Mon-Thu, 11:30am-11:30pm; Fri, 11:30am-midnight; Sat, 11:30am-11pm; Sun, 11:30am-10:30pm
4, 5, 6, 7, S at Grand Central-42nd St.
American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
Four beach-ball-sized round paper lanterns hover over the dining room of the east side branch of Menchanko-Tei. This location is somewhat more polished than its west side sibling; there's more attention to décor (large color photos of Japanese street scenes) and the cooks are out of sight. But as in the west side branch, there’s a sturdy customer base of Japanese businesspeople. You'll see bottles of sake shelved behind the counter—many have stickers with a patron's name written on them, following the Japanese tradition of personal bottles. The menu at both locations is the same, with the emphasis on ramen noodles, particularly as the base of the signature Menchanko soup. Ramen also appears in some seasonal specials offered from May through September, such as a heaping bowl of cold sesame noodles topped with cucumber and morsels of chicken. A peanut dressing heightens the faintly nutty flavor of the ramen and boosts the umami (savoriness) factor. If your appetite isn’t big enough for the noodle dishes, you could turn to the smaller serving of oden. In this simple soup, either you or the chef choose a few ingredients to add to a warm, kelp-based broth. The add-ins mostly involve tofu, fish, or vegetables. There's also yuba, a cylindrical roll of soy milk skin with a belly-band of seaweed. This may look delicate but its resilient texture will put your incisors to work. The oden has a subtle—some might say bland—flavor, so drop in a few dabs of mustard to give it some heat.Recommended Dishes
Menchanko, $9.50; cold sesame noodles, $10; rice balls, $2