New York City's ramen craze continues, offering plenty of opportunities for new shops to set up and quickly develop neighborhood followings. On a bleak stretch on Ninth Avenue near the city's Port Authority, Tabata has done just that. The décor isn't as warm, cozy, or trendy as say an Ippudo, but the unglamorous Hell's Kitchen location means there's also much less pretense and fuss so you get down to the important matter at hand — especially on a cold, rainy night — slurping down a big bowl of noodles.
There are 14 selections of ramen on the menu and an additional two vegetarian noodle options. The namesake Tabata Ramen is popular and features soybean powder and coconut-flavored noodle soup with spicy chicken, red onion, and cilantro. For something with a bit more kick, try the Geki Kara Ramen. The menu notes that the name literally means, "hellishly" spicy, but don't get psyched out. Even those with more sensitive palates would argue that description is a bit much. It's really not that spicy, but with roast pork or chicken, egg, bean sprouts, and scallions, it is quite tasty.
But the move at Tabata is to order the Edako Kana Age and a bowl of the garlic noodles. The baby octopi are small and crispy, about the size of a silver dollar, a great setup for the noodles, which more than make up for the misleading menu description, "deep-fried garlic on salt flavored noodle (grey chicken, deep garlic, scallion)." There's nothing gray about the dish, but it does come in two bowls, one full of the garlicky noodles, the other filled with a broth that you can add to the noodles or sip as you like.
It's a meal reaffirming enough to send you back out prepared to brace the elements.