Tom Nadeau opened the first Tatsu Ramen in 2012, in Los Angeles, because he felt like no one was making noodles in that town that were as good as the ones he had eaten in Tokyo. It's been a huge hit out there, apparently (there are two there now), and six years later the restaurant claims to be "frequented by A-listers, hipsters and blacklisters."

Now the Tatsu team have brought their noodles, their iPad ordering system, and their Dad-joke signage to New York City (where, by the way, we definitely already have lots of amazing ramen). They've set up in a spacious spot in the East Village, two doors down from David Chang's always-overflowing Momofuku Noodle Bar. There were no A-listers at Tatsu on Wednesday night for the Grand/Soft Opening, but I did slurp a couple of bowls of ramen, among other things. Here are some initial impressions.

  • This is a counter-service restaurant at which the usual "humans with a big menu hanging above them" situation has been replaced by three iPads. These are bolted to a slatted wooden wall beneath snazzy laser beams of red neon. You will hear the word "iPad" spoken out loud many, many times throughout your meal, as the hosts throw it around with a frequency that suggests contractual obligation.
  • You must place your order and pay before you sit down; your hosts will find you a place to eat after you hand them your printed receipt.
  • The Tatsu menu features seven kinds of ramen: four Tonkotsu variations, a chicken-broth bowl, a vegan-broth bowl ("Hippie Ramen"), and one that has no broth at all, just a "squeeze of lime." There are several sides available, including some rice dishes, a pork bun, and a knockoff Ramen Burger accompanied by a soft-boiled egg. You can also order Merch with your meal, like a $20 Ramen Samurai t-shirt.
  • In addition to the above choices, there are sub-choices required of you—how much garlic do you want? How spicy? Would you like pork, chicken, or tofu with that?—to make you wonder how fast the iPad line is going to move, when and if there is a line. Especially since you don't really get to see the entire menu until you're up there swiping. Don't forget to tap the Advanced Purified Water icon if you want a glass of water!
  • Seating is mostly communal, with two long tables in the main area, and stools at a counter by the front window and at a right-angled bar looking into the kitchen. There are also a few two- and four-tops tucked in toward the back, opposite the kitchen and on the way to the restrooms. When you're finished eating, there's no place to bus your dirty dishes, so just get up and leave them where they lay.
  • Tatsu seems to be going for a fun atmosphere here. Your spiciness choices range from "Mild" to "Whoa, that's hot" to "Are you insane?!"

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The condiments. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)

  • You are encouraged to add lots of condiments to your ramen once it arrives. At each setting there are sesame seed grinders, cruets of soy sauce, chili pepper shakers, strips of nori under glass, and literal whole cloves of raw garlic you can plop into your soup. But since you already specifically requested your garlic levels with your order, this seems like overkill.
  • As for the food itself... it was okay. While we always welcome new bowls of noodles (I ate the Chicken broth one and the Bold Tonkotsu), there are many excellent ramen restaurants already here in NYC that I personally prefer, including a half dozen or so within easy walking distance of Tatsu.

Tatsu is located at 167 First Avenue between 10th and 11th Streets and is open Sunday through Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., and on Thursday through Saturday until 4 a.m. (929-284-7088; tatsuramen.com)