I have yet to make it to Japan. But, after my first trip to Asia last spring, my Eastern curiosities have been more than ignited. I am not certain when I will actually get back over there, but I do know that it will happen one of these days, although most definitely not in 2009. In the meantime, a simple trip down the street in the West Village has just taken me miles closer to this travel destination high on my priority list. With barely a foot off of Barrow Street through the doors and curtains of Rockmeisha, I was actually confused as to what country I was standing in. Hands down, the atmosphere alone is worth a visit to one of the newest additions to the izakaya craze in the city. The decor is incredible. Be sure to head there with a close friend as you may spend the majority of the evening mesmerized by the various distractions scattered throughout the restaurant. I can't decide if it was the televisions broadcasting Japanese variety shows, the chaos behind the sushi bar, the strategically placed figurines, or the eclectic "art displays" arranged on the walls and counters that seized my attention more throughout the night.
This establishment successfully lives up to the mission of an izakaya - not only attracting business men and women, but distracting them from the fast-paced business world. And, their trick, while partly in the food and drink (like most restaurants), mainly lies in the setting. Order up a round or two of draft Sapporos as it may be awhile before any food arrives - cooked or not. We were definitely baffled by what was going on back in the kitchen as our starters of raw okra and pork with bean sprouts appeared well into the night. But again, there was really too much going on around me to even focus on time. Had I not been wearing a watch, I probably would have never even noticed. Unfortunately, the presentation of these dishes in mini cast-iron pans was probably the highlight. I quickly learned, after looking around the room and noticing common traits on each table (tall glasses of beer and large bowls), the truth behind Rockmeisha - it's all in the noodles. This is a watering hole with amazing ramen. And, thankfully, that was what soon arrived in front of us. Honestly, as far as ramen goes, this one is a complete winner. The noodles were cooked almost al dente and the broth was extremely rich, quite creamy - an excellent combination for this Asian specialty. There is only one ramen option on the menu, so no decisions need even be made - ultimately, simplifying our lives even more after a long day at the office.
Rockmeisha is the very reason that I struggle with ratings. It truly was an experience - and one that I want to have again. While the food as a whole was not overly impressive, I cannot get that ramen out of my mind. As little decision-making as I took part in on my first trip there, I will have even less upon my return - a true luxury in my books. Scanning the room, it was apparent every one else had already figured out the magic duo - Sapporo and ramen. The other key to an evening at this izakaya is scoring a seat in prime location to one of its many televisions. Not to worry that the volume is turned down or if the Japanese subtitles overwhelm, the costumes and dance performances on screen will not disappoint. It's all about ambiance, noodles and improv at Rockmeisha - take it or leave it. This is one affordable and easy trip to Japan.
11 Barrow St.
New York, NY 10014
FOOD RATING (Out of 5):