For a culture that values tradition above all else, a Japanese restaurant relaunching with a new concept tends to throw up a red flag. At least they kept the name: Zutto.
Back in the 1980’s, before the likes of Nobu, Brushstroke, and Azabu, Zutto held its own as the Japanese restaurant of Tribeca. It was run by a Japanese owner, with a serious sushi program. However over the years the neighborhood changed, people’s tastes evolved, and with a management change Zutto fell into irrelevancy.
The space has been revamped to more closely resemble a pub, with a large communal table in the middle. Zutto still serves sushi, but after observing the sushi chefs for a few minutes I lost all interest. Someone at sushi bar brought in a bagful of colorful iPhone cases, to the amusement of the entire sushi staff who were all fiddling with their phones moments later. Just because you’re behind a counter does not mean you’re out of the public eye. If you call yourself a chef, act like one.
Luckily people in the kitchen were more competent, and the front of house staff were friendly and attentive. The website claims that Zutto “does ramen right”, so ramen and pork buns it is.
Zutto Pork Belly arrived promptly, with caramelized pork dusted with peanut crubs, topped with “sweet & spicy” sauce, and finished with micro cilantro. I wished there was a bit more clarity the the sauce, for it was neither sweet nor spicy. The pork belly was very nicely done, and who doesn’t love micro cilantro?
The tonkotsu ramen was a bit of a letdown. The broth is heavy, almost to the point of Hide-Chan’s infamously greasy soup. However where Hide-Chan’s ramen was intensely flavorful, the Zutto offering tasted muddled and overpowered by ginger. I was also puzzled by the poor plating, with the pork swimming in the deep end and disintegrating into floating bits of fat. The silver lining would be the noodles, which was nicely cooked. Don’t bother with the poached egg, it’s not something uniquely Japanese… it’s really just a poached egg.
If you’re a Tribeca resident, this place could occasionally satisfy a ramen craving without heading uptown. Though I would urge you to head north to one of the many wonderful izakayas New York has to offer.
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Zutto Japanese American Pub
77 Hudson St
New York, NY 10013