Get Tabata’s Cold Noodles While They’re Hot
I wouldn’t blame people for accusing me of a bias towards soup in general, and Asian noodle soup in particular. I will say this, though – while I’m willing to point fingers at bad examples, we need to hold the front runners to the same standard as well. Tabata debuted almost a year ago to much acclaim from me and decent receptions from others, and their ramen has held the course of being consistently high quality and delivered properly and swiftly.
The onset of our heat wave-stricken summer has some interesting looking cold noodle options on their menu: some cold noodles with dipping sauces a la zaru soba, some cold noodles in light, brothy sauces, and one or two proper cold ramen options, broth and all. Is this another option other than gazpacho from the major soup chains out there, or is it just a cheap exploitation of the weather at the top end of the Midtown Lunch price range, seeing that no cold noodle option is less than $9.99?
Not all of the cold soups are on Tabata’s regular menu, so be sure to check the board out front for options.
Here’s what you get on the Tabata spread. The hiyashi ramen ($9.89), which I ordered, dispenses with the taller cylindrical container for the broth and toppings with a smaller one for the noodles. This makes perfect sense since it looks like they’re aiming for aesthetics on this one. The noodles are topped with bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, thinly sliced cucumber with some shredded cuke for garnish, and finely chopped scallions.
The broth is a dark soy-based broth which tastes simply like a dark-soy, cold version of their normal hot soy broth. This is by no means a bad thing — it’s got a different profile when you slurp down some of the broth at a cooler temperature. It’s easier to pick up a tang of sesame flavor to the broth with just enough vinegary tang to present a very rounded profile of savoriness (raise your hand if you’ve heard that phrase more than once today).
The salad is the usual anemic offering, and I hold firm to my belief that I’d rather pay a lower price and get no salad at all. Regardless, not much has changed with the salad. Two bites and it’s gone, not even a full serving of token vegetables. If Aura Thai and Zoob Zib include little two-bite appetizers with each order, I don’t know why Tabata couldn’t do the same. At least that way they can show their skill and variety, and maybe even drive better business – “Hey, what was that thing? It’s on the menu? I’ll take an order of it next time!”
Poured together, it’s a very balanced, simple, neutral experience, driven by the broth. This is by no means a bad thing, as it presents exactly what you ordered: cold ramen. It is an uncomplicated and simple meal, just barely filling enough but satisfying nonetheless. The noodles’ springiness and texture benefits extremely well from the colder temperature, and they manage to soak up a very good deal of the broth after it’s been poured over. Don’t fall for the thought of going in with the broth as a dipping sauce — that won’t help you at all.
Of the many times I’ve ordered Tabata’s ramen, each and every time with roast pork, it’s either close to perfection or completely off-base. This was perfect. The pork was moist and melty, with just enough fat for a bit of flavor. It soaked up the broth and kept its own flavor as well. However they did the pork today, I hope they replicate it each and every day from here on out. Tabata’s pork gets no better than this.
To be honest, I really wanted to like the hiyashi ramen, mostly because I was disappointed by the hiyashi chuka at Mitsuwa (Tabata also offers a version). The jar jar men (nothing to do with the almost-eponymous Star Wars character) looks interesting, and the tan tan hiyashi looks like a no-broth version of their tan tan men. Without the broth, the tan tan men seems like it’s not worth the money to me, but it might merit a taste. The zaru ramen isn’t normally on the menu, but the miso tsukemen and noodle salad both are. So those will still exist if for some reason you feel like cold ramen come January.
My real complaint is the cost. Tabata ain’t cheap — nor is any ramen unless you’re at Men Kui Tei — but I feel like this could have been given a little extra protein for what I paid. Plus I do have a blanket complaint over their $15 minimum for credit cards and delivery. I sure as hell am not going to add on stuff to make minimums to what is the one big catch about Tabata in general. If Main Noodle House is okay with a $7 minimum, Tabata should be okay with the same.
With the minor nitpick parts aside, I’m actually pretty happy with the cold noodle offering I had today. Would I get the same thing again? Not until I have a chance at the jar jar men or tan tan hiyashi, and hopefully I’ll remember to hit up my own bank’s ATM this time. It’s definitely a nice refreshing alternative to gazpacho or — even worse — no soup at all.
The +s (what a cold noodle fan would say):
- Not one, but six cold noodle options!
- Flavorful takes on existing Tabata menu items
- Perfection amongst pork
The -s (what the Hale & Hearty loyalist army would say):
- Only four of those six options are new, the others are boring normal-menu options.
- Half of the cold items are chilled or nonexistent normal broths – the others have no broth at all!
- Not really filling enough. Too many veggies, not enough protein!
- WAY too high credit card minimum for menu item pricing.
Tabata Noodle Restaurant, 540 9th Ave (btw. 39+40th)