Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to a mazeman joint on Delancey.

THE VIBE
Chef Shigetoshi Nakamura, known as one of four 'Ramen Gods' back in Japan, has been slinging his brilliant bowls of noodles in NYC for about four years now, first at Ramen Lab, which he helped open, then at his eponymous spot near the eastern end of Delancey Street. It's nearly always busy here, and a must-stop for ramen pilgrims passing through town, but the cramped space, DIY decor, and ungainly location opposite the Williamsburg Bridge off-ramp ensures that the restaurant has maintained its local feel. You had to kind of wonder though: Is this it? What's Nakamura going to do next?

Well now we know. Two weeks ago Nakamura officially expanded his operation, bringing his noodle magic—and his ever-present fedora—two doors down on Delancey to a brand new spot called Niche, an equally cozy, equally DIY restaurant that specializes in mazemen, a brothless ramen.

One wide communal table fills almost the entire space here, with seven backless stools on either side, leaving narrow aisles, especially now during coat season, for your server to scoot up and down delivering noodles. Minimalist boxes of condiments, complete with drawer for chopsticks, are the only adornment. And Nakamura himself created both works of art: a oversized photo assemblage of noodle slurping, printed on Japanese calligraphy paper, and a textile piece hanging over the kitchen, made of silk rectangles cut from his mother's kimonos.

THE BITES
Mazemen makes up the core of the Niche menu, obviously, and during this "soft opening" period there are six from which to choose, all served warm. I ate three varieties last weekend, and they were all fantastic. Nakamura gets playful with his combinations, paying homage to his LES neighbors with dishes like the Russ & Roe, served with intensely fishy Tarako sauce, a half dozen or so slices of smoked salmon, a bit of finely diced cucumber, and a touch of olive oil. Nakamura recommends you order a side of nori here, wrapping each seaweed square around a chopstick-full of fish and noodles, and he's absolutely correct—it's an outrageously delicious bite of food.

Equally rich and tasty is the Uni-bonara, a tangle of noodles studded with fatty bacon, swimming in cream sauce, with plenty of sea urchin piled on top. The Steak Mazemen is another big winner, the chunks of tender grilled ribeye cooked medium rare, bright spinach and fermented bamboo shoots stacked on the side, everything soaking in a pool of pork broth. It eats like a Japanese stroganoff, and makes for a wonderfully hearty cold-weather meal. In all cases, as you would expect from Nakamura, the long, thick, twisty noodles are cooked to firm, chewy perfection.

There are also a number of starters available, and the three I tried were all fine. The best of the lot was the Crunchy Avocado, a simple sliced piece of the fruit soaking up soy sauce from below and covered in Japanese puffed rice. The Scallop Sashimi, served raw and sliced thin, was mostly overwhelmed by yuzu sauce and burnt chili peppers. These latter bits worked better in the Chilled Mapo Tofu, a dish that's also helped along by the crunchy diced potato. Really though, you're here for the noodles.

THE VERDICT
NYC noodleheads should go to Niche now before the wait for a seat becomes untenable. It is our great good fortune that chef Nakamura has made this city his home, and I plan on taking advantage of his decision as much possible in 2019.

Niche Mazemen is located at 172 Delancey Street between Clinton and Attorney Streets, and is currently open on Monday through Saturday from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Closed Sunday.