Izakaya E.A.K. is part of Japan’s E.A.K. Ramen chain of restaurants (in Japan known as the Machida Shoten chain), which specializes in IEKEI ramen. According to their website they have over 400 locations in Japan and a presence in Singapore, Taiwan, Phillipines, Italy, China, Thailand and the U.S., with three locations in New York City. IEKEI style ramen marries together the Tonkotsu style of Kyushu and the Shoyu style of Tokyo and is topped with spinach instead of green onions and uses a thick, straight noodle. Izakaya E.A.K. serves their IEKEI ramen, including three vegan ramens, and a decent selection of typical izakaya dishes.
The Dumplings: The Homemade Ginger Gyoza were grilled and then a batter was poured on top of them, so when they are done, they are cooked into a fried disk of batter. This preparation is often called “dumpling lace” or “crispy lace skirt”, and as the names imply the fried batter is usually very thin, crispy and lace like. At Izakaya E.A.K. the fried batter layer was instead thick and leathery and not particularly enjoyable. The pork gyoza filling also contained a lot ginger, so much so, that it was overkill and the dumplings had a metallic aftertaste. The dipping sauce also have a lot of raw ginger flavor which just added to the metallic flavor.
The takoyaki where artfully presented but sadly did not come adorned with bonito flakes. I actually prefer this dish presented as street food, in a paper boat style container with takoyaki sauce and Japanese mayo sauce squirted everywhere, and a big pile of bonito flakes waving in the thermal currents coming off the blazing hot takoyaki. Speaking of which the takoyaki I was served were only lukewarm. The outside was fried crispy and the inside was creamy, so I think my serving had sat for a bit before they were brought to me.
Thankfully the meal was not a complete bust, because the Butakaku (pork belly) bao were sensational. The bao were filled with a thick slab of very tender, creamy with layers of fat, pork belly that tasted amazing. The bao were doused with a ton of Japanese mayonnaise. The contrast of the savory pork and the sweetness of the bao bun and the mayonnaise created a perfect blend of sweet and savory. This is almost certainly the best pork bao I have ever eaten.
Location: Izakaya E.A.K. is on 46th St. between Eighth and Ninth Avenue, which is the theater district’s pre-show restaurant row. It is right next to sake bar Hagi 46.