eat. shop. love. nyc.

Great ramen, no wait at Kuboya
April 4, 2011, 9:25 am
Filed under: Eat | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I didn’t want to fall in love with Kuboya.

A staunch Minca Ramen-goer, I was utterly appalled when Kuboya, another ramen shop, opened up right next door. The owner had posted a sign saying he was close personal friends with the owner of Minca, and that E. 5th St. was big enough for two ramen shops. The next day, the sign had disappeared, like the friendship, perhaps.

For months, I passed by Kuboya with my nose upturned. Then one fateful Saturday afternoon following a particularly dehydrating Friday night, I found myself craving ramen.

It was a soul-wrenching, tongue-prickling, heart-squeezing need.

I walked over to Minca, knowing I couldn’t be bothered to wait in line for an hour at Ippudo. However, when I arrived at Minca, all of the seats in the tiny ramenya were taken, and it didn’t look like anyone was going to be getting up anytime soon. As my need swelled from quiet hunger to panic and desperation, I grudgingly agreed to give Kuboya a chance (at a friend’s suggestion) and walked reluctantly next door.

The first thing I noticed was that it didn’t look anything like any ramen shop I’d ever been in. It feels more like a French bistro than anything else. Nothing about the decor says Japanese to me: black and white photos of cities around the world, green and white woven wicker seats, jazz music playing softly in the background… And it’s spacious. It has twice the seating of Minca, and enough room to maneuver with your chopsticks, maybe even to gesticulate wildly. When I checked out the menu, my anger began melting away slowly. $15 lunch special every day (even weekends!) from 12 to 4? This includes your choice of ramen, a half fried rice, and 5 gyoza.

Salmon tartar with guacamole and chips. Chicken tatsuta. Pork buns. Rock shrimp. And they accept credit card. Anger gone. And after the first sip of that chicken-pork-shrimp broth from the salt (shio) ramen hit my lips, I was like Minca who?

Since that fateful first encounter, I’ve been back several times. I’ve perfected the ordering process for two: always get one lunch special with the salt ramen to share, and two appetizers to share. My favorite is the salmon tartar.

I also have dreams about the crab croquette here, a special I have not seen again since the one time I ordered it. Impossibly smooth and creamy on the inside, perfectly deep-fried with crisp panko breading on the outside.

This might be cruel, since you may never experience the joy and magic that is the crab croquette at Kuboya, but it’s ok. The other stuff (chicken tatsuya) is pretty darn good, too, and always ask about the specials.

While I still suffer occasional bouts of guilt for jumping on the Kuboya wagon, I tell myself that with no wait, ample seating, jazz, daily lunch specials, non-ramen menu items, and being able to use a credit card, I’ve made the right choice. It’s also open ’til midnight most evenings and on Fridays and Saturdays until 2 am (last call for ramen at 1:30 am).

Slurp: Kuboya (East Village/Alphabet City) 536 East 5th St. between Aves. A & B. (212) 777-7010.


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