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midtown japanese restaurant in mark bittman piece

So Mark Bittman won't name his favorite midtown Japanese hole-in-the-wall in this great (one might dare to say, chow-hound-ish) piece:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/din...

Anyone have any guesses as to the name of the joint?

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  1. Unfortunately, I think I know the place he's talking about (or at least have narrowed it down to a couple possibilities) - but I'm not sure I'm ready to blow up the spot either.

    3 Replies
    1. re: sgordon

      As the "skell" said to Dirty Harry, "I'se got's to know!"

      1. re: Motosport

        Ah, I shouldn't have even said anything... I'm such a tease.

    2. It's Mekui Tei on 56th Street bet 5th&6th Aves.

      9 Replies
      1. re: PDLC

        Ah. Bittman threw me off by saying the place had "wonderful ramen." I do not find the ramen at Menkui to be wonderful. I find it to be okay. The other details do add up, although I haven't been to Menkui in a while & can't remember where the cash register is.

        1. re: small h

          The whole concept of telling someone they know of a great place and then refusing to name it is boorish and juvenile.

          1. re: chervil9

            Well, yes. It's also common and (sort of) understandable.

            1. re: small h

              It's obviously either Donburiya or Ronin.

              1. re: Ricky

                I haven't been to either, but if the pix on Ronin's website are genuine, it's way too fancy to be the culprit.

                1. re: small h

                  They did remodel, it was negiya before.

              2. re: small h

                Wow, Bittman thinks Men Kui's ramen is wonderful? I think it is only passable. Their ramen doesn't really taste cohesive and more like just a bunch of things thrown together in a bowl.

                But I guess I should try their other things. Maybe they do those better than their ramen.

                1. re: Cheeryvisage

                  I think I've been to the midtown branch of Menkui three times, and each time I was just sorry I hadn't gone to Menchanko. I like the downtown Menkui a little more, but that might be just because it's a nicer place to sit.

            2. Bittman said it's a hole in the wall. Are any of these names hole-in-wall establishments? No.

              The rhetorical point of the article is that we as chowhounders are supposed to go out and find our own such places. Trying to determine the name that he left out of the article is missing his lesson.

              Vive le fooding.

              10 Replies
              1. re: calf

                <Are any of these names hole-in-wall establishments? No.>

                Menkui qualifies, I think. It's cramped and dingy. I'm not familiar with Ronin or Donburiya.

                1. re: small h

                  We could argue semantics (I think La Esquina Deli on the traffic island qualifies as hole-in-the-wall: crowded/small is not tiny), but my main point stands.

                  Bittman had to look to Spain and to Japanese expat culture for examples of what he wanted. That is not a good sign for the mainstream restaurant industry--people want these alternatives, but they are not, at large, being offered. What's out there has to be kept secret, or they would be overwhelmed. And that is a deplorable state of affairs as to consumer choice.

                  1. re: calf

                    You edited your post after I replied. What I saw ended with the word "No." And I don't need to take any lessons from Mark Bittman with regard to restaurants, thanks all the same. I do value his cooking advice.

                    1. re: small h

                      You're confusing "lesson" for "important feedback". He's writing a complaint, about a known problem, and his points are valuable information. Your loss to reject that.

                      1. re: calf

                        If you meant "important feedback," why did you write "lesson"? Anywho, this is hardly the first time this complaint has appeared on my computer screen. Just because Mark Bittman is getting around to writing about it now doesn't mean that others haven't discussed it already. Right here on this very board, in fact:

                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/845815

                        1. re: small h

                          I fundamentally disagree with his conclusion.

                          In fact, for a "hole in the wall" to have appeal to me, the food needs to be SPECTACULAR and exceptional.

                          OTOH, for a high end place to be appealing it has to be about the whole experience of the night out and the service and the mood and so on...not ONLY about the food.

                          1. re: small h

                            Because the word "lesson" has a conventionally idiomatic connotation, i.e. "life lessons", "moral of the story", "let that be a lesson"—as opposed to: formal lessons, imposed, by some authority or expertise. Words have multiple connotations, and you picked up on one differently, that's all. No big deal.

                            I already pointed out what he's describing is a known problem. Of course it has been discussed on chowhound. Judging from the kind of dismissive responses thus far, it clearly bears further discussion.

                            1. re: calf

                              < Judging from the kind of dismissive responses thus far, it clearly bears further discussion.>

                              I'm not sure I'm interpreting the above sentence the right way, because its two halves seem to negate one another, i.e. "no one wants to talk about this, therefore people should want to talk about this." Consider, perhaps, that the reason some of us come off as dismissive is that the topic is not new news to us, nor is it terribly complex. I'm not wealthy enough to tire of fine dining, but the fact that people do is not surprising to me. Too much of anything is bound to get tedious. Including spending a lot of time finding "our own such places." (I'm on record as a vehement disagreer with the portion of the Chowhound manifesto that concerns "blazing trails," and I won't repeat myself here, lest I become tedious myself.)

                              1. re: small h

                                Ok so some are jaded about the issue. I'm not. I refuse to accept the status quo of the NYC dining scene. There is a market segment that is not being addressed, and the very fact that it is annoying and arduous to find these "places" tells me how sorely lacking it really is in this respect.

                                And it is complex. One can look at the social and economic forces that gave rise to this. One can analyze the structures of and within the American food industry, and how they continue to affect the growth of restaurants, perhaps to the detriment of consumer interests (think quality, diversity). Why are names such as, say, Singapore or Spain, so known for being modern-day culinary meccas? Can NYC keep up, in its own way? These are the questions forward.

                                1. re: calf

                                  If you mean that these mid-range, perfectly decent neighborhood places ought to get more attention, then I'm right there with you. But I don't think that was Mark Bittman's point. I thought it was "No one can wear an evening gown every day, and that's why I like my sweat pants." And hey, I agree. The end. That's why I was much more interested in the mystery of the super-secret special restaurant.

                                  I have a feeling that you're talking about something broader than that, though, because you mention Singapore and Spain (but not Scandanavia! you totally missed Scandanavia). Can you elaborate?

                2. The place he meant isn't any good anymore.

                  2 Replies
                    1. i think bittman was being philosophical. we're supposed to find the hole in the wall within our own eating patterns...may it be japanese or not.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: sam1

                        That's what I've been saying, and nobody cares.

                        OK actually—the Reader's Comments seem to resonate well with the article. So people do care and they are reacting.

                      2. Menkui is authentic and the staff is all Japanese. They even greet people in Japanese. I've always see Japanese people there.

                        At Menchanko, I've never seen so many Japanese, but maybe I just go at the wrong time. When I'm at the bar (since I usually go alone), the staff always gives me dirty looks if I don't buy alcohol (I prefer water, tea, or soda). But i can't sit anywhere else, because I usually go alone.