ramen shops, you can top your lunch with a variety of ancillaries – bamboo, egg, chasu, etc. Anticipating a heavy dish, I opted for a healthy dose of shredded scallion ($1) for its bracing flavor and crunch helped to cut the richness of the dish. Spice hunters will also want to request a side of their homemade hot pepper paste, which is synthesized from red chili peppers, fish sauce and lime – a recipe that immediately reminds you of Mr. Maung’s Burmese background.

As such, one might make the point that the recipes and techniques employed at Tabata Noodle stray too far from Japanese standards, and they’d be correct. But authentic or not, the noodle soups are no less satisfying or delicious. And with the variety of dishes on hand, one can not only eat very well for under $10, but also jaunt across South East Asia, all within the comfortable dining room of Tabata Noodle.

Tabata Noodle, 540 9th Ave (btw. 39+40th). 212-290-7691


  • Do they have veg options for their ramen for folks who have dietary restrictions?

    • The majority of broths are primarily chicken bone broth, and their Kyushuu Ramen is a Pork bone/chicken bone broth mix. They do have 2 Vegetarian options that use a seaweed/shiitake based broth. There is a Sauteed veg on Salt flavored noodles soup as well as a Mixed Mushrooms & tofu on salt flavored noodle soup. Both are great.

    • 2nding what Kopper had to say. I’m not a vegetarian but I love mushrooms, so I tried the kinoko tofu ramen. It was so packed with veggies, tofu, and wonderful mushrooms that I found myself much more full than the ramens with meat.

  • I’ve had the Tan Tan Men twice now and enjoyed it immensely. Curry rice was also good, but doesn’t really hold a flame to Go Go Curry. All in all this place is great and just in time for the winter too.

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    I’m all about the Kyushuu Ramen. I definitely don’t recommend getting it to go though, as the egg gets horribly overcooked and has the gross green ring around the yolk if you let it all steam in a container too long.

    • Kyushuu ramen is our office standby and I’ve never seen any of this green that you speak of. Granted, we’re right around the corner, but I had some on Monday and it looked and tasted delicious as always.

      I’ll keep my eyes peeled for it, though.

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    “One might make the point that the recipes and techniques employed at Tabata Noodle stray too far from Japanese standards, and they’d be correct”

    I disagree, actually. I think some of the ramen dishes on there are pretty “authentic”, particularly the Kyushu ramen and tan-tan men. The owner and some of his cooks speak very good Japanese and they also have a Japanese cook working there, too…they definitely seem to have a deep understanding of the cuisine. I’m not surprised, since there is a lot of Burmese-Japanese interaction and cultural exchange, in part, sadly, due to the Japanese occupation of Burma.

    Sorry for the tangent.
    I’ve actually enjoyed the gyoza quite a bit when I’ve ordered it — they come out of the fridge fresh and are fried up immediately. Maybe you got a bad batch.

  • I’m convinced the owners\cooks here worked at Menkuitei at one point or another. It tastes very similar. It’s not amazing ramen, just serviceable and reasonably priced for the food hellhole that is the fashion district. Also whoever said this place is better than Terakawa can die in a fire.

  • I went here for dinner one night and really liked it. I got the vegetable ramen and I couldn’t believe how filling it was. Not to mention that the price is great and the service is very friendly and attentive. Trying to convince work that this would be a great spot for lunch this week…

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    I want to go back here, but I need to take a small break. Next week should be good I think. I love the sweetness of the tantan men and this really spicy one I had with miso and this egg. I’m not a big fan of eggs so I just scooped them out and gave them to my friends.

  • What’s with the mountain of scallions?
    I do like tonkatsu and Tan Tan sounds worth trying. Another time when in the neighborhood.

    • Scallions were just my personal preference. I kept reading about how rich the broth was, so I thought the scallions would brighten up the flavors a bit.

  • I work 4 blocks away and have been to/had delivery form Tabata about 12 times. Tan Tan Men is easily my favorite. Backups are Sutamina Ramen or Shio (Salt) Ramen with bean sprouts and corn added.

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    Just had the Sutamina Ramen with pork. It’s a spicy miso and soy based broth. The broth was very savory and tasty–and not too spicy. The pork was a little surprising as they were the pork belly kind and not what I’m used to. I’m not an expert on authentic Japanese ramen so I’ll just write that I really enjoyed this ramen. It was a very good mixture of flavors and textures for me. I plan to go again and try their other ramen.

    I sat way in the back and felt a little closed in as the restaurant is very narrow. It was also very humid for my liking. I think I’ll stick to the bar or the first few tables closer to the bar.

    Highly recommend.

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