Restaurant Review: Matsugen: Shi-Shi Ramen – NYC

Matsugen is a Jean-Georges restaurant that is run by the Matsushita brothers who also operate restaurants in Tokyo and Honolulu. These three brothers specialize in traditional Japanese soba noodles. Though many have complained that prices are quite high, especially when compared with other ramen shops, I respectfully disagree. For a “Jean-Georges” restaurant, the minimalist yet tasteful décor provides a great romantic setting where the $38 dinner special won’t break the bank and is a bargain compared to the other ramen restaurants such as Ippudo and Ramen Setagaya.

Matsugen’s $35 dinner special was originally part of the Restaurant Week special but is now available year-round due to popular demand. It consists of a 7 course meal which starts with an average tasting Miso Soup, an amazing Kampachi Sashimi, two pieces of Sushi and Sushi Roll, Crispy Shrimp that’s to die for, a healthy portion of their Soba Ramen and the Vanilla Caramel Pudding to finish off the night. Compare that to the $13-$16 and $10 for just a bowl or ramen at Ippudo and Ramen Setagaya, respectfully.

But that’s not where it ends… we wouldn’t be doing our job in reviewing this restaurant if we didn’t order more food, right? So leaving our diet behind, we ordered the 16 piece Assorted Sashimi. Our recommendation… skip it because for the $45 price tag, you can get better and fresher fish from renowned sushi joints like Tomoe. Given we didn’t finish the Chicken Meatball with Hot Mustard, it means it was nothing to write home about and I can tell you we rarely leave food on the table. The Black Cod with Miso received mixed reviews as many liked it, but I thought it was too dry (call me a critic). The Kurobuta Braised Pork Belly was absolutely delicious but pricey given its small portion. Oh and the “Fresh Fruits in Season with Green Tea and Vanilla Ice Cream, Red Bean, White Mochi and Warabi Mochi” (that was a mouthful and so I had to bracket it) is fantastically delicious. If you order the dinner special, ask them if you can replace the Vanilla Caramel Pudding for the Fresh Fruits dessert instead and pay the difference, it’s definitely worth a try.

To sum it up, the food was quite tasty and can be affordable if you stick to the dinner special. The service on the other hand is a different story. Perhaps I am demanding, but if I have to ask for my drink three times or if we need to get up from my seat to flag down the waiter, I would say service is mediocre at best.

So, if a normal bowl of ramen from Ippudo or Ramen Setagaya leave you wanting more food but you really want good shi-shi ramen, then definitely give Matsugen a try.

Update: Matsugen has shut down its operations in light of recession.  I guess it was just too big a space and too few a demand.


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