Tuesday, October 26, 2010

naginicai (Nagi Nicai in Shinjuku)



I love Nagi. They have 4 or 5 shops, depending how you do the math, in the greater Tokyo area. Each shop is different, each shop is very cool. I used to visit the Shibuya branch once a week after an English lesson for a bowl and a beer. There was a very cool vibe, almost like a ramen izakaya. At some point, I stopped my Shibuya lesson, and the Nagi visits became less frequent. Ever since, I've been searching for a great ramen shop that can also serve as a hangout. The Cheers of ramen if you will.


The latest is Nagi Nicai. Written in the Roman alphabet, I though nicai was some foreign, maybe Italian word. But no, it's Japanese. 二階 literally means 2nd floor. And this shop is on the 2nd floor. Above another Nagi. One step (floor) at a time.


The concept is a cozy bar with ramen and small dishes that encourage drinking. The menu has a ton of options.


There are a few ramen choices, and the yaki-ramen looked good, but the staff recommended the signature shellfish ramen.


Yeah, that's something different.


Full of clams and mussels, this is, as advertised, great with drinking. If it looks delicious, thats because it is. Extremely.

This ramen is a bit like the steamed mussels occasionally eaten at overpriced Belgian beer bars in Tokyo. Only it's half the price for double the shellfish. And there are noodles.


Speaking of 2nd floors, the shop has a lofted platform with seating for about 6.


Just yell your order over the railing.


The atmosphere lends itself to relaxing and chatting with new friends. Mr. S-Tani, sitting next to me, was introduced to me as another ramen geek. His iPad makes a convincing argument:

He's been blogging his noodles for the last 5 years. Check it out here.


My evening adventure included a first meet with a fan of the site, a temporary resident of Tokyo, whose Japanese at 1 month is better than mine was at 2 years.


We tried a couple of the small dishes. The Beef flank baked in demiglass sauce and the lasagna.


I often recommend the Nagi in Golden Gai as a must for foreign visitors. The vibe is great, and of course the ramen is excellent. Along with Bassanova and Gogyo, these are the shops that can turn a mere mortal into a lifetime ramen lover. I feel like adding naginicai* to that list, with an asterisks.

*It might be an injustice if I only recommend ramen that pushes the envelope, so please check out some more traditional shops in Tokyo.