Monday, December 10, 2012

Zen 6 12-08-2012

Location: 328 E 6th St.
Time: 2:30pm
People: RB, CK and myself

Feelings: When I first moved to the U.S., kids would ask very standard, politically incorrect questions. "Do you eat sushi everyday?" "Do you know karate?" "Can you do my math homework?" With the strong ramen popularity and presence in NYC, the new generation of Japanese immigrants may now be asked "Do you eat ramen everyday?"

The people behind two East Village Japanese spots, Noodle Cafe Zen and Sushi Lounge recently opened a new ramen shop, Zen 6, on curry row. Zen 6 is, unfortunately for me, located in the former space of Chiyono, one of my most favorite Japanese restaurants. It was devastating to see Chiyono close its doors, but Zen 6 has something promising and innovative to offer.

The service is excellent here. They were attentive with Japanese hospitality, and CK was even given a handmade kid's chopstick. With a strong cup of green tea in hand, I knew I was in for a treat.

The menu is divided into two: Tokyo Standards, offering more traditional style like shoyu, shio, miso and tonkotsu and New York Pop Creations, which includes more fusion dishes with unconventional ingredients such as "Dancing Spicy Ramen" ($12.50, with fried calamari and nuts) and "Spider Ramen" ($15.50, with soft shell crab and corn). They also offer tomato based ramen, which is quite popular in Japan today.

We first tried their freshly made gyoza ($5.25), which was deliciously juicy inside while the crispy outer layer gently supported all the exceptional flavors. They are giving away three pieces of gyoza for free until 12/31 with any order of ramen--there is nothing better than this tasty juiciness for free.

Most ramen shops in Japan would not carry steam buns, but Mr. Momofuku seems to have made this into New York standard now. Their steam buns with shiitake mushroom (2 pieces for $6.95) was harmoniously flavored, and the deep fried mushroom was light and crispy. A spicy mayo was lusciously slathered onto the fluffy buns.

For ramen, depending on your preference on thickness or waviness, there are three different types of noodles available. Since I'm somewhat of a ramen purist, the choice of the standard shoyu ramen ($9.50) with thin noodles was no brainer. With egg, baby bamboo and plenty of scallions, this bowl of ramen is the purist of a ramen form. RB tried their another standard, Hakata Tonkotsu ($10.75) with wavy thick noodles. He thought the noodles had a terrific bite to them and the extra spicy broth he ordered ($1) was filled with flavor. He felt the portion of pork was a bit small, but delicious nonetheless.

Zen 6 is a welcome addition, providing not only standard traditional ramen but also exciting new creations. Many restaurants could usually concentrate on one of them, but Zen 6 seems to do both categories successfully without losing the core essence of ramen. I can't wait to expand my ramen horizon and try their new concoctions.

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