Friday, October 19, 2012

Goes Around ... Comes Around: Double Feature Edition

I ate at two new restaurants this week. I’ll need to make return visits to give a complete assessment of the food, but just from looking at their menus I could tell something about both of them: they kind of want to be other restaurants.

First, Tikl. Or, to be more precise, Tikl Raw Bar Grill. Where the menu is divided into “snacks,” “raw,” “small” and “robata” sections, rounded out by a couple “large” dishes. Where said “raw” dishes feature creatively flavored seafood crudos, the “small” items are an eclectic mix of tapas style dishes, and the “robata” items include meats, seafood and vegetables with a mish-mash of Asian and Mediterranean flavors. Where the menu puts the main ingredient of a dish in boldface, followed by a lower-case list of the other ingredients separated by slashes.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is almost exactly the same menu format as Sugarcane. Or, to be more precise, Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill. Which has a menu divided into “snacks,” “crudos,” “tapas,” “robata grill” and “large plates” (though Sugarcane also offers sushi and sashimi). And which just happens to be one of the most popular and heavily trafficked restaurants to open in Miami the past couple years.

In fairness, though, Sugarcane uses a slash between ingredients on the menu. Tikl uses a backslash.

Now, to really be fair, I should point out that while the menu format at Tikl is clearly copied from Sugarcane, the dishes are not. Even if it’s in the same style, the particulars are certainly different. And none of this ultimately has anything to do with how well they’re actually executing what’s on that menu. But it’s impossible to look at Tikl’s menu and not realize that it’s trying to be the Sugarcane of Brickell.

(continued ...)

Next, Machiya, a new ramen place that just opened in Midtown Miami. Now, the ramen craze has not really taken root as firmly in Miami as it already has in some other places. Though ramen is making an increasing number of appearances on menus (Pubbelly, Gigi, Makoto, Bloom and Shokudo spring immediately to mind), Machiya may be the first place that’s really a ramen specialist.

The first in Miami, anyway. New Yorkers, meanwhile, may recognize a few things. Indeed, portions of the Machiya menu appear to have been lifted directly from the menu of Ippudo, a Japanese import that many regard as one of New York’s top ramen temples. The most obvious giveaway is the wordy explanation of “kae-dama” (a/k/a extra noodles) which is duplicated verbatim on the Machiya menu:
Kae-dama is a system that offers you an extra serving of noodles. When you have almost finished your first serving of noodles, order by saying, “Kae-dama, please”. In a few minutes the server will bring you another “ball of noodles”, and put it in the soup. At that time, you must have enough amount of the soup in the bowl to accommodate the new noodles, that is, you shouldn’t drink much of the soup if you are going to order the Kae-dama.
Machiya’s online menu also offers a “Hakata Classic” ramen, the description and contents of which are word-for-word identical to Ippudo’s “Shiromaru Hakata Classic.” When I visited, the menu “on the ground” was slightly different, but the Machiya “Bakudan Ramen” would seem to be a dead ringer for Ippudo’s famous “Akamaru Modern,” right down to the ball of spicy miso paste (which Ippudo calls “Bakudan” or “Umami Dama”).

Again, all of which isn’t to say it’s not good. In fact, I’m pretty excited to return to Machiya.

But I’d be even more excited about both of these places if they’d just do their own thing rather than try to mimic something else.


  1. Went to Tikl and agree with you about the menu's similarity to Sugarcane. It seems, though, that the prices are more similar to those at Zuma (i.e. pricier). Your thoughts?

  2. Went to Tikl and agree with you about the menu's similarity to Sugarcane. It seems, though, that the prices are more similar to those at Zuma (i.e. pricier). Your thoughts?

  3. It's pretty easy to compare their prices: I've linked to both menus. And they're quite comparable. Tikl's "snacks" are $3-6, Sugarcane's are $4-7; Tikl's "raw" fish are $10-16, Sugarcane's "crudos" are $10-14; Tikl's "small" items are $10-16, Sugarcane's "tapas" are $8-21; Tikl's robata items are $5-15, Sugarcane's are $6-16.

    In other words, the pricing at both is in almost the exact same range.

  4. This is hilarious because we decided to try Machiya last night and when I looked up the menu last night it looked eerily familiar. Sure enough the ramen description was word for word identical and the same goes for the kae-dama. It was laughable but we went anyway. Menu at the resto indeed had a slightly different description but was basically the same. I'm glad they've set their bar high by trying to knock off Ippudo but given their demo here in Miami they probably didn't have to revert to plagiarism.

  5. Well, as long as the food is good, the menu similarities don't really matter, at least not to most patrons. Maybe the owners of the restaurants that are being copied may have an issue. LR Bergeron