Tabata

I have been lucky enough to have good amount of experience when it comes to international cuisine, both by traveling & living overseas, and trying out some restaurants that offers authentic international cuisine. But at the end of the day, my favorite is still Japanese food, hands down. When I heard of a unique ramen shop that opened up about 5 years ago, offering Burmese style ramen, I went to see what it was about right away. And I have been there a few times since then.

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The owner is originally from Burma, but he lived in Japan for over 10 years. The interesting background story of this place and the owner (from what I heard) is that he worked at a ramen shop in Japan while he lived there, which was located in Tabata, Tokyo. He moved to NYC when he won a Green Card Lottery, and opened up his own ramen shop with authentic Japanese flavors, and of course, addition of Burmese flavor, which is similar to Thai and Indian cuisine.

When you walk in, all the staff yell out a Japanese greeting “Irasshai-mase!” which means “welcome” which is very common practice in Japan. It is to of course welcome the customer to the restaurant, but more importantly, let everyone (staff) know that a new customer walked in, so that they can prepare to welcome the customer.  The inside is not very large, as soon as you walk in, there is  a counter seating to the right, where you can see the kitchen, and just a few small table seating to the left. I always like those restaurants that let customers to look into the kitchen. I think that makes them more honest and also, they have to keep it rather clean.

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There is more table seating at the back, after you pass the counter, with larger tables. Even with all the available seating, it is not very big, and the space is narrow from front to the back. I believe there was not a single Japanese staff here, which is always a bit disappointing at a Japanese restaurant.

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They have photos of their main offerings on the wall, so that you can get a good sense at what you are ordering before you make a decision, which is always helpful. And another thing they want to make clear, is their set of rules. I believe these rules are reasonable and nothing to fuss about, I had no issue with any of these.

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We started off with hot Green Tea ($2) and our waitress told us that the tea is $2 each. Some Japanese restaurants offers green tea for free, so it is good to be warned that the green tea is not free here.

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We also ordered one appetizer from their daily special menu, Sweet Potato Tempura ($5). They use purple-colored sweet potato, and it was tasty, but nothing really special. It came with a side of dipping sauce with grated daikon radish, which was very refreshing and yummy. It was good amount of sweet potato, enough to share.

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For main, we ordered ramen, Tabata Ramen ($10.50) and Dark Men ($11). The Tabata Ramen is their signature ramen with Burmese twist. It comes with soybean powder and coconut milk based soup, topped with mild spiced chicken stew, cilantro and red onions. This is the unique ramen they offer, that you most likely can NOT find it anywhere else. It really is an interesting flavor, has sweetness from coconut milk, a little kick from the spiced chicken, aroma of fresh herb from cilantro.

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The soup is almost while from the coconut milk, and all around smooth and almost creamy. The noddle is nicely cooked, this is a ramen with full of flavor.

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The Dark Men is basically their tan tan men with black sesame paste, and comes with black sesame based noodle soup, mild spiced ground pork with scallions. The soup if much darker than the photo, I lightened up so that you can see it well.

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The color comes from black sesame, and you can see grounded sesame on the noodle when you swoop some up. It had great sesame flavor, and some kick to it also. It didn’t come with much of the ground pork, at least nothing like the photo they have of this ramen. But it was still tasty.

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Both ramen came in a ramen bowl that was rather toll, and not very wide on the top. Not the usual ramen bowl that are wider, but not so tall. I wonder if they use this style of bowl because they like the way they look, or so that they take up just a little less space on their small table?

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We also ordered small side dish to go with our ramne, Small Fried Rice ($5) and Small Curry Rice ($5), making our ramen to become more of a lunch set. The curry rice was better than I expected, it had really nice flavor, creamy, and the portion was pretty good. I’ve had their fried rice before, and I remember how great it was. This time, it was still really great, with pork, egg and scallion, but just a bit too salty. The rice was very fluffy and delicious, and even though they used just a bit too much salt, it did not ruin the dish, it was still very tasty.

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They have free WiFi for customers, and also, they have 1 bathroom towards back of the restaurant. It is a bit awkward setting… You go to the dining area at the back, and there is a door to the left. The bathroom door is located right behind it, and it is also right by where they keep the supply. So people (customer and staff) are constantly coming though the door from the dining area, and since there is not much room to wait for the bathroom to be available, people can get knocked over by the door if you are not careful… And, there is a fully sign inside the bathroom, in their attempt to keep the bathroom clean. It was not really working from the look of it, unfortunately. It is not easy to keep a restaurant bathroom clean at all time, especially when they only have 1 bathroom…

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So, at the end, we finished our food, content with everything, other than service, or lack of. We had to ask for refill on water and hot tea a few times, and also for the bill. No one really came to check on us while we were there. Then, when we tried to pay with credit card, we were told “our credit card machine is broken today, so can you pay (with) cash?” We were so shocked to hear this, I mean, if they know that their credit card machine is broken, shouldn’t they inform their customers when they come in, so that they are prepare at the end of the meal??? We don’t really carry cash around, so we didn’t have enough cash to pay for the lunch. The waitress simply told us to go an ATM machine. And it happens that it was one of the freezing cold day… My husband had to walk in a cold to the closest bank to get cash, which was not pleasant. While I was waiting for him to come back, another customer came in and placed a to-go order. As she waited for her food, the same waitress brought her a bill. When the lady handed her a credit card, once again, the waitress told her about their credit card problem and that she needs to pay in cash. The lady was of course shocked, told her ok and left, and never came back. She probably didn’t want to bother going to find an ATM and walk all the way back in the cold.

They really need to learn how to be professional l about this, it is a big issue to some customer, so much so that they leave and never come back for the food they ordered. How hard is it to say “our credit card machine is broken” at the beginning??? It is a basic common courtesy, if you respect your customers, you would warn them of this before they place an order. And, if you can warn customer that their green tea is not free, then they can warn customer about this too. Hopefully, they won’t be doing this the next time they have mechanical issue. If you go to Tabata with your credit card, you might want to ask them to see if they are accepting credit card first…

Tabata – 540 9th Ave, New York, NY 10018

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