Overdue Review #1: Ninja Vanish!

21 Mar

I can’t tell you how difficult it was to bring you this review. In case my super subtle title has eluded you, I’ll be talking about the restaurant Ninja today, located in NYC. Briefly, I had a great time and the whole experience was quite enjoyable, but my review isn’t 100% glowing. This of course presents a problem. One must be… tactful when discussing something that may be perceived as a… possible minor imperfection when speaking about trained killers such as ninjas. You see, they are quick to anger and will kill without remorse. Somehow, the Ninjas in question found out about my first few drafts and they… expressed their displeasure. They showed me the error of my ways and I agreed to revise certain… more inflammatory sections. I hope this meets with their approval and they will stop breaking into my room at night and stabbing me. Without further ado, here is my belated review of Ninja:

Ninja is located here. It’s quite easy to miss if you’re not paying attention. It shares a building with several other businesses and from the outside, you wouldn’t know there were ninjas lurking within, which I guess makes sense seeing as how ninjas are stealthy. Once you find the plain glass door marked with the eatery’s name, the real fun begins. Walk in and you’re suddenly inside some dark cave in feudal Japan. There’s an elevator off to the side, but we’ll ignore that. The pleasant hostess takes your name and checks it against the reservation list (and yes, you’re not getting anywhere without a reservation), then summons a ninja guide to take you into the heart of the restaurant.

Once the guide arrives, he will typically offer you a choice: The Path of Safety, which is for little girly men, or The Path of Danger which I heartily recommend everyone takes. That elevator I mentioned before? That’s the safe way. Screw that. The Path of Danger takes you into a claustrophobic tunnel that winds and twists around itself, heading ever downwards. To say the path is dimly lit would be an overstatement. The floorboards you walk on are creaky (by design, I’m sure) and there are random steps and tiny bridges everywhere that serve to confuse and disorient.

Also ninjas jump out of nowhere and scare the bejesus out of you.

If you survive The Path of Danger, you’ll emerge in the center of a tiny replica ancient Japanese village. Each house or hut contains a table for you and your party where you can eat in relative privacy, thanks to the sliding paper doors and the storm shutters on the windows. Never think for a moment that you are safe, however. Ninjas are everywhere, and they will get you.

On my visit, we were there for my sister’s birthday. I asked our ninja waiter if there were horrible and embarrassing things they do to people who are foolish enough to enter into their grasp during the anniversary of their birth. He assured me there were and that he would inflict the full range of these indignities upon her.

That settled, he left us our menus and we looked them over. The menu is fairly large, with a nice variety of Japanese dishes. Generally speaking, you’ve got two options. You can order a planned meal, in which you get several courses served to you and up to 3 others, each course being described in the menu before you. While interesting, these options were by far the most expensive items on the menu, and we opted to pass on them this visit. The rest of the menu works the same as it does in most other places. Point to an item and make a sound and eventually someone will bring it to you.

They also had an entire saki menu, of which we availed ourselves. There was such an endless array of them that we ended up going with a mystery saki sampler, which gave us small amounts of 3 different sakis. You were told which three they served you, but you didn’t know which glass each one was in, hence the mystery. We had one with hibiscus or some other weird flower in it. Another one was made with honey. They were all great.

Also of note is that some items on the menu have a throwing star next to them. This indicates an item that comes with some sort of ninja performance or skill demonstration. The items we ordered had a few of these demos accompanying them, and they ranged from somewhat mundane (fog coming out of the bottom of the serving dish) to more extreme acts of pyrotechnics involving flash paper and quick ninja reflexes. I won’t go into further details; it’s really something that needs to be experienced.

I should also note that throughout the ordering process and our meal, our ninja waiter scared us silly by leaping out at us from the doorway, popping in from the window and slamming a katana down on the table, and a variety of other terrifying delights, all while yelling ninja battlecries.

It was awesome. Oh, and did I mention that all the ninja waiters have really terrible fake Japanese accents? DOUBLE AWESOME!

After our meal (periodically interrupted by the above ninja antics), we were enjoying some pleasant conversation when we were interrupted by someone in a ninja suit who didn’t have a terribad fake Japanese accent. Instead he had glasses. And was a white dude, not Asian like all the other staff we’d seen thus far. But you know what else he was?


He was also a comedian. Seriously, I’m not being metaphorical here. He approached us, told us hilarious jokes, did some magic tricks that have convinced me that he was a real live sorcerer with intimate knowledge of dark and arcane arts, and then told some more jokes. Seriously, dude had frigging foam rabbits popping out of my hand. Out of MY hand, not some prop hand or some audience member playing along! I saw him! He asks me to hold one, and FIVE came out when I opened my hand! Then he put them in my sister’s hand and only one came out. Normally I’m pretty decent at figuring out where the sleight of hand occurred, but I’ll be damned if I can figure this one. The only answer is that he must be a sorcerer. There’s no other possible explanation.

In any event, after the ninja comedian magician went away, we were brought our bill, paid, and then were allowed to leave, this time through some hidden steps squirreled away at the back of the place. Also the ninja waiter gave us ninja stickers. <3 Overall, it was a great experience and filled with awesome win fun times.

Now, here’s where I have to stop and point out something that was somewhat less awesome. This is also the part that has brought the wrath of the ninjas down upon me. The atmosphere, the ambiance, the sheer terror of a black clad figure bearing down at you and your table with a katana, these are all amazing things and it’s totally worth going to Ninja to experience all of them. However, it is an expensive restaurant, and depending on the time of year, reservations can be tough to get. As mentioned, the mood of the place more than justifies this, but at the end of the day, it’s a restaurant. A place where they give you food, and that’s kind of a really important part of the dining experience. The food at Ninja was not bad by any means, but I didn’t feel it justified the price. It is an expensive place, and while the show you get with the food is great, the food itself should at least match the show, if not exceed it in greatness. It ends up being better than average cuisine, but nothing special.

Ninja is an absolute blast to visit. Everyone should go at least once, and I know that I’ll be going back at some point in the future. My birthday is only 7 months away, after all. The food is good but not great, and if you can get past that, you’ll definitely be satisfied with your night. I’d give the food 3.5 double chins out of five, but experience itself five double chins out of five. You should go there… before the ninjas come for you.

Vital Stats:
Name: Ninja NYC
Address: 25 Hudson Street
              New York, NY 10013-3802
Phone: (212) 274-8500

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Posted by on March 21, 2010 in Restaurant Reviews


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