The sharp blade silently slid through the bamboo bars and pressed against the bare flesh of my neck. The ninja held my life in his hands yet I was not fully helpless. I pushed my head back several inches until I pressed against the wall as my right hand shot up and grabbed the ninja's wrist. I then yanked hard on his wrist, bashing the ninja's head against the wall, rendering him unconscious. I had foiled the assassination attempt and looked around warily, trying to ascertain whether any other ninjas were coming to kill me.
Ok, that didn't really happen that way. Everything was far more innocuous. I spent time with "ninjas" but I was at the Ninja restaurant in New York City. The restaurant is part of a chain that originated in Tokyo. It is designed to resemble a medieval Japanese village and all of the servers are dressed as ninjas. Authentic? Nah. Hokey? Yes. But it actually is fun and we had a very good time.
Everyone gets seated in their own little "cell" which actually is nice as it gives you plenty of privacy. It was a spacious room, as well as clean. Our server was a female ninja, garbed all in black, and first presented us with drink menus, unrolling scrolls for us. They have a complete drink menu, including wine, beer, sake, mixed drinks and nonalcoholic ones.
The Retsu ($12) is an intriguing sweet martini made from banana puree, Godiva white chocolate, Creme de CoCo, Hazelnut liqueur and topped with a dark chocolate mousse sauce. Much more of a dessert cocktail. The Kai cocktail ($12) is created from muddled blackberry with dry sake, vodka, mango juice, and Chambord. An excellent drink which was not too sweet. I chose to start with the Hanzo Sake Tasting ($20) which gave me samples of four different Sakes, including a Junmai, Junmai Ginjo, Junmai Daiginjo, and Tokubetsu Junmai. The Hanzo brand is made exclusively for the restaurant. I generally enjoyed the Sakes, though they mostly tended on the sweeter side.
The food menu also came as a scroll and you can either select a multi-course meal or order a la carte. The multi-course dinners range from $50-$90 and all include five courses, one dinner being a vegetarian offering. The a la carte menu includes sushi/sashimi ($3-$8 per piece), sushi rolls ($12-$13), hot and cold appetizers ($10-$25), and entrees ($22-$43).
The nigiri/sashimi menu is very limited, with only eight varieties available. We began with some tuna ($4), fatty tuna ($8), and eel ($4). They do not usually sell tamago, sweet egg omelette, but they use shredded tamago in one of their dishes so they specially prepared for us a tamago roll ($3). It was shredded tamago wrapped in nori and was a nice accomodation. The sushi is expensive but was tasty, fresh and good-sized. It is not the best sushi in the city but it is not disappointing either. We also ordered the Teriyaki Roll ($12), grilled beef wrapped in red leaf lettuce with teriyaki sauce and surrounded by rice. It too was tasty, with decently tender beef, albeit pricey.
For entrees, we had the Caesar Salad ($12) which came in a sizeable bamboo bowl topped by a large and delicious oven baked Parmesan Cheese crisp and some bread. My nephew devoured the large salad, reveling in its taste. The rest of us shared a few dishes, including the Red Pond ($35), fried Chilean Sea Bass in a bloody spicy pond of sauce; Ribeye Steak ($43), a 22oz Ribeye served with Garlic, Wasabi and Teriyaki Sauce and mixed Vegetable tossed with Sesame Sauce; and the Bonfire ($40), grilled marinated lamb chops served with a torch. They did a fire trick with the Bonfire dish which was cool to watch. All of the dishes were very good, large and with tender and flavorful cuts of meat. I think they were a bit pricey but the quality was there.
During the course of our evening, ninja would suddenly pop up, sometimes brandishing their swords from around a corner or through the window as in the first picture in this post. A bit of theater meant to enhance your enjoyment. Plus, the presentation of many of the food dishes involved fire or other culinary tricks. This may not appeal to everyone but if you look at it light-heartedly, you will have a fun time. My nephew loved the restaurant and the rest of us enjoyed it too.
I had booked my reservations through Open Table, noting that we would be celebrating my wife's birthday. The restaurant paid heed to my note and brought out the above dessert tray to her, with a rose in dry ice and a candle in a strawberry. I am always glad when a restaurant pays attention to the comments made in the Open Table reservation. Not all of them do so and it does reflect negatively on them. Sometimes it is the little touches that can really make or break a positive experience.
After our dessert, a magician stopped by our table to do some intriguing close-up magic. It involved mainly cup and ball tricks, such as figuring out which cup had the ball, or how many it might have. But he was quite skilled and I could not discern how he performed any of his tricks. He was also a very good performer, with a snappy and personable patter. His final trick involving lemons appearing under the cups was excellent. It was an excellent cap to the evening.
Service was very good and entertaining. Overall, the food was tasty and good quality though pricey, which I suppose is part of the cost for the entertainment. I think children are going to love this place and even parents will have some fun. The restaurant is far better than some negative reviews I have read, and I think it is worthy of checking out.
25 Hudson St.
New York, NY