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A bowl of truffle shoyu ramen.

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One of Japan’s Most Famous Ramen Shops Makes Some of NYC’s Most Boring Noodles

Tsuta in Dumbo isn’t yet ready for primetime

Truffle shoyu ramen at Tsuta.
| Michael Tulipan/Tsuta Ramen

If Times Square is the touristy Piazza Navona of New York, minus all the historic monuments, the Dumbo waterfront is our Instagrammable Amalfi coast. It’s a swatch of urban coastline less famous for acclaimed restaurants or everyday living, and more for its striking metropolitan vistas, boutique shopping options, and selfie-snapping out-of-towners. See those folks filming TikTok reels in the middle of Washington street? That’s not a random event; the country’s most searched for scenic spot, per a December Google report, was the Manhattan Bridge as viewed from the cobblestoned streets of Dumbo. Sorry, Grand Canyon.

Chains and landlords are well aware of Dumbo’s lure. While walking down Old Fulton, one will encounter a collection of venues that wouldn’t feel out of place at JFK’s Terminal 4, including a Haagen-Dazs, a Cinnabon, a Shake Shack, a temporarily shuttered Ample Hills, a Luke’s Lobster, a punctuationally challenged coffee chain known as % Arabica, and now, a Tsuta, the first U.S. location of a famed Japanese noodle soup restaurant.

Founding chef Yuki Onishi died shortly before the New York location opened last fall. He was 43.

The stakes couldn’t be higher: In one of the country’s most high-profile locales — and one of New York’s least impressive culinary neighborhoods — New York is getting its most famous new ramen shop since 2014. For those unfamiliar with Tsuta’s laurels, worry not: The restaurant greets passers-by with two giant posters proclaiming it was the first ever ramen shop to earn a Michelin star. Tsuta has since spawned locations in the Philippines (closed), Taiwan (closed), Hong Kong (closed), San Francisco (closed), and Singapore.

The brick exterior of a restaurant with a giant domed window at the front.
The domed exterior of Tsuta.
Michael Tulipan/Tsuta

If only Tsuta made grand enough noodles or broths to warrant such an accolade here in Dumbo. New York boasts a thriving ramen community that exhibits both regional diversity and impressive creativity; one can find great tsukemen, tori paitain, Kitakata ramen, Iekei ramen, mazemen, smoked pork ramen, yuzu shio, and other varieties across the city. It’s not clear yet, however, whether Tsuta excels in much beyond providing patrons with a nice view.

Tsuta fits in with its new neighborhood of Dumbo, for better and for worse. Brian Chua, the brand’s global chief executive officer, has given the city a ramen shop that almost feels as corporate as the West Elm nearby. Smooth department store music fills the quiet space. Menus highlight soups with predictable luxuries like black truffle — the signature offering — and Iberico chashu. Bar patrons sit at a white counter so shiny it could double as a checkout counter at a high-end boutique, while chefs cook as silently as retail workers folding clothes. There is little sizzle, smell, or excitement.

A strikingly clear bowl of truffle shoyu ramen ($21), forged from a soup base of chicken, seafood, and soy, tastes little of any component ingredient. The overwhelming flavor profile is of hot, savory salt, combined with a faint whisper of earth. It comes with thin soba noodles that are firm and bland. I opted against kurobuta pork in favor of the Iberico variety as a topping ($2), a decision that added zero extra nuance or deliciousness. Add on a jammy egg and nori — at least one of which is often included at other ramen shops — and you’ll pay another $6.

Five bowls of ramen and sides on a table.
Assorted ramen at Tsuta.
Michael Tulipan/Tsuta

Better was the Sichuan-leaning mala soup. No, it doesn’t contain any mala numbingness, but it’s still tasty enough. A generous slick of chile oil adds a dose of musky complexity and a rush of heat to the silky, porky broth, though the noodles arrive at the table already limp. The tonkotsu base is nearly as rich as foie gras; it’s hard not to wish Tsuta offered a spicy ramen that was a touch more nimble, like the chile miso at Ivan Ramen, or the tantanmen at Donburiya. Those who order the tonkotsu by itself — without any chile sauce — will reckon with something even more aggressively rich. The potion sits on the tongue with nearly as much weight as cream of mushroom soup. Does one need more than a few sips of this? No, but it’s undeniably delicious, even if the noodles taste like a phoned-in affair.

I’ll be back to try the shio and vegetarian ramens. For now, perhaps the chief draw is letting tourists take in the visual splendor of Dumbo, which Tsuta shows off with aplomb — sometimes. Giant glass windows frame the eastern flank of the Brooklyn Bridge against the sky, a quintessential New York view. But if you’re sitting in the wrong seat one of those Michelin-star posters blocks out the panorama.

Tsuta Dumbo

22 Old Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201 (718) 576-3435 Visit Website
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