Monday, August 9, 2010

Souen, a Macrobiotic Oasis

I have a confession to make. When I was tasked to review Souen and I heard that it's all about macrobiotic food, I imagined that I would probably deep-fry some sausages in beer batter and drink hot sauce as compensation afterward, because I live on highly processed eats laced with chemicals.

I exaggerate. I'm generally a healthy eater, but I'm just not into any faddish health movements. Once we stepped through Souen's doors and into its intimate, calming, spa-like restaurant, however, all thoughts of seeking a tasty heart attack fled my mind.

For those of you who don't know, macrobiotics is a lifestyle and a diet reliant on grains, beans, vegetables, and vegetable proteins (like tofu). The idea is avoid processed foods and focus on chewing foods thoroughly. Souen has been offering traditional, gluten-free, organic Japanese foods made with macrobiotic principles since 1971 - a long time to be in business, so they should be good.

Souen's pure and minimalistic approach is reflected in its tiny modern interior characterized by clean lines and a wall clad in a bamboo lattice entwined with vines. The whole place is tight just like a galley kitchen; the lone porthole window at one end further suggests that, yet the white color scheme and strategic lighting makes it feel anything but small. There is no blaring music, allowing you to appreciate the environment, the people you are eating with, and the artistic beauty of your meal.

One of their most recommended dishes is the Black Sesame Ramen, which you can read about here, but we ordered the Tahini Shoyu Ramen. This dish, comprised of an assortment of organic vegetables, red beans, and a kombu-tahini broth, was one of the most perfectly cooked bowls of ramen we've ever tasted. The vegetables were blanched just enough to preserve their raw freshness in every bite. The noodles were springy and al dente. The creamy, opaque tahini miso broth complemented the savoriness of the red beans and yielded a vegetable surprise every spoonful. I would recommend you come here just for the well-prepared ramen.

If you are not a vegan and are accompanying one to Souen, or just want to try it out, the cod might be a good choice for you. It was served in a savory ginger soy sauce and comes with a side of rice and a large slice of brocolli, pumpkin and carrot. Souen wouldn't be on our list of "cheat eats," but prices are reasonable for the East Village. You are, however, paying for the high quality organic ingredients and a healthy meal, and the JapanTown team walked away full and content. Souen Noodle will be at the Healthy Food Festival, serving organic ramen noodle salad, kukicha (tea made from tea plant stems), and spring rolls. Whether you are a into healthy food or not, you should experience Souen's eclectic macrobiotic Japanese food, friendly service, and have a night of dining out without the guilt.

The Tahini Shoyu Ramen

Souen (East Village location)
326 E 6th St
(between 2nd Ave & 1st Ave)
New York, NY 10003