Monday, May 11, 2009

I’m a Ninja, and So Can You: A Restaurant Review of Ninja New York

My friend Carl loves ninjas. Hell, who doesn’t? So his birthday this past weekend was more than enough of an excuse to reserve a ninja hut at one of New York’s top ninja restaurants.

If you haven’t heard of Ninja New York, that’s fine. I think the concept comes naturally to anyone who knows what a ninja is. And knows what a restaurant is.

The basic idea is a ninja-themed Japanese restaurant that’s designed to look like a feudal ninja village. You take a dimly-lit elevator down to the ninja village area, and walk through a short maze-like corridor to reach your table. The waiters dress like ninjas, and light some of the food on fire before serving. There was a tall, white, mustachioed “ninja” who did some pretty cool magic tricks with dollar bills.

It all spells an incredibly authentic ninja experience. At least, according to any ninja comic book or ninja cartoon that I’ve ever been exposed to. The only things that were missing were Japanese people – I think our Ninja was from the Bronx.

Now, if you look up Ninja New York on Menupages or Citysearch, you’ll find a truckload of mediocre reviews. Most people complain about the overpriced, tasteless food, but admit that the entertainment value makes it almost worth the price. Well, I’m here to tell you that the food was actually not that bad.

Overpriced? Definitely. Bland? Not particularly. Well-prepared? Yeah, sure. Whatever. It was perfectly fine.

Perhaps my expectations were set so low that a bowl of soy-sauce-soaked dog food would have passed for quality ninja cuisine.

But whatever the case may be, I really enjoyed the meal. The service was not only ninja-like, but also pretty damn good – and you thought those two descriptions were mutually exclusive. Attentive waiters, with cat-like reflexes, were at the ready to bring another beer, fill a water glass (we started out with bottled water, but moved on to “Ninja Tap” water later on), or light my dessert on fire.

Sure it’s a bit cheesy. And you can get much better food for much less money at any one of hundreds and hundreds of other restaurants in New York. But there’s no other place quite like Ninja New York. And despite the high prices, I’d probably go back with people who were visiting from out of town, or with friends who had some kind of unhealthy fetish for ninjas. I’m sure I have a few of them.

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