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Ramen Savant Nakamura Is Opening an Experimental New Noodle Spot on LES

Niche, right next to Nakamura, will focus on mazemen

Niche mazemen
Mazemen at Niche
Jesse Stein/Nakamura

Celebrated Japanese ramen master Shigetoshi Nakamura is opening a new restaurant on Delancey Street — and this time, he’s focusing exclusively on eclectic versions of mazemen, a style of ramen without broth.

Called Niche, the restaurant will be next door to Nakamura’s popular eponymous restaurant and is expected to open with a limited menu later in January at 172 Delancey St., between Clinton and Attorney streets.

For the new, 14-seat restaurant, Nakamura is serving dishes that combine elements of traditional Japanese cooking with inspiration from New York food culture, such as the legacy of Jewish-American food on the Lower East Side. One is an homage to Russ & Daughters’ famous smoked fish store, topped with copious amounts of fish roe and salmon smoked in-house. There will also be a Japanese take on carbonara, with uni and bacon replacing the guanciale.

The team also plans to serve natural wines and craft beers, according to Jesse Stein, Nakamura’s assistant and a server at both restaurants. Check out the full menu below.

Mazemen is a combination of the Japanese words for maze (“to mix”) and men (noodles). Shops like Yuji Ramen in Williamsburg, SakaMai on the LES, and Jun-Men Ramen Bar in Chelsea have been serving mazemen as an option for some time, and Nakamura has previously served the style as a special. But Niche appears to be the first New York restaurant devoted exclusively to it.

It’s a bit of a departure from the original shop. At Nakamura, the menu stays pretty close to traditional bowls that could be found in a Tokyo subway station. By opening Niche, the chef hopes to be more experimental. In a recent New Yorker interview, Nakamura said that he feels that New York allows him more freedom to try new ways of cooking ramen. “In Japan, if I make a new style of ramen, some people say this is not ramen,” he says. “They expect old style.”

Here, he’s calling mazemen “Japanese pasta,” and as such, the price point will be slightly higher than Nakamura. “Ramen is everyday food, very affordable,” Stein says. “This will be more in line with other pasta places.”

The chef has been making ramen for two decades and is considered a global authority. He famously developed some recipes for legendary Tokyo chain Afuri, and he also briefly ran Sun Noodle’s Ramen Lab. His tiny Delancey Street ramen shop has been considered one of the top ramen houses in the city since opening in 2016.

Niche is testing with friends and family starting to this weekend. Expect an opening to the public soon.

Niche Menu.pdf

Martin Gelin is an author and journalist in Brooklyn.


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