First things first, Ninja New York is kitsch. Okay, so what do you expect of a restaurant in Manhattan with a Ninja based theme? Of course you’re not going to be served by true Ninja’s, but at least it’ll all be a little bit different. My sister had this on her list to do last time we visited New York, and this time we got our cousins to come along (and book for us) so that we wouldn’t miss out. Their entrance is narrow and easy to miss, with a waist height sign the only marker declaring it’s presence.
Appropriately, lighting is dark, and with small rooms lining a small corridor complete with sliding wooden doors, it helps to keep the feeling a lot more intimate than many other Manhattan dining experiences where it seems all too easy to interrupt someone else’s conversation. I won’t spoil some of the surprises that you might read about on other websites, but let’s just say that you want to be a bit careful about where you walk, just in case someone surprises you.
Our waitress and other waiters dressed up in all black. I can only imagine what fun it must be to dress like that for work every night. With pure nonchalance (and plenty of drama), our waitress unscrolled the menus with, what seemed like, the quick flick of her wrist before laying down in front of us. The scrolls definitely add a nice touch, and gave us a good idea about what things that they serve. I think there were two in total, one with drinks, including a fairly large selection of cocktails, a set menu and with the a la carte simply presented on printed paper.
A great thing about a restaurant such as this is that they don’t force you all to order the same set menu, or even make sure that everyone on the table orders the set menu. In fact, we ended up with two of us doing a la carte, and the other two doing two different set menus that meant we got to see and try all the different flavours available. I think all of the set menus, starting at US$50, and going up to US$90 gave at least four different courses and with appetisers and desserts averaging US$12 and mains US$30, the base one is actually fairly decent value. I didn’t bother with any of the set menu, instead focusing on the dishes that weren’t available. I also didn’t order any sushi since I think it’s better to order something you wouldn’t get at other places and the sushi is going to be overpriced in a place like this. Instead, I started with the fish and chips (okay, not a Japanese dish) but marked with the star that means that they do something flashy with it. Don’t get too excited though since all of these tend to be either some sort of flaming dish, or served with dry ice so that the mist covers it all. Unfortunately my pictures of the fish didn’t turn out but I can attest that served a decent number of large chunks of crumbed fish finished off with, what seemed like, some baked crisps and a ponzu-soy sauce.
For my main, I ordered the Bonfire, a series of Lamb Chops sesame greens, a handful of plum tomatoes and a butter set alight with some yuzu seasoning to enrichen the dish. I was a bit hesitant to order the lamb since it’s not a meat that is super popular in the US however they had been perfectly cooked, soft and pink in the middle. Fortunately it was also one of the super flashy dishes, where they set the butter alight, that literally set the entire plate on fire only to subside adding that perfect char. Delicious and delightful to watch.
Finally I finished my meal with their tiramisu, perfectly shaped to look like a bonsai tree, complete with green moss emulated with tiny cake pieces. The best dessert, at least for a spectacle was the ninja star, something that my sister ordered. It seemed a bit baffling but it’s worth it for the quick blinding light that really does make you feel like you’ve just been stunned by a ninja. I really like the picture above that seemed to capture the essence of it.
Ninja New York was definitely a unique experience. I can’t say that it’s the best food or the most unique, but really you’re paying for the experience and the entire atmosphere. Kitsch comes with it, even complete with a table-side magician, but hey, it’s all part of the charm.
Name: Ninja New York
Found at: 25 Hudson Street, New York, NY, 10013
The Good: Different atmosphere with plenty of table intimacy for Manhatten. Reasonable tasting food.
The Not So Good: Pricey for the food that you get with many dishes and their “ninja art” a little bit overplayed on the menu.