>> Sanpoutei Gyoza & Ramen | Eat the World NYC

31 January 2020

Sanpoutei Gyoza & Ramen


With its polished new place on 2nd Avenue, it would be hard to imagine the 50 years plus history that Sanpoutei has under its belt. Hailing from the Niigata prefecture, the restaurant group includes almost 50 locations. Most of these are ramen, but they also have Italian, Chinese, and Shanghainese places, the influences of which you will see shine through on the menu here as well.

This is the first location in the United States and the second in North America following Vancouver. The shop presents itself as a thin restaurant with bar counter seating in the front, but the back opens up into the neighboring space and offers a decent amount of tables.

A wide range of sake from Niigata is available.

This visit was during their fourth night of business, and while the staff was understandably not 100% certain on every little detail, things were running pretty smoothly. Many groups of Japanese people were the main clientele, as the restaurant must have been making quite an impact in local Japanese press.

Niigata city is almost due north of Tokyo but sits on the west coast of Honshu. The prefecture it lives in of the same name is thin and hugs the coast, the sea is very important here.

Having enough people that one plate of gyoza would have been insufficient, two of the three options were ordered, including the Sanpoutei gyoza ($10, above). These are pan-fried pork gyoza, served with a very simple but somehow wonderful vinegar soy dipping sauce. The tastes are familiar, but for a place half-known for gyoza these do not disappoint. The next visit might have to include an entire plate of these for the greediest amongst the group as they are a delight.

The prawn & edamame crispy gyoza ($13, below) were also a hit. These are deep fried as might be guessed by the crispy part of the name, and the use of black tiger prawns is the first hint of the importance of seafood to Niigata.

They are served with an excellent cold and crisp oroshi ponzu that is full of citrus and thickened with daikon. The server almost lost a finger when he tried to remove the dipping sauce from the table after the gyoza were finished.

If there was one disappointment of the meal, it would be the Sanpoutei fried chicken ($16 for six pieces, below), which are rubbed with a curry powder and soy sauce before frying. The chicken was fine enough, but two of the pieces were tiny, and the rub creation just did not do anything. A simple karaage would have been appreciated much more.

The raspberries provide a cool freshness.

Based on the five types of ramen ordered this evening, sticking to the top of the menu and their house special shoyu (soy sauce based) is the way to go. There are at least eight components to the Sanpoutei niboshi shoyu ramen ($16, below), but the bowl is light and simple, the vegetable and meat ingredients ample enough but not distracting from the soup and noodles.

Niboshi refers to the dried sardines that go into the ramen stock, a funkiness that is light and so pleasant. This bowl also includes both cha-shu and roasted pork, both of which are some of the best cooked in town. An extra order of cha-shu for $3 will probably not make a bad decision. Onions, green beans, and bamboo shoot round out the bowl with a bit of crispness.

It appeared that each different ramen was using the same thick housemade noodles here, wavy and containing a great chew. (Apologies for the lack of noodle photo). Another good offer is that each bowl is available in a small size for $4 less, a choice that those usually having a hard time finishing will appreciate.

It is rare to find a place excelling at both typical soup ramen and tsukemen dipping ramen, but this was not the case with their very strong spicy cha-shu tsukemen ($18, below, shown with extra seasoned egg and cha-shu orders).

Tsukemen involves chilled noodles and a very hot bowl of dipping broth, here made with plenty of richness and bite. Midway through someone should come around and refill the bowl with more hot broth, which did not happen, but it must be assumed they will iron out this kink as well.

For more spice, the spicy miso ramen ($14 small version, below) can be ordered. This is available in a non-spicy bowl as well, but both were found to be a bit too thick, almost like the tsukemen. Served with kale and bell peppers, it almost has the feel of an afterthought and trying to beef up the menu rather than focus on their strengths. For now, shoyu tops miso for sure.

The most outstanding appetizer, pulled to the bottom here so that a bit more space could be devoted to it, is the Niigata sake drunken chicken ($13, below two photos). This is a modern riff on the drunken chicken popularized from Zhejiang province in China, just south of Shanghai.

Instead of Shaoxing rice wine, they of course substitute Niigata sake here to cook the chicken with. Surrounded by crisp cucumbers and topped with sesame, the chicken rests in a shallow pool of ginjo sake sauce and has the nice zip of Korean chilli powder in every bite. Despite the winter weather, the dining room was quite warm and this provided such a pleasant refreshment.

Niigate sake drunken chicken with cucumber.

Two rice bowls are available for those not in the mood for noodles, one of which was used as another way to split an appetizer. Shown here is the roasted pork cha-shu don ($11, below), more slices of their great pork over a ball of white rice.

Topped with a wasabi soy sauce, be sure to mix this and the small egg yolk thoroughly before digging in.

Two flans make up the dessert menu for now. The mango flan ($6, below left) is workable and fine, topped with smooth and fresh whipped cream, but the better order is definitely the Kurogoma flan ($6, below, right). This is made with black sesame and topped with kuromitsu, a sugar syrup that translates to "black honey."

For now it seems that New York City will remain a destination for Japanese-based restaurants looking to expand their market, as places like Sanpoutei seem to be opening quite often. This one definitely stands near the top of the pack though, and is worth visiting.

Sanpoutei Gyoza & Ramen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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