At Nippori, Tabata Gets Into the Izakaya and Sushi Game
Team Tabata is at it again. Not to be content with two Tabata noodles restaurants, they’ve expanded to 51st St between Broadway and 8th Ave, with a new venture called Nippori New York. Why they’ve chosen to cluster their restaurants so closely is somewhat of a mystery, but Nippori distinguishes itself by offering a comprehensive Japanese menu.
There is a full line-up of izakaya favorites, such as yakitori, roasted tuna collar, tempura, and the like, which make Nippori a fitting alternative when the crowds are fierce at Sake Bar Hagi or Yakitori Totto. And there’s a full sushi bar, although there’s little from either menus that would qualify as a Midtown lunch. But the familiar old noodles from Tabata have been brought over, and although all bowls of soup are above $10, it would be only fair to grandfather in these classic bowls of midtown ramen.
The dining room has expanded along with the menu. There’s an inviting bar with a flatscreen TV and many types of beer, wine, and sake to be had. Even better, there’s a daily happy hour special as well – 50% off all beer and wine from 5-8pm. Off to the side, private tatami rooms can be reserved. In the back of the restaurant, there’s a sushi bar with yet another flatscreen TV.
During the 10 block uptowning, they’ve lost a few soups on the way. There’s still the crazy good tan tan men and the signature Tabata ramen, the unconventional pairing of soybean powder and coconut milk that turn out to be pretty good buddies in the hands of Tabata’s cooks. Missing for now (coming soon the management tells us) are the cold ramen, and the tsukemen dipping ramen, among others.
My old friend tan tan men ($13) was there to greet me, although it had gotten a few dollars more expensive and a few shades darker. Nearly black in fact, from the use of black sesame which allows one to swap out some of the rendered animal parts– a great idea, as black sesame is often used as a thickener for soups in many Asian cuisines. The result is a pleasant and more-ish slurp of soup, with plenty of savory and nutty notes, rounded by a hint of sweetness.
Beyond the broth, there’s an obligatory sprinkle of chopped scallions and crumbles of pork. The noodles recall my past several encounters with Tabata – not as lively and springy as Totto’s or Ippudo’s, but satisfying nonetheless.
As mentioned before, the expansive menu is a cross section of many disciplines of Japanese gastronomy. Izakaya fare is a particular favorite of mine – you can never go wrong when you marry hot and crispy snacks with cold alcohol. An order of karaage chicken ($7) was text book in many ways. The screamingly hot and shatteringly crisp skin gave way to thoroughly tender and fatty chicken; brown meat and bone-in of course.
Karaage chicken is sometimes served with a little well of salt so that the customer can season to their taste. On my visit, it wasn’t available – a shame because that lovely crispy chicken needed a grain or two to shine. Hot sauce was also unavailable when requested. If I could add a grain of salt to this review and potential experiences, the Tabata team are new to the game when it comes to sushi and izakaya fare, so give them a few weeks to work out the kinks. Regardless, we’re still on the side of team Tabata.
Nippori New York, 245 W 51St (Between Broadway and 8th Ave); (646) 964-5332
Note: The website and online menu is currently a work in progress. We will update this post with the URL and menu when posted