Monday, September 16, 2019

NoNoNo New York

There is far more to Japanese food than sushi, but it's hard to find a restaurant that offers more than seaweed salad and tempura in addition to the usual raw fish favorites. At least in Baltimore. But in New York, one can dine at an izakaya--a Japanese style pub--or at a restaurant that specialize in one or more specific dishes, like yakitori or ramen. NoNoNo, on the edge of Manhattan's Koreatown, is one of those places, with a menu of yakitori, or various chicken bits on skewers, plus noodle dishes and various other delights.

I wanted to dine at NoNoNo last December, but didn't have the forethought to make a reservation. This time around, I did, and so we feasted. We enjoyed some dishes more than others.

I am a fan of chawanmushi, an egg custard made with dashi broth rather than eggs, studded with savory bits and bobs, usually a shrimp or two. NoNoNo's version can be had plain, or for a small upcharge, topped with salmon roe, snow crab, and uni. Unfortunately, they were out of uni, and the snow crab was a disappointing small spoonful of shredded meat, but the overall portion of custard was large and, I thought, quite good.

The yakitori on offer includes everything from thigh and breast to skin, gizzard, even back cartilage (a favorite of mine). But we bucked the trend and went for beef skewers, instead--short rib with onion and skirt steak with shishito peppers. In both cases, the meat was flavorful and juicy, with the expected pleasant chew.

A skewered soft egg wrapped in bacon and topped with truffle salt made for another lovely mouthful or two.

We also tried the duck nanban, or deep fried duck topped with egg salad. The egg salad seemed more like mayonnaise with bits of white onion in it, and I felt it was a strange topping for the duck. I've seen too many food competition chefs get dinged for putting a wet sauce on a crisp piece of protein to think this is a good idea. But even the pieces of duck that escaped the sauce were a bit on the soggy and chewy side. Not my favorite dish.

Because our meal was going to be meat-forward, we ordered the grilled romaine, which was much like a Caesar salad. A very good Caesar salad.

We also ordered the deep fried grilled mushrooms with a very garlicky basil and scallop filling. I'd love the filling tossed with pasta. Those mushrooms were a challenge to pick up with chopsticks, by the way. Slippery devils they were.

Then there was the grilled salmon belly topped with shaved radish and salmon roe. I was hoping for a fatty and lush texture, but the meat was a tad overcooked.

Finally, we had the cold sukiyaki udon, which may have been my favorite dish of the evening. Fat slippery udon noodles swam in a tasty broth topped with various mushrooms, slices of beef, tofu, scallions, and a goodly hit of wasabi.

I'm not sure if we ordered badly, or what. The beef dishes were excellent, but some of the others had issues. There was still plenty more interesting items on the menu to explore, and I think we may have made a mistake in overlooking the chicken skewers. There are plenty of other restaurants in NY in which to dine, so we probably won't be revisiting NoNoNo in the future. Still, I'm glad I was able to satisfy my curiosity.

Check out the online menu and be intrigued yourself. Prices per dish are all pretty inexpensive, but if you order as much as we did, your meal won't be cheap.

118 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10016

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