Treehaus is Hiding Delicious Ramen w/ Freshly Made Noodles Upstairs at Nikai
We’ve covered Treehaus pretty extensively, from its sandwiches and hot food bar to Kosofresh, the Chipotle-esque Korean bibimbap bar. But did you know that Treehaus also houses a ramen and soba restaurant? It’s true, right next to the upstairs dining area is Nikai, and they’re are serving up good, fresh, and affordable noodles.
The coolest thing about Nikai is that they make their noodles fresh, right in front of you. If you sit at the bar, you can watch ramen noodles being extruded by two machines. And they aren’t typical ramen noodles. Nikai makes theirs with bits of what looks like beets and maybe spinach. I’m sure ramen purists will cry foul on that, but I’m not a ramen purist.
On the menu is a choice of tonkatsu ramen, miso ramen, soy ramen, and vegetable ramen. Each costs $9 and the tonkatsu, miso, and soy ramens come with a choice of pork or chicken. The vegetable ramen comes with tofu. You can also add more protein for a few extra bucks. They’ve also got a small appetizer menu with items like gyoza.
I chose the traditional tonkatsu ramen with pork. I was getting take-out, so I was worried those freshly made noodles would be overcooked by the time I got to eat, but thankfully, Nikai does the right thing and packs the broth separately. Just combine, stir, and your ramen is ready.
I’m a big fan of this ramen. The broth is salty and rich and the noodles have a good springy chew to them. And the veggies mixed into the noodles actually made a difference, adding an aromatic quality that, while not traditional, was a nice. As if the broth wasn’t rich enough, a perfectly poached egg brought delicious yolk to the party.
The pork was good, too. A roll of pork belly, it was fatty and fall apart in your mouth (or chopsticks) tender. My one complaint about it was that it didn’t have too much flavor on its own. The mushrooms, on the other hand, did. I’m not a big mushroom fan, so I can’t even say what type these were, but they were meaty and substantial, and I actually could have gone for more of them, which almost never happens when fungus is involved.
Rounding out the ramen was a healthy portion of diced scallions, seaweed, and pickled ginger. The ginger added a nice spiciness to the ramen, but I happened upon a lot of it at the bottom of the bowl, causing a ginger overload. However, the second time I tried it, the ginger was absent, so who knows what’s going on there.
Treehaus has been fairly controversial on this blog, with some Lunchers enjoying its slightly upscale offerings and some dismissing it as just another generic deli with above-average prices. I for one enjoy it. Each time I go, it seems like there’s something else I have to try next time (did you know they have sweet and savory crepes?). But Nikai might be its true stand-out. Ramen lovers will certainly want to give it a try.
Nikai, Upstairs at Treehaus, 830 3rd Ave (btw 50+51st)