Street Team Review – 237 Fifth

Last weekend, with no warning to the everyday layperson, Burger Batch (which had been closed for renovations for a week or two) suddenly became 237 Fifth. The new location is now a “Raman, small plate and sake” restaurant.

237 Fifth (@Steven McDowall)

Street Team Member Steven McDowall tried it this weekend and here is his review.

Got there just before 6 PM .. and the doors were locked .. which is ok .. not open yet! ¬†ūüôā

Just before 6 PM, a pretty decent crowd was forming behind me (I was first in line) — and at 6ish we all heard a “Click” and the doors were open!

So I stepped inside and the woman behind me asked the front manager (who goes by the name “Cheese”) if they did take away. ¬†Answer “No”. ¬†So, no take-away yet.

I was seated and presented my shot of “hot” sake .. except — it was nothing like hot sake. ¬†Tepid Sake really. ¬†My server (a very nice woman named “Anna”) admitted that they hadn’t turned on the sake heater early enough. ¬†Oh well.

The first thing I noticed immediately — is how DARK this place is. ¬†I mean, bat cave dark. ¬†I had to use my iPhone Flashlight to see anything! ¬†It was also just a bit too loud with the music (Rap of some sort) that, to me, didn’t quite go with the dark theme (the loudness of the music). ¬†Did I mention I started a spelunking expedition mid-way through the meal?

“Not Gyoza” dumplings (¬©Steven McDowall)

So, I did order a nice Carafe of one of their monthly sakes — the slightly dry Tozai Ginko style .. one of my favorite styles. And also ordered what, for me, is one of the signature makings of a Ramen restaurant — Gyoza. ¬† I also ordered the Steamed Pork Buns, cuz. ¬†Those are obviously not authentic “Ramen” since they are Chinese but they are Asian Snack Food and I love them so.

Pork Buns (©Steven McDowall)

Well, they came out (see the pics) and the pork buns looked and were really good. Addictive. ¬†I gave one away to another solo eater next to me to try and we both agreed these were quite good ($10 for 3 I think… why I didn’t take any photos of the menu is beyond me.. sigh)¬†Editor’s note: There was a menu available on their Instagram but, now it is gone – Tim

Now, the gyoza… well, they are not in any way Gyoza. (See pic). ¬†I appreciate a little bit of “liberties,” but this really was beyond going fusion. ¬†These were SO not gyoza .. I need to give them an “F” as GYOZA. ¬†Now, as tasty dumplings? I liked them a lot. ¬†Solid “B” for sure. They weren’t pan-fried as much as I would like, but I am not even sure they should be pan-fried. ¬†I honestly never encountered a dumpling quite like these before and I have eaten maybe 50+ dumpling types in my life from all over. ¬†They had a nice filling of meat and cabbage and sprinkled with sesame and green onions. ¬†The dipping sauce had a nice little bite I liked (could have used more black vinegar but that is my preference). So again, for being NOT GYOZA, I would eat them again. I am just a bit peeved they called them gyoza. And, they don’t have real Gyoza on the menu (probably my favorite dumpling).

On to the Ramen:

So, I was convinced to order the totally non-traditional in anyway Beef Broth w/ Oxtail and Bone Marrow Ramen. ¬†Again, Ramen is really Japanese fast causal food and there are a ton of variations. I never had this one but it certainly was in the “ballpark” of ramen. I tried to get it with my favorite Ramen Addition: Corn. No corn to be had. Tried for a Fish Cake. No Fish Cake. How about some Nori? Yes! They actually have Nori in a ramen restaurant! ¬†Woohoo!

So this brings up the point: I think they are missing the fundamental idea of a Ramen joint. ¬†It’s to let people customize their experience to things they like. Most ramen joints have a section below the ramens listing at least 6 if not 12 “add-ons” so you can customize your own bowl. Corn, Black Garlic, Bean Sprouts, Nori, Enoki Mushrooms, etc. There is a little surcharge but that’s ok.

Here, your only option is extra noodles – unless you order the Vegetarian then you can add the “Marinated Egg” for $2 (we’ll get to the egg in a moment).

Ramen (©Steven McDowall)

So here comes my ramen, giant marrow bone and all! ¬†Looks pretty good actually, but where the hell are my eggs!? ¬†It was to come with one of the “Marinated Eggs,” which everywhere else would call it an “Onsen egg,” being the appropriate term. ¬†I mean of all choices of words to use “Marinated Egg” sounds… horrible. ¬†And it’s not. It’s amazing! Slightly soft boiled then marinated in Soy, Mirin, etc. ¬†Anyway, Anna apologized and brought out the eggs and I added them to the soup . ¬†Now we’re talking ramen!

So. The noodles. There has been controversy about the noodles here. I even specifically asked multiple people in the restaurant if they were authentic alkaline ramen noodles. All said yes, emphatically. I still ordered my ramen with “al dente” noodles. The result, as far as I can tell, these were very good ramen noodles with just a nice chew, etc. ¬†I have no complaints at all with the noodles in my bowl. Not sure if they found a new supplier or what, but no issue at all.

The broth was tasty. The marrow (and I LOVE bone marrow) was delicious. The oxtail was tasty but what a pain in the ass to get the meat off the bone using nothing but chopsticks and my large ramen spoon.  I resorted to using my fingers but the effort was worth it.

Now, there are two (again so standard it shouldn’t even be needed to say) table condiments in ramen shops: chili oil and “Sichimi Togarashi” (otherwise known as Japanese 7-spice powder). ¬†237 Fifth has nothing on the table for condiments. However, I happened to ask if they had Sichimi Togarashi (my go-to topping for just about any soup) and they did! Anna brought out a nice little container and I was in a much happier place. I didn’t want to add chili oil (didn’t even ask) because I liked the soup the way I had doctored it. But certainly having a little bottle of chili oil and the 7-spice powder on each table would be a nice addition too.

So the net, this place is pretty darn good. I think they could improve a few things (but not service, that was awesome) and of course, I didn’t try everything but what I did try (with a bit of doctoring) was good.

237 Fifth Interior (©Steven McDowall)

I hope they bump it up a notch and allow more add-ons, offer both “real” Gyoza and that interesting dumpling, put 7-spice and chili oil on the table, and chopstick holders on the table (although that last is optional it would be a nice touch).

So price-wise, not a cheap meal by any means. But, we are taking downtown WS. ¬†The ramen was $15(?) for this bowl (Pork and Chicken cheaper). The “dumplings” (I refuse to call them Gyoza) were $10 for 6. ¬†Pork buns .. $10 for 3-ish. My total with sake was near $40. But, I did order a lot that could be split. ¬†Again, not a cheap date night but not horrible in my opinion for a ramen night out.

Now for lunch, I think that pricing would be way too high even for WS. I don’t think people are willing to pay more than $12 – $15 total for lunch, which is why maybe they aren’t open for lunch.

Thank you, Steven, for this great review. I know you have spent a lot of time in China and other Asian countries and have a lot of experience with this style of food.