Saturday, February 9, 2019

Make Mine Mazemen, It's a Niche

I was thinking about my one blog post a year thing, maybe even blogging about it, then decided - fuck it....lemme just talk about mazemen, since I imagine within the next 12 months about 100 more mazemen places will have opened, in the 3 or 4 boroughs of NYC that matter.

But first, just as I wrote 5 years ago on this date, I need to point out I'm a lucky guy, cause  21 years ago (!), Significant Eater and I tied the knot, in a lovely ceremony, in the lovely city of Las Vegas, Nevada. So - Happy Anniversary to the love of my life! Here's to 21 more, and 21 more after that! And may our mazemen always be al dente...

Where was I? Oh yeah, mazemen.  Mazemen, according to some of the crap I've read, is the "dry style" ramen, which in my mind is kind of an oxymoron, since isn't ramen what we generally associate with a bowl of noodles - in some sort of broth? Be that as it may, I've been enjoying ramen for a long time. I remember there was some place in midtown, maybe 20 or more years ago, where a nice bowl of ramen could be had for lunch. And I was going to Japantown, in San Jose, CA way back in the early 80s, certainly indulging in my first bowls of ramen (while making my own avocado toast at home); but that was before butchers wore fedoras, and grain bowls were all the rage (are they still?).

Anyway, you can't walk more than a block or two in this town w/o stumbling over a ramen place. It's usually next to a poke place, which is next to a grain bowl place, if you get my drift. I expect that the poke places, and the grain bowl places, will, like every trend, all but disappear within a year or two, and the ramen places will thin out, but overall ramen is here to stay. And why not - ramen, made well, is delicious. But I (and many others I'm sure) have a problem with ramen; the broth is usually so insanely salty that I really shouldn't be eating too much of it. Also, and this is disgusting, sometimes it goes right through me, but let's not dwell.

So, enter mazemen, and the latest entry into that sweepstakes, a new place called Niche, on Delancey Street hard by the WillyB. Niche opened a few weeks ago, brought to us by the proclaimed ramen maestro Shigetoshi Nakamura, who is one of only 4 "ramen gods" in all of Japan! Pretty cool, and his ramen, from personal experience, is pretty damn good.

So I was itching to try his mazemen, and this week Significant Eater and I made the short walk up Clinton Street, past the new Trader Joe's/Target building, across Delancey, and settled into one of 14 seats (okay, stools) at the one long table running down the middle of the room. The lone server was awesome, because if there's one thing a server should do, it's to bring booze as quickly as possible, and that she did...

Sake and scallop @ Niche
I like the little vending machine sized cans/jars of sake, and these were just right for this meal. The scallop appetizer shown arrived very quickly, as did Significant Eater's app order, chilled Mapo tofu. Then, the main events...

Steak mazemen @ Niche

Yuzu dashi vongole @ Niche
On top, steak mazemen, delicious hunks of ribeye, smoky from torch grilling, along with menma and spinach. There's a little sauce at the bottom of the bowl, and when it's all mixed up, you end up with a really, really wonderful bowl of noodles. Just great. But even better, in both of our opinions, was the bowl of Yuzu Dashi Vongole, aka clam mazemen, literally one of the best renditions of pasta with clams to be found in this city.

To say we were pleasantly surprised would be an understatement - we were wowed! I certainly can continue to make ramen (below, top), or even mazemen (below, bottom) at home...

Jamon and pea ramen @ Hacienda Weinstein
Mazemen @ Hacienda Weinstein
But it's also nice to know that we can find mazemen (and yes, when necessary, ramen) this good, and just a 5 minute walk up the block.

Niche and Nakamura - 172 Delancey Street, New York