Samurai Mama

Parting curtains reveal a door to ancient Feudal Japan…and delicious Japanese Udon noodles. My brother tipped me off and showed me this restaurant: Samurai Mama, in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, has one of the coolest interiors in all of New York; a series of wooden and brick chambers that recall a scene from an inn in Feudal Tokyo. The main dining area features a long (long!) wooden table smack in the middle of the dining room. If you’ve really imaginative (or had a lot to drink) you might just be able to envision a row of samurais sitting here, sipping sake. I’ve read the term “real Japanese restaurant” in a lot of reviews, and I completely agree. And it’s not just the interior, but also the food…

The bar:

We were here for udon. And udon I got. Specifically, Niku Tsukejil Udon: pork belly noodles soaked in a scallion soup. And my girlfriend: Tori Kara, which was a fried chicken of sorts meant to be sprayed with lemon juice. It wasn’t your traditional fried chicken and it was really tasty.

But back to the noodles, which Samurai Mama prides itself on. The aroma hit me before the plate landed on the table. In fact, I sat there just taking deep breathes of the broth for about a minute before diving in. The udon was chewy and fantastic. There are different styles: dipping and dump style. My noodles came on a separate plate from the broth, so I ended up sliding the noodles into the bowl to soak in the broth. See that big wooden spoon? That’s a fun way to eat your broth after you’ve scoffed down all your noodles.

The customer service was excellent. Our waitress was kind and warm, and my glass barely hit half empty before it was full again. There was a healthy group of people in the restaurant but no wait (a Wednesday night) and the service didn’t suffer at all. The prices aren’t bad. The noodles run for around $10 per person. Samurai Mama also sells sushi (5-7 dollars per roll) and other Japanese dishes. And if you’d like to try something different, order the Ume (only around a dollar), for a small portion of pickled plum. This thing is packed with flavor and the term “explosion in your mouth” is appropriate.

I had a great time at Samurai Mama and will definitely be back. If you love Japanese food,  you have to try this place.

Grades:
Customer Service: A
Taste: A
Price: B (Not bad, about $10 pp for noodles)
Aesthetic: A+

Contact info:
Samurai Mama
205 Grand St. Brooklyn NY (between Bedford and Driggs)
(718) 599-6161
http://www.samuraimama.com/

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Zum Stammtisch

You don’t have to take an 8 hour flight from JFK to Munich to find fine, authentic Bavarian dining. All you have to do is find your way to Zum Stammtisch in the Glendale neighborhood of Queens (Take the L train to Myrtle-Wyckoff and then the Q55 bus). You might have heard of Zum Stammtisch; it has received high marks from the likes of Zagat and Time Out Magazine.

A word of caution: a reservation is necessary on weekends and even some weekday nights. Note that they do not reserve tables for parties under 3, so if you’re visiting Zum Stammtisch with your sweetheart, be prepared for a wait. Though to be honest, it’s worth it.

The restaurant has a very authentic, cozy aesthetic based on a Bavarian inn. The interior is complete with dark, wooden booths and chairs, low lighting, the heads of game mounted on the wall, and all kinds of charming German trinkets. The place is frequented by the locals, many of whom speak German. The place is an experience, and by the time you stumble back out into Queens, your belly full of Hefe-Weissbier and delicious Bavarian food, you might have forgotten you’re in New York City (or the US for that matter). Die-hard German soccer fans rejoice: a ticker displays the latest scores and standings from the Bundesliga and the bar features all kinds of German soccer memorabilia, including a signed jersey from the ’06 WM Nationalmannschaft.

I am by no means a food critic, but I had high expectations for this restaurant. I ordered the Leberkaese because the last time I had the opportunity to order Leberkaese was in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a Bavarian city nestled in the Alps. That meal was amazing and I was definitely looking forward to a repeat. Leberkaese literally means “liver-cheese”, and that may not sound very appealing to you. I’ll admit, I didn’t even really know what it was (I had to look it up for this article). It turns out it’s something like corned beef, onion, bacon, and pork all mixed together, ground very fine, and then baked in a bread pan. It really does look like a slice of bread, too. It’s topped off with a fried egg. So how did Zum Stammtisch stack up to my meal in the Alps? It didn’t disappoint one ounce. The long wait and corresponding hunger contributed, but it was really delicious. I love the consistency of Leberkaese: you can cut it with the side of your fork like butter. And I love the way the yolk of the egg breaks and runs over the meat. Amazing. I  also had a 1L Hofbraeu that left me feeling quite nice.

Leberkaese

My girlfriend had the Jaegerschnitzel. Her description: “Very yummy and tender but heavy on the gravy. Lots of mushrooms” and “Plain and simple potatoes but soft and yummy.” There you have it folks. Later, I ate her leftovers and I agree with her assessment. For dessert we had the best Schwarzwaelder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cherry Cake) I’ve ever tasted. It was heavenly. Seriously, if they hadn’t seated us in the middle of the restaurant, I would have licked the crumbs off the plate.

Black Forest Cherry Cake

Black Forest Cherry Cake

For a college student, Zum Stammtisch is a little rough on the wallet, but not unreasonably priced for a special meal. For example, for two dinners with a beer and a soda, and a piece of cake, we spent around 65 dollars. But it’s worth it: big portions and big taste, plus a great atmosphere. Overall, a very memorable night.

Contact info:
Zum Stammtisch
69-46 Myrtle Ave.
Glendale, NY 11385
(718) 386-3014

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