Mr. Taka Is a Tokyo Ramen Master’s Introduction to NYC

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The signature yuzu shoyu ramen with seaweed, bamboo shoots, sliced pork belly (or chicken), and scallion.
The signature yuzu shoyu ramen with seaweed, bamboo shoots, sliced pork belly (or chicken), and scallion. Photo: Melissa Hom

Just in time for the cold, rainy December weather, a Tokyo-based ramen expert has quietly opened his first New York restaurant: Along with partner Takayuki Watanabe, chef Takatoshi Nagara debuted Mr. Taka Ramen on Allen Street last month. Of course, the city is flush with excellent ramen these days, but Nagara has a pedigree that makes him an immediate contender: He comes to New York from Tokyo’s Bigiya, which last year earned a spot in the inaugural washoku (traditional Japanese cuisine) section of Michelin’s Bib Gourmand list for the city, and his restaurant has some compelling soups on the menu that bring something different to the city’s scene.

The focus here is on shoyu (soy) ramen, with four different varieties available: There’s a straightforward option, and one seasoned with white shoyu, a thinner soy sauce made with more wheat than the regular kind; another variety is flavored with ginger, a style Nakara developed for this restaurant; and a fourth gets seasoned with white soy sauce and yuzu, a Bigiya signature, which perfumes the light broth with a refreshingly citrusy fragrance. There’s also the requisite tonkotsu, a spicy miso broth, and a vegetarian variety given body and depth by soy milk. The noodles, meanwhile, are of course custom-made by Sun Noodle.

There are a handful of appetizers to snack on before you get your noodles, including spicy pickled cucumbers, sweet-potato tempura, and Japanese-style chicken wings. Those not in a slurping mood can opt for one of a few rice bowls, variously topped with broiled pork, chicken, spicy cod roe, and grilled eel. The small space is all blond wood and muted colors, with an open kitchen surrounded by a bar, a few low-hanging tables, and counter seating by the wide windows. Booze is limited to four reasonably priced glasses of sake, along with one beer (Okinawa’s Orion), a highball called chu-hi, and a plum wine.

Tebasaki karage: Japanese fried chicken wings with sesame, soy sauce, and white pepper.
Tebasaki karage: Japanese fried chicken wings with sesame, soy sauce, and white pepper. Photo: Melissa Hom
Sweet-potato tempura with a trio of dipping sauces.
Sweet-potato tempura with a trio of dipping sauces. Photo: Melissa Hom
Spicy vegetarian ramen with soy milk, avocado, zucchini, tofu, mushrooms, tomato, and scallion.
Spicy vegetarian ramen with soy milk, avocado, zucchini, tofu, mushrooms, tomato, and scallion. Photo: Melissa Hom
Spicy tonkotsu ramen with pork belly, ground pork, soft-boiled egg, fried garlic, and kikurage mushrooms.
Spicy tonkotsu ramen with pork belly, ground pork, soft-boiled egg, fried garlic, and kikurage mushrooms. Photo: Melissa Hom
Ginger shoyu ramen with pork belly (or chicken), scallion, seaweed, and bamboo shoots.
Ginger shoyu ramen with pork belly (or chicken), scallion, seaweed, and bamboo shoots. Photo: Melissa Hom
Where you'll be slurping.
Where you'll be slurping. Photo: Melissa Hom
Noodle time!
Noodle time! Photo: Melissa Hom

Mr. Taka Ramen, 170 Allen St., 212-254-1508

Menu [PDF]

Mr. Taka Ramen Opens