Thursday, August 14, 2014

Welcome to Ninja City

Ninja City opens its doors today with a loud emphatic “kaboom!” The comic book creation that began to take shape in Bac Nguyen’s imagination in the 80s has been realized with fantastic design, brick, mortar, duct work, steel, graffiti, hip-hop music and an arcade game. It is a joint venture with business partner Dylan Fallon. The soft opening Tuesday night was frequented by many of the two partners’ pals, industry friends and family. You felt the celebratory spirit the second you walked through the door. As they say, there is no better compliment than to be respected by your peers. Everyone was happy to celebrate and witness this moment. You may already know Bac as the chef/owner of Bac Asian American Bistro & Bar in Tremont, which has been operating for four years now.

Ohio City loves Ninja City

Tremont love for Ninja City

Ninja City is a brilliant concept for the University Circle area. In the old Boarding House location — back when cream of mushroom soup (and I don’t mean oyster, chanterelles or morel mushrooms either) was considered “new and exotic.” Ninja City is actually a great example of how far we’ve come. Can you imagine how much better your college years would have been with decent ramen and comfort food? And, as an added bonus you get to enjoy it in a back-to-the future retrospective of the 80s — an amalgam of comic book, hip-hop and video games — all taking you back to a time when “Everybody was Kung fu fighting.”

Ninja City’s fun-tastic logo was designed by Aaron Sechrist, who, along with Designer Jude Goergen, are responsible for the restaurant’s successful look. As you enter from Euclid Avenue, the space is divided into two levels: the lower barroom with some high tops, and a dining room on the second level with four tops. Both areas account for about 80 seats, including the 30-seat bar. There is a garage door facing Euclid that opens up the space, weather permitting, and another 15-20 seats on the sidewalk patio. Fans and wire lighting add the perfect industrial accent, and by “industrial” I mean a factory of fun, complete with arcade game and great food and drink. As Paul Benner of Platform Brewery succinctly summarized Tuesday night, “Just enjoying some wet drinks and killer grub.”

Ninja City Soft Open 9.12.14

Ninja City Soft Open 9.12.14

Ninja City Soft Open 9.12.14

Ninja City Soft Open 9.12.14

Ninja City Soft Open 9.12.14

The fun and casual environment extends to the menu. Similar to Happy Dog and Barrio, there are menu pads to check-off your selections. In every other way, Ninja City is a full-service restaurant. There are three main divisions on the menu: Little Bites, Big Bites and Build-Your-Own Big Bites, where you build your own Banh Mi, Bowl or Buns. There are eleven Little Bite choices. They can be purchased on their own or as a build-your-own bento box combo with three or four choices. We selected a Bento Box with Spring Roll, Gyoza Dumplings, Sweet Potato Tempura Fries and Bacon Guacamole. We also shared a bowl of soul-soothing Chicken Ramen from a list of six Big Bite options and a build-your-own Banh Mi. The Chicken Ramen was all the comfort anyone could want on a cool, rainy summer night. It came layered with veggie miso broth, poached chicken breast, napa cabbage, seaweed, sesame seeds and scallions. We selected pork, cucumber, cilantro. spicy kim chi, scallions and peanuts with lime aioli for our banh mi. As we enjoyed our meal at the bar we talked to many of the guests. Our neighbors who sat to the right of us work at Porco Lounge & Tiki Room, and they graciously allowed us to photograph their eye-catching Bacon & Egg Ramen which consists of pork miso broth, smoked pork belly, fried egg, spicy kim chi, seaweed, sesame seeds and chili aioli. It’s the first thing I will order on my next visit.

Ninja City Bento Box

Ninja City Chicken Ramen

Ninja City Chicken Ramen and Banh Mi

Ninja City Banh Mi 

Ninja City Bacon & Egg Ramen

Similar to his place in Tremont, all of the selections are a fusion of Asian/American favorites. There wasn’t a missed step in the food or drinks. They’re ready to go. For his part, Bac has experience and heritage on his side: Bac’s family has been in the restaurant business in Cleveland for three generations. His grandmother was instrumental in the opening of Minh Anh and his mother is a partner of Bac in Tremont.

Ninja City’s bar list also packs a “kapow” punch thanks to Christopher Flood, Bac’s Bar Manager. The list includes some of my all-time favorites (17th Parrallel, Lychee Mojito and the Tokyo-Politan) along with some Ninja City newbies and a fine selection of beer, wine and sake. Flood says, “We are highlighting Ohio and Asian beers here.”

Ninja City 17th Parralel

Tokyo-politan and Lychee Mojito

Go and experience a unique 80s back-to-the-future dining experience. You’ll be glad you did. I don't know what the process is to become a permanent resident or citizen of Ninja City, but I’m looking into it.

Ninja City
11311 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44106


Prices: $$

Reservations Recommeded

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