Hello, fellow ramen-lovers! We’ve changed some things up around the blog so take a look around. Also, we have some special surprises coming your way pretty soon so make sure to come back to check them out.
For this post, we visited a delightful little spot in the Lower East Side called Mr. Taka. It is the joint venture of Chef Takatoshi Nagara of Bigiya in Tokyo, Japan and Takayuki Watanabe. Our friends Richard, Josh, and Karl joined us and made it a true ramen adventure.
Mr. Taka is relatively small. It has a few tables and two counter seating areas: one bordering the open kitchen and the other along the front windows. Nevertheless, they were able to accommodate our slightly unwieldy five-person group without much trouble. The service was attentive and respectful without being overbearing. When we arrived, the shop was relatively empty but by the time we left, it had completely filled up and folks were lined up outside. We recommend going there on the early side if you want to be seated immediately.
The interior has a great balance of minimalist wood furniture with accented visual flairs like hand-written menu items in Japanese and a few hip neon signs. The music was a mix of ambient, pop, and dance, some of which we liked and some which seemed more suited for the club. So it goes in the LES.
On to the food! Our group shared the Tebasaki Karaage and pork gyoza as appetizers. While the gyoza wasn’t anything special, the karaage was excellent. The sauce was well-balanced with hints of soy, pepper and sesame. The meat itself was juicy and tender. To be honest, the karaage was the highlight of the meal for the group as a whole and definitely recommended to all new visitors.
We ended up having four types of ramen on the table: Sophia and I both ordered the Miso, Karl had the Spicy Tonkotsu, Richard ate the regular Tonkotsu, and Josh had the Yuzu Shoyu.
Everyone gave the ramen good marks. Sophia praised the quality and flavor of the pork belly, which we all agreed was incredibly delicious. Each piece seemed to strike the ideal balance of meat and fat. The individual slices had also been braised or burned quickly before being put in the soup giving it a fantastic smokiness. It truly was a piece of meat that melts in your mouth.
Soup-wise, the broth was good but I thought it lacked a punch. Josh liked his broth because it had an interesting, lighter flavor than the rest of ours. The noodles were cooked pretty well, perhaps not as hard and springy as I would have liked but still very nice. We failed to ask if they could customize the firmness. Overall, the bowls we enjoyed were well-balanced with the meat as a true standout.
Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen
The only critique I have is that the soups all seemed to lack a certain richness and deepness that only a handful of New York City establishments have reached. I’m not saying that Mr. Taka’s ramen is bad; on the contrary, it’s very pleasant and highly satisfying. However, the broth could be slightly more flavorful thus adding it to the elite NYC ramen shops. As it is, Mr. Taka has very good food and service in addition to a great location in a trendy neighborhood. We give it four stars out of five.
As always, thank you for reading our blog. Feel free to leave a comment and suggest our next destination. Special thanks to our three friends for joining us on this quest!