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Koi SoHo is a Must-Go

SpecialTunaToro, Spicy Tuna Crispy, Spiked Lemonade

SpecialTunaToro, Spicy Tuna Crispy, Spiked Lemonade

Upon walking into Koi, my friends and I were immediately transported from the loud and busy streets of downtown New York City into a trendy and secluded world. Frequented by celebrities and socialites, Koi offers guests a perfect combination of ambience, service, and food.

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Taisho: Late Night Japanese Treats

When you  have a sudden urge for late night Japanese food, there are fewer places as welcoming as Yakitori Taisho. The tiny restaurant is sandwiched between an apartment building and a string of similarly-designed shops with lanterns twinkling outside their entrances.  Take a quick descent off of the sidewalk of 8th Street and down into the collection of late night restaurants, you’ll easily recognize Taisho.

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Amy Eats…at Hagi

Where do the chefs go once they have successfully satisfied their hungry diners? As a fan of Japanese food, I have always wondered where the experts go to when they want a taste of their home. Watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, I discovered the perfect place to satisfy my constant craving for Japanese food.

Sake Bar Hagi, located conveniently in the theater district, deserves praise for its quality, price, and service. The best part of this izakaya, besides the food, is the price. With the exception of a few grilled fishes, everything on the menu, including alcoholic beverages and dessert, is $10 or below. It’s almost impossible to find such good prices for quality Japanese food.  Every time I bring a new group of friends to Hagi, they leave amazed by how little they spent on so much!

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Amy Eats…at Totto Ramen

How do you end a long, exhausting day? Totto Ramen is the answer. A bowl of good, hot, and spicy Japanese ramen is probably just what you need. The other day, although we knew the wait would be bad, my friends and I decided to head down to Hell’s Kitchen to satisfy our cravings.

Exactly a week ago I took a trip down to Totto Ramen for lunch. The wait was about thirty-five minutes. To be honest it wasn’t bad at all but when you think about it, thirty-five minutes is not normal for lunch. For dinner, we figured the wait wouldn’t be that bad since we headed down at around 8:00 P.M which we thought would be after the normal rush hour. But even when when we were leaving at around 10:00 pm., there was still a crowd eagerly waiting in front of this small restaurant.

I am a big fan of Japanese ramen and feel lucky to be living in NYC where I have access to so many different restaurants with Japanese ramen. I have tried a few places and Totto Ramen is by far my favorite. One outstanding feature that makes this place so good is their noodles. These noodles are legit Japanese ramen noodles. They are chewy, instead of firm like in most places. You know that they are fresh the second you bite into them. Also, their broth tastes pure and not at all oily, which is a big plus.

I always get the Totto Spicy Ramen, which comes with three pieces of freshly roasted char siu pork (you can also get char siu chicken), scallions, bean sprouts, and nori. The orginal rayu and spicy sesame oil gives a spicy, yet refreshing taste to the broth, which also goes well with the char siu pork. The char siu pork at Totto Ramen is not as good as the ones you get at Momofuku Noodle Bar, but they still maintain a perfect balance between the fat and the meat which is cooked to its ideal tenderness.

This time we also tried the Niku Rame, a dish topped with a variety of different pork, garlic, onion, scallions, and bean sprouts. The portion size is about double the size of the regular ramen dishes. I recommend this for people who really consider themselves “meat lovers.” The broth has tangier, more garlic taste compared to the spicy ramen which is surprisingly sweeter. You can also add extra toppings like extra char siu pork, corn, mushrooms, avocado, bamboo shoot, and extra spicy sesame oil.

I’m so glad I finally got to take my friends to my favorite ramen place in New York City. Totto Ramen may be small and you might have to wait for long time. But this clean, friendly restaurant will satisfy your cravings at the end of a long day.

A few tips: Avoid going there when it’s cold because you’ll end up waiting outside for at least twenty minutes. Bring cash, they don’t accept credit cards. I recommend going in a party of two. You’ll be seated quicker than a party of three. If you have more than four people, you’ll be split up. If it’s your first time going to Totto, try to sit at the bar so you can watch them cook your ramen as you wait. Lastly, always remember that even though it might be painful, it’s really worth the wait!  

Totto Ramen. 366 W 52nd St (btw 8th Ave & 9th Ave). 212-582-0052. Mon-Fri: 12pm-12am, Sat: 12pm-11pm, Sun: 5pm-11pm. Subway: 1 to 50th St. 

- Amy Park

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Decibel – Sake it to me baby

Walking into Decibel sake bar I thought I had made a mistake. Above the dingy stairwell, there was an “ON AIR” sign. Two opaque metal doors after that, I walked into a tiny room filled only with a makeshift wall with a bench and, behind that, a bar. A lanky Asian man was seated on that bench, almost in a fetal position—with his knees in his face and his feet perched on the bar—hurriedly eating a bowl of noodles. Some questions immediately arose: did I actually just walk through some sort of worm-tunnel into Tokyo? And, perhaps even more pressing than that, where the heck are we going to sit?

We were graciously led back behind a fabric-covered doorway and through a corridor to a larger room with diffused red light filled with small tables and comfortable level of noise coming from the other patrons. The atmosphere in the room was buzzing, but still relaxed. My friend Maya—a Barnard graduate who works at Artists Wanted—and I perused the sake and shochu drinking options; sake is a fermented rice wine and shochu is a distilled spirit, similar to vodka—both Japanese in origin.

Our waitress, who was wearing a short kimono-like jacket, took our orders for a Lychee Martini and a Lyn cocktail, the latter made with shochu, pineapple juice, orange juice, and tonic. The Lychee Martini was GREAT—and I’ve had a fair share of them elsewhere, but this one elevated this drink to an art. It was a perfect balance of sweet and sharp. The Lyn was less impressive, but certainly exotic. To meet the $8 min per person, we each ordered another cocktail called Pink Rock, a shochu, cranberry, and lime concoction that delivered boozy tastiness quite effectively.
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