Posts Tagged ‘japanese’

A Ramen Haven at Umami Shoppu

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

The weather is getting noticeably colder as New York approaches the winter months. I’ve been seeing more scarves, more boots, and more unhappy faces as blasts of chilled air smack into unsuspecting passengers departing the subway. One thing comes to mind when I think of the treacherous months to come; a helper of sorts to relieve me of the brutal wind tunnel that is New York City: a hot, steamy bowl of soup.

Warm and delicious!

Because the majority of my time is spent behind the walls of The New School University, finding a great place to sit and eat a hearty bowl of goodness is even more appreciated when in close proximity to school. Lucky for me, there is the Japanese restaurant Umami Shoppu: two blocks away from my college, incredibly reasonably priced, and some of the best ramen, sushi, and tempura I’ve had in a while.

I was immediately met with smiling faces and an incredibly cozy atmosphere upon walking into the restaurant. Escaping the cold to enter Umami Shoppu was definitely the right decision. The tables were intimately placed, topped with light blue stone mugs, proper wooden chopsticks (not the splintered set you find in a red wrapper at your local Chinese takeout place), and an array of chili oils and soy sauce. The lighting was calming and the exposed brick gave the restaurant an indie feel while still possessing hints of Japanese culture. As an added bonus, a flat screen television was placed on the brick wall. Playing was a stream of music videos from the late 90’s and early 2000’s. This may just be me, but I couldn’t get enough of the nostalgia felt when listening to some early Britney Spears and Destiny’s Child.

Awesome spot for a lovely lunch!

What cute mugs!

In simpler terms, Umami Shoppu has a unique quality not normally seen in more traditional Japanese restaurants. Opening the store with his father a mere four months ago, owner William Wu took his prior knowledge of Japanese cuisine, specifically from his past work at ramen shops, and created something fun and contemporary while still providing great food. Wu acknowledges and embraces the area that Umami Shoppu is now a part of. When asked his favorite aspect of owning the restaurant, he replied, “Meeting people, all kinds of different people. In fact the show Louis is filming here pretty soon. It’s all pretty cool. I get to meet a lot of college students and it reminds me of being young.” Wu matches this concept to create a youthful vibe that lingers throughout the shop.

Tyler is loving her ramen!

Now for the food! There were so many options, both from a Lunch menu, 11 AM to 4 PM, and a dinner menu. In order to get an well-rounded take of the food at Umami Shoppu, I asked the owner for a few of his personal favorites. He immediately responded with his first choice of ramen and sushi. He recommended the Spicy Butaniku Ramen, great for cold weather, double the pork of most ramen dishes, and a spicy flare to really warm you up. His sushi choice was something he had actually created himself. Named the Autumn of NY roll, this type of sushi had everything: spicy king crab, mango, avocado, all topped with salmon. Damn.

As a pesscatarian, the only “meat” I eat is fish; I had to pass on the pork. On the other hand, my companion joining me for lunch was intrigued. She got a rendition of the Butaniku, the Cha Siu Tonkotsu Ramen, the same idea with a little less spice. I myself got the Shrimp Tempura Shoyu Ramen, a soy based broth with a side of some of the best shrimp tempura I’ve ever eaten. We split a large plate of the Autumn roll to begin our feast. While listening to “Hit Me Baby One More Time” and basking in the warmth of the intimate Japanese shop, we happily waited for our meals.

Best shrimp tempura ever!

The sushi plate was brought out rather quickly. It was a large plate beautifully presented and designed with each piece of sushi placed in a patterned order. With chopsticks in hand, we dove in. Graced with a light spice, the flavor was pretty incredible. Everything was fresh from the crab to the avocado. Plus, there was so much of it—definitely a good choice to share. Just as quickly as it had appeared, the sushi platter was devoured and then came the ramen. Both my friend and I were a bit unfamiliar with ramen outside of the to-go cups that have a blend of freeze dried peas and uncooked noodles jammed inside. We were pleasantly surprised. The bowls were ginormous and absolutely filled with fresh, thick noodles, bathing in a steaming broth. The flavor, both for the pork and the shrimp, was tasty and not overpowering. As mentioned before, the tempura was probably the best I’ve ever had—crispy fresh shrimp, and the blend of batter and seafood was delicious. Halfway through our bowls we both admitted defeat. More full than we had ever anticipated, we pushed them away in satisfaction.


So much goodness!

Featured on Grubhub and Seamless, plus a 10% discount to students, you really can’t lose with Umami Shoppu. As a first time restaurant ramen customer I was very impressed and satisfied with my meal. Being so close to school, I’ll always know the perfect place to go for a warm bowl of Ramen and a cozy environment to take off my gloves and parka. Even better, Wu plans on catering more to vegetarians—now I really can’t say no. Umami Shoppu is the ultimate student hub for good, inexpensive Japanese food, plus we all need a little Destiny’s Child back in our lives.



Daniela Bizzell, Eugene Lang College, The New School University.

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Monster Sushi: A Japanese Experience

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

With the new semester unfolding and taking a large part of my daily routines, I haven’t had many opportunities to go restaurant hunting for reviews. Thanks to Rosh Hashanah last week, I was able to take a break from campus life and head to the city for some alone time – essentially some time for me to wind down with great food. I walked into a Japanese restaurant on 23rd Street called Monster Sushi, a restaurant that many of my friends frequently visit. According to my group of friends, Monster Sushi is one of the best sushi restaurants in the city at an affordable price, and I just had to check the place out for myself.

Monster Sushi has a chic modern interior while maintaining the air of a traditional Japanese restaurant: the furniture has a modern flair, whereas the décor, accessories, and sushi bar exude Japanese culture. I was immediately seated at a table and the waiter kindly explained the menu to me. Like most Japanese restaurants, Monster Sushi has a wide variety of sushi rolls. What I found to be unique about Monster Sushi was their bento box specials. “Bento box” can literally be translated as “lunch box;” the bento boxes consist of a variety of side dishes accompanying a main dish. Monster Sushi has an extensive list of main dishes for their bento boxes aside from simply sticking with the commonly found chicken or salmon teriyaki boxes. I ordered the Chilean sea bass bento box, which came broiled with a special light soy sauce. Each bento box comes with soup, salad, rice, a choice of spring roll or shumai (Japanese steamed dumplings), and a choice of California, tuna, or salmon roll.

Sushi Bar

Miso Soup

I was first served the miso soup as a part of the bento box special. The miso soup was light yet flavorful with the rich taste of the miso—a very traditional starter for a bento meal. Shortly after finishing the miso soup, the waiter served me the Chilean sea bass bento box. I was fairly impressed with the size of the box and how packed it was with food. The overall presentation was great, and after tasting the dish, I was even more impressed with all of the flavor combinations. The Chilean sea bass was crisply seared on the outside, then broiled with a light soy sauce that seeped into the layers of the fish. The sauce consisted of soy sauce, ginger, and vinegar to add on to the light flavor and to maintain the freshness of the fish. Along with the Chilean sea bass, I enjoyed all of the accompaniments to the bento box. The spring rolls that I had ordered instead of the shumai were crispy, packed with vegetable and shrimp filling, and seasoned perfectly so that there was no need for a dipping sauce. The salad was also extremely fresh, topped with a light ginger dressing that was just sweet enough to entice my taste buds. To top this all off, the salmon roll that I chose consisted of fresh salmon pieces wrapped in white rice and seaweed, and these salmon rolls were larger compared to those from other Japanese restaurants I have frequented.

Chilean Sea Bass Bento Box: spring rolls, salmon rolls, white rice, and salad

Apart from the bento box, I had also ordered the Godzilla roll, one of Monster Sushi’s specialty rolls. The Godzilla roll consisted of spicy tuna with avocado and flying fish roe on the outside. I had heard that this roll was one of the most popular rolls at Monster Sushi, and after tasting it, I had a clear understanding as to why this is so. The Godzilla roll had the right amount of spiciness in the spicy tuna which blended well with the freshness of the tuna itself. Everything about this roll was perfection: the ratio of rice to fish as well as a flavor balance of richness and light freshness.

The Godzilla Roll

Monster Sushi far exceeded my expectations of the typical Japanese restaurant. I absolutely loved the bento box, especially because I was able to have so many different dishes within one order. Although Monster Sushi is slightly more expensive than other Japanese restaurants, it is definitely worth the price considering the sizes of their rolls and the amount of food they give per entrée. My experience at Monster Sushi was wonderfully delicious and I would highly recommend this place to people who are hunting for some great Japanese cuisine without having to travel too far.

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Becky Kim, Queens College, Read my blog and follow me on Twitter
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