Ready for ramen – You won’t want to miss this high-end entry in the proliferating stream of ramen restaurants throughout Manhattan. Open some months before the pandemic, NR is an upscale Japanese restaurant and cocktail bar located just west of First Ave. Like many other restaurants, NR’s added an outside shed. However, but for the shed, you might miss NR. It’s set back from the street. There’s a step-up to get to the door. Make that doors. Only the left door, with its handle, will get you into the dazzling world of NR fusion – Japanese dining and fancy cocktails – in a setting of East meets West in the 21st century. Tables are marble and wooden, hanging fringed lamps are interspersed overhead between the tables, mirrors span the walls, and the wide marble-topped bar makes for a great dining experience as you watch the bartender’s shaking up classic cocktails and highballs and pouring sake, beer, wine, and liquor.
Before you enter into the world of Japanese dining fusion, you may want to check in on NY-style familiar: fried chicken Japanese style, here four large crispy, crunch, juicy chunks of chicken – Karaage on the menu with a side of Matcha salt, $9; a Spicy Fried Chicken Bun, $7; a Pork Bun, $7. For something more adventurous, or at least different, fun choices are Mussel+Beer+Cotton Candy ($17). I’ll explain. Or a Truffled Egg Sandwich served with warm butter on the side. Back to the mussel. Bathed in a beer-based, citrusy yuzu broth, the mussels are covered with a fluff of the sweetest cotton candy, all of which, at can be saved for slurping up in the shell, or sipped when you’re done with the mussels.
Moving on to ramen: First, there are bowls of contemporary ramen, including Sea Urchin + Caviar with dashi, sea urchin, salmon caviar, seaweed flavored with citrusy kabosu; Yuzu+Truffle Vegetable with soy sauce flavored broth, yuzu and truffle oil, topped with house-made fried tofu and a variety of six seasonal vegetables; Sapporo’s a chicken based broth with house miso topped with chicken char siu (Cantonese barbecued pork), butter, bean sprouts, scallion and red pepper; Kyoto, soy sauce flavored chicken and fish based broth with pork belly, garlic oil, soft boiled seasoned egg, spicy bamboo shoot, and scallion. NR’s adding to the menu a soup curry. Ramen prices range from $17 to $28.
NR’s a great place for casual or more serious meetups. And the sakes are seriously good, particularly a smoky Chorye, which was aged for three days in burned cedar. And it’s a great addition to the dining out scene. Whether their approach to being on the scene is deliberately discreet or deliberately dismissive is hard to tell.
NR’s located on the ground level of a 5-story walk-up occupied by tenants. There are three doors as you step up to the restaurant. Only the door on the left, with a handle, will get you into the restaurant. There’s a barely visible “NR Open” sign on the outside of the building. So much for the physical aspect of NR. Then there’s the menu. It’s accessible online and in the restaurant. The tiny script is barely readable in either location. NR might want to think about being more guest-friendly in that regard. After all, getting in was a hurdle. But that being said, NR’s a must.
NR is at 339 East 75th St. Open for brunch on Sat. and Sun. from 12 noon to 10 p.m.; for dinner on Thurs. from 5 p.m. to midnight, and Fri. and Sat. from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. (nr-nyc.com).