Tucked beneath the Long Island Rail Road tracks on a busy one-way street in Lynbrook is Satsuki, an unassuming Japanese sushi spot with an easily embraceable staff that warms hearts with humble smiles and boiling ceramic bowls of belly-hugging noodles.
The chefs in Manhattan churning out a never-ending assembly line of Ramen noodle dishes each day may be getting all the praise, but Satsuki is emerging as Long Island’s go-to traditional Japanese eatery with an exquisite selection of heavenly Ramen noodles—all intoxicatingly good to the last slurp.
“It’s not just soup and noodles,” explains Satsuki’s co-owner Patrick Wong. He notes that the prep work is the most important ingredient to creating a good batch of noodles. “The stock is very important to the Ramen,” Wong adds.
More people than ever before are taking notice, because the Ramen trend that hung around New York City for several years has finally crossed our borders, and Satsuki is one of the few places that does it well.
“Some people just have a craving for Ramen,” Wong says.
Those making the Ramen pilgrimage to Atlantic Avenue in Lynbrook to satiate that craving have several masterfully-crafted bowls of fresh, heartwarming noodles to select from, including Tonkotsu Ramen—a joyous bowl of thin, Al dente noodles completely submerged in delicious pork-based broth replete with an absolutely savory pork fillet, a hardboiled egg and an assortment of soft, inviting vegetables. It’s a generous, soul-satisfying feast that leaves you feeling, well, I’m not too sure how to fully describe it—so much better than before you came in.
Then there’s Nabeyaki Udon, popular during the winter months, which consists of a heaping, joyous mountain of soft, thick and oh-so slippery noodlers, served boiling hot and absolutely dripping with mouth-watering, spright veggies, a supersaturated hardboiled egg that you will surely dream about months later, and a large, crispy, crunch-tender tempura shrimp. (This crustacean is so meaty and so enjoyable you will undoubtedly consider bringing it home as a pet half-munch!)
You will need both chopsticks and ladle to properly devour both!
“In Japan, various regions have various styles of making Ramen,” explains Wong. “The base of soup depends on the region they’re from. Certain areas, they’re more favorable to hot and spicy and certain [areas] are more toward clearer broth. So it all depends on how people like the varieties of soup base. That’s why we have three different types of soup base; the heavy, then we have the soy-like; and then we have the miso, which is more favorable.”
Satsuki has become such a hit that travelers from Japan who land at John F. Kennedy International Airport sometimes make a pit-stop at the restaurant before getting on with their trip, he adds.
Something also has to be said about Satsuki’s relaxed, family-style atmosphere. Besides comfortable, cushy table seating throughout, this Ramen oasis also includes a coveted sushi station, usually occupied by familiar faces who grab their favorite seats right up near the action. They say hello to Wong and chef/co-owner Eric Leong, ask about daily specials, or just order their “usual.” With decades of culinary expertise and an ocean’s worth of imagination, Leong always conjures something jaw-dropping. This customer-chef interaction is what also sets this high-quality Japanese joint apart from LI’s sea of others—customers truly become part of the family here.
“What you have this week, you may not have next week,” Wong says. “You probably will not have the same thing twice.”
And speaking of uniqueness, Satsuki boasts something these two Press reporters have never encountered anywhere—its prized, weekly, “surprise box,” a celebratory ice crate that houses a half-dozen fresh fish shipped straight from Japan, a glorious special delivery which we were blessed enough to witness firsthand. The chefs themselves don’t even know what’s being delivered until they cut open the box and dip their hands inside. (Thus, the “surprise”!)
Despite having arguably handled more fish collectively throughout the past half-century than perhaps even the typical fisherman, Wong and Leong are often pleasantly surprised by what sea creatures arrive at their sushi station encased in ice. (On this day, a winged, gilled flying fish, a Japanese Red Snapper and a large, moustachioed, mystery creature that Wong could not identify poured out of the box among many others.”I’ve never seen this fish before!” he says astonished.)
“It allows people to try fish that they otherwise would not be able to,” Wong explains.
Wang photographed the haul with his iPhone, explaining that he will show hungry customers the photographs to help them make selections.
While many visitors to Satsuki seek its top-notch sushi, it’s other dishes, such as Ramen and Udon noodles, that have them coming back for more.
Wong, who was born in Malaysia but for years studied Japanese cuisine, and Leong, the soft-spoken sushi chef who slices fish with expert precision, bought the restaurant from its previous owners nine months ago. The pair also owns Sushi Ya in Garden City and New Hyde Park.
Aside from several minor cosmetic changes and small alterations to the menu, Satsuki is the same Lynbrook go-to restaurant it has remained for the last quarter-century.
In fact, it even still has the same waitress—a lovely woman named Michi, who’s been tending to the Japanese culinary tastes of its patrons for more than two decades, and who gushed to these reporters of the blessing of having served and watched customers’ children eat here, then grow up and bring their own family and children here.
What has changed is the ever-growing number of customers seeking out Ramen and other Japanese noodles.
Wong, who has been in the restaurant business for most of his adult life, enjoys getting to know his customers and pushes them to try different dishes. It’s all part of the experience.
He also realizes that much of their success throughout the past year has had a lot to do with the strong foundation built by Satsuki’s previous owners.
“We are trying to carry on the same tradition,” Wong says.
By all accounts, he and Leong—surrounded by the friendly faces of satisfied customers, the entrancing aroma of steaming bowls of soft, luscious Ramen, and smiling ear-to-ear at their fresh, beautiful fish—have succeeded, resoundingly.
Don’t forget to bring a bib.