Midtown is a really awful place to be, but unfortunately my MoMA membership and moviegoing on 53rd Street has forced me to look around the area for good eating options. Walking over to 9th and 10th Avenues is a good option, but I usually end up sitting down at Menkui Tei since it is just three blocks north.
The place has a real good feel to it, walking down the stairs into the restaurant is definitely a transportation to Japan, a far cry from Midtown. Even the tourists that accidentally stumble into this place seem to be of a better variety than your average tourist. Maybe I wear rose-colored glasses.
I have now tried three different ramen bowls here, and find each nice in its own way. The tonkotsu ramen ($7.50, above) is not the greatest rendition of the Hakata favorite, but is satisfying nonetheless. The broth is a little thin, but tastes very nice.
My favorite option is to "splurge" for the char chu ramen ($8.75, below) a shoyu topped with extra roast pork. The char chu here is extraordinary, and worth the upgrade. One bowl with these extra pieces is almost too much for a meal.
It's not on the proper menu, but the niboshi ramen ($9.50, below) is probably the weakest of any I have tried. We inquired about the sign above our table, which happened to be niboshi, a fish broth ramen, and went for it. Probably will stick to the menu from now on, at least for the ramen dishes, as even the pork slices seemed dry and unpleasant.
When not in the mood for noodles, the mabo don ($7.75, below) is a very strong dish, tofu and ground pork slightly spicy, over rice.
The place does get very crowded at times, but turnover is pretty quick, so do not let a gathering of five or six people scare you. Groups of two can almost always find a table or seats at the bar in under 10 minutes.
60 West 56th Street, New York NY