Ramen has now become an integral part of New York City dining scene, and there is no shortage of outstanding ramen shops in the city. One of the main appeals in a bowl of ramen lies in the deep aroma of broth that is especially soothing in the frigid winter. For ramen chef Shigetoshi Nakamura (whose shop Nakamura my wife Jun and I had once visited while we were still dating https://kenscale.com/2016/08/11/nakamura/), however, the broth-less noodle dish offered an opportunity to take the conventional ramen one step further toward innovation. His new shop Niche offers only the broth-less mazemen dishes, with ingredients you wouldn’t normally associate with ramen. I had been meaning to visit Niche for a while now, and finally found an opportunity for a quick dinner stop with Jun on our weekday date night.
The mazemen offerings at Niche may make you feel you are at an Italian fusion restaurant where you get to try exotic pastas. You see steak mazemen with medium-rare ribeye; normally, the ramen broth would completely undermine the steak’s texture. There is also a dish paying homage to the famed Russ & Daughters nearby with smoked salmon, as well as a tomato based bowl that sounds like it’s not much different from a tomato spaghetti. Among these tempting options, I highly recommend going for the steak one. It was evident for Jun and I when we put a piece of steak in our mouth that the kitchen did an excellent job of making sure to grill the steak in a more or less perfect state with its smoky flavor that is quite satisfying and somehow worked very well with the noodles. One trick to make the mazemen even more delicious, at least based on our experience, is to add some chili pepper on top of the bowl; the spicy kick helped neutralize the slight greasiness from the noodle. I thought the duck magret mazemen with Hudson Valley duck breast was also quite good, although Jun thought the duck wasn’t cooked to her liking. If you were hungry when you stepped into the shop, a simple appetizer of avocado “crunch” with bonito soy sauce would be a nice option to start your meal.
Niche doesn’t take reservations but the turnover at the one long counter table occupying the dining space is fairly quick so you wouldn’t need to wait too much. There is a small collection of sake and wine options to complement the dishes at the restaurant. The service could have been a little quicker given thre was only one server and the passageway around the counter table was fairly narrow. I still keep thinking about that steak mazemen from time to time after our meal and think Niche could be a very solid option if you are looking for something different from all the ramen bowls you have eaten in the city.
KenScale: 8.0/10 (Jun’s Score: 7.75/10)
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 7.5/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 8.0/10
Address: 172 Delancey Street, New York, NY 10002
Telephone: (929) 274-1629