Renowned ramen chef Shigetoshi Nakamura introduced New Yorkers to a new take on ramen with a style called ‘mazemen’ at his restaurant, Niche. Mazemen is a dish that omits most of the broth while inundating you with toppings. It’s almost as if you drank the ramen’s broth before finishing the noodles.
With ’70s psychedelic music playing in the background and the smell of savory pork broth boiling, diners are immersed in a blend of Asian and American culture. However, this feeling is overcome by the space, which is squashed into a small building located on 172 Delancey St. There was only one waiter and a single large table that seats 14. Rather than private dining, expect to face a dinner party — with complete strangers.
Though some people may like this cozy style of dining, conversing with strangers is not my forte. The last thing I want when I have a mouthful of messy ramen noodles is to look up and see a stranger staring at me in bewilderment.
The menu failed to alleviate my hesitations with the restaurant. The casual vibe of Niche did not match its fine dining prices. Although the menu caters to vegans, vegetarians and pescetarians, there was still not enough variation to go around. The menu only contained a wine list, starters and mazemen entrees, where the cheapest entree was $16 without any add-ons.
After deliberating, I ordered their signature, and most expensive, dish — the steak mazemen ($23). The noodle dish contained medium-rare ribeye, pork sauce, menma and spinach with the add-on of a poached egg. The best part of the dish was the plentiful amount of perfectly charred and juicy medium-rare steak. In addition, the thick, savory pork sauce made up for the shortage of broth in the dish.
Everything else, though, was mediocre. The mustard-yellow noodles lacked the anticipated chewiness of typical ramen. And unfortunately for my Instagram video, the poached egg did not spill onto the dish after breaking it. Rather, the egg was slightly overcooked.
For Tisch first-year Mella LaFrance, who has tried mazemen at Niche and other restaurants, her experience was underwhelming.
“I’ve had mazemen in the past and the price was way less for the portion given. Yes, the food was good, but still overpriced for the portions,” LaFrance said.
Even the dishes’ stunningly neat visuals couldn’t make up for the disappointing taste. The cuisine was too average considering the price and the high acclaim of Nakamura’s other restaurants.
If you are just looking for a bite to eat or to try something new and tasteful, I would skip this spot. The only things to expect here are average food, minimal space and long waits on the weekend.
Email Taylor Jeffries at [email protected]