The sides of the Ninja, +1K

P & I slept in during the morning on Saturday watching Food Network’s Mangia Mania week, which is all Italian food. We must have watched 3 separate pizza shows – we’re going to try out some apparently new ones in New York this week – counterbalancing my gym visit on Friday.

The rest of the afternoon we visited Chelsea Market, which houses the world headquarters of the Food Network. Crazy looks through the Fat Witch (brownies), Jimmy’s Gelato (had an awesome green apple sorbet, as well as green tea gelato – yum!), Bowery Kitchen Supplies (can’t believe that there is a device called a Spätzle-Ass), and Buonitalia Imports (the place to get a 3 kg bottle of Nutella). The free weekend ballroom dancing was also happening.

We got out and it was like 20 degrees and we had 15 minutes to get to Ninja Restaurant, our next stop, so we hopped into a taxi. That was definately a good move. We got there just in time to meet one of our dinner guests, and the host/ringleader was on her way. We waited in the lounge before she arrived, and then were lead through a secret passageway led and intercepted by ninjas before arriving at the ninja village.

We didn’t have high hopes, since the New York Times gave such a poor review, but we actually had a great time. Maybe it was partly the good company, partially that we got a good ninja, partially that the restaurant took some of the critiques to heart, but we think that the reviews were completely wrong. The food was actually pretty good, the ambiance was believable, and nobody took themselves too seriously (the ninjas spoke Japanese, but quickly switched into witty English.)

Things can be really expensive if you were to order a la carte, but the key is to pick from the set menus – they have the best value. Ask for the “secret menu” – it’s sort of like the other menu at Chinese restaurants that has the stuff that only those in the know want to eat. The secret menu arrived in a gold box and has 2 more economical set menus that didn’t look like they were going to be filling, but they were very nice. Then we had a choice of 5 desserts, which were shown to us by M- the Ninja on the secret side menu, which she presented to us on a 1 x 3″ slip of parchment.

If ordered in a set menu, the items that we received were worth the price. The courses included: red miso soup with clams, grilled salmon with a rice sauce, cubed steak in a choice of wasabi or terayaki sauce, 5 piece nigiri sushi, and the fateful choice of dessert. The quality was quite good, and the sushi was served with real wasabi root grated at the table. One of our dinner guests also ordered the 5 flight sake tasting menu, which were full sized samples – it was deemed excellent. The funniest exchange concerning the white frog (actually a cheesecake) dessert – P: “I can’t eat it – it’s too cute” – Ninja M: “He was destined to die”.)

If you think of it as just food, it’s a bit on the pricy side, especially if you stray off of the set menus, but if you think of it as dinner theater, it’s well worth it – much better value than Jekyll & Hyde or Mars 2112. And you’d be supporting NYC’s better struggling Asian actors and actresses (our dining host had actually been on a casting call for Ninja waitstaff). Recommended if you want to splurge a bit.

Also, this is the 1,000th (or maybe 1,001 if SSW posts before me) post! Can’t believe we made it this far…. next post will be more of a long form reminiscence.

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