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At TsuruTonTan, Pete Wells Reflects on Noodles, Real Estate, and Immigration

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The critic files on the Japanese import and much more

Nick Solares

Finding a ramen shop in Manhattan is now easier than finding a mailbox, Pete Wells quips in his latest review. The Times critic files on recently imported Japanese chain TsuruTonTan Udon Noodle Brasserie, a chain Wells is mostly pleased to visit. "Even when TsuruTonTan is very good, you never forget that it’s a chain," he writes. Wells adds: "But if you leave aside the stuff it shouldn’t be serving anyway, it’s a very impressive chain." What is most impressive to Wells is TsuruTonTan’s mastery of making and serving noodles, which he notes is due to the dough being mixed, kneaded, rolled, and cut in house. He gives TsuruTonTan one star.

When TsuruTonTan moved into its East 16 Street space this year, it took over the former home of mainstay Union Square Cafe which was forced to relocate due to a rent increase. This greedy landlords have long been a threat to the New York restaurant industry, but Wells fears another issue right now: "A far more direct threat to the values of the New York dining community is the snarling hostility to immigrants now at loose in the country." Here is Wells on the immigrant experience:

New Yorkers have been told lately that they live in a bubble, but it is a large bubble with room for people from many other countries and cultures. Real estate shapes the city’s food scene, but a longstanding openness to different ways of cooking and living, a curiosity about Yemeni roast lamb or Oaxacan mole or Japanese noodle soup, defines it.

Wells adds: "As a restaurant critic, I am very concerned about where this will lead."