Growing up in London, one of the restaurants that was the ‘cool’ place to go with my friends in middle school when we first started going out on the town sans-chaperones was Wagamama. It was a great cheap Chinese food chain where massive bowls of ramen noodles that were jazzed up with chicken breasts and scallions looked like the meal-form of maturity.
While my love of Wagamama has never diminished with age, the restaurant has not shown me the same kind of appreciation: they have expanded to the U.S. but only have outposts in Washington DC and Boston so far. As a result, I have long been searching for a similar restaurant in New York to fill the void. With Republic in Union Square, I found it.
Lime Chicken soup: No spice, all flavor
The first thing patrons notice at Republic is the noise: they blast music throughout the night- presumably to make it seem like a hip spot- and though it is a bit jarring, the meal makes it worth it. The rest of the experience makes the place fits in with the young atmosphere, from the long bar where quick diners can eat and see the busy kitchen, and the affordable prices throughout the menu.
These soup dumplings- which have a surprise burst of broth inside- are a perfect starter
You can start out with a few shareable appetizers, all of which are under $9. The soup dumplings (which are essentially wontons wit a small amount of broth wrapped up inside the dough) are one of the more complicated dishes and they are delicious. For me, I find that the caliber of an Asian restaurant-particularly on the cheaper end of the scale- can really be measured by how zesty and crisp their green papaya salad is, and Republic passed the test. They added thin slices of mango along with their version of the Thai classic that- along with the pieces of mint- really made it an excellent dish.
The zestiness and crisp texture of the green papaya salad is a great shareable
While the starters were lovely, the real meat-and-potatoes of this place is their soup. They have several different flavored of broth noodles, each wit a varying degree of spice (ask the waiters for personalized help in that department). The lime chicken was probably the most mild and most basic option, but don’t let that evaluation diminish the dish: it was heartily done and seemed to go on for ages. The spicy beef noodle broth was also delicious and it kept true to its name with an added kick at the end of each sip. Duck, seafood, vegetable and wonton are all other options, all for $13 or $14 each. While that is obviously the price of a bag of ramen several times over, it is worth it for a filling soup on a cold winter night.
The Spicy Beef soup appeals to the adventurous
Address: 37 Union Square West, between 16th and 17th Streets, Manhattan, 10003
Contact Information: http://www.thinknoodles.com/index.html
Phone: 212-627-7172 (they deliver too)
Dress: Super casual
Perfect for: A cold winter’s night when all you want is the soup your fictional Asian grandmother would give you if you were sick.
Price: Pretty cheap- all of the appetizers are under $9, the soups are either $13 or $14 and the larger plates like pad thai or seared marinated salmon are the same.
Overall Grade: B; I give this B with no ill will- I genuinely like Republic and it has repeatedly served delicious meals, but it is more of a comfortable experience than a particularly memorable one.