Cuisine: Japanese/Noodle Shop
Last visited: September 7, 2011
Location: Manhattan, NY (East Village)
Address: 65 4th Ave (Between 9th and 10th Street)
Nearby subway stop: 8 Street – NYU
Price Range: $10-20+ ($14+ ramen)
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
- Ramen chain from Japan
- Opened by “ramen king” Shigemi Kawahara
- Famous for ramen
- Lots of variety for ramen
- Modern/sophisticated atmosphere
- Daily specials
- Very popular to locals/tourists
- Long waits/lines
- Very casual
- Credit cards accepted
- No take-out/reservations
Mon – Sat : 11:00 am – 3:30 pm
Sun : 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Mon – Thu : 5:00 pm – 11:30 pm
Fri – Sat : 5:00 pm – 12:30 am
Sun : 5:00 pm – 10:30 pm
**Recommendations: Akamaru Modern Ramen, Wasabi Ramen, Hirata buns (Steamed chicken or pork buns)
Ramen in New York is a big deal much like it is in Vancouver, BC. Chef and owner David Chang of the Momofuku empire was actually first to introduce it to New York through his restaurant Momofuku Noodle Bar. Since then, the ramen scene has exploded and there are now more options than ever.
I thought it was appropriate to start with where it all began, so my first bowl of ramen in New York was actually at Momofuku Noodle Bar. However this isn’t where ramen started, it’s just where it got famous in New York. I can’t say the Momofuku ramen style was for me as it was catered more for Western tastes. I had to appreciate it for a different clientele, but personally when I have ramen I want the authentic Japanese version, which brings me to Ippudo.
Anyways, Ippudo is just as popular, if not even more popular for ramen than Momofuku now. It is a ramen chain with over 40 locations in Japan and it was created by “ramen king” Shigemi Kawahara. It’s a famous brand in Japan, and now in New York, and hopefully some day in Vancouver. On the other hand, being from Vancouver, BC, we have a pretty decent ramen scene (outside of Japan) and I actually preferred our Ramen Santouka, which is also from Japan.
Ippudo and Ramen Santouka are both excellent and the differences are quite marginal. It’s really comparing crème de la crème, but I don’t feel like I’m missing out on too much. It was interesting that half, if not more of the staff, chefs/cooks at Ippudo aren’t Japanese though, in Vancouver they’re all Japanese. Regardless, if it’s good it’s good, and I’m very satisfied and happy with what I can get at Ramen Santouka, although I’m glad I tried Ippudo.
Additionally, I do want to give a shout out to Totto Ramen, which was the third ramen place I wanted to try but didn’t have time for. It doesn’t have as much clout as the other two, but it’s supposed to be the underdog that’s possibly even better. It might be better than Ippudo, but I wasn’t on a ramen hunt and I felt satisfied enough in stopping at Ippudo and recommending it for ramen in New York.
On the table:
- The original “Tonkotsu” noodle soup topped with Ippudo’s secret “Umami Dama” miso paste, pork chashu, cabbage, kikurage, scallions, and fragrant garlic oil Ramen $14 / Set $17
- Menma (Seasoned bamboo shoots) +$3
- This is the most popular ramen noodle bowl and must try item.
- It’s more authentic in style than Momofuku Noodle Bar and it’s much richer, but not overly greasy either.
- It came with traditional Japanese toppings and I added the bamboo shoots which were great quality.
- The bamboo was firm, thick flat strips that were still crunchy, yet tender and not woody. It had a nice and savoury flavour and it was a bit tangy.
- The kikurage (black wood ear mushroom) is traditional, and Momofuku Noodle Bar didn’t have these traditional toppings.
- The round ball of red miso paste in the centre was new to me and usually I’m used to the (yellow/brown) miso paste being infused into the broth.
- This clump of miso paste tasted like miso paste mixed with soybean paste and it was very savoury and pungent since both pastes are fermented.
- The “Umami Dama” miso paste was delicious, but I did find that it overwhelmed the pork flavour you want in an excellent ramen broth.
- It was a rich, creamy and garlicky soup and it wasn’t as milky from the pork bones as the one from Ramen Santouka. It wasn’t as creamy and rich in flavour as that one either.
- It seemed more like a Northern style ramen because I don’t think they roasted the pork bones to make the stock so it didn’t have that smoky intense pork flavour.
- I found the pork flavour actually a bit masked and I did like the one at Ramen Santouka better.
- I got a lot of smoky garlic flavour thanks to the aromatic black garlic oil they sprinkled on top before serving though.
- The broth tasted good, but I wanted as much pork flavour as there was garlic and miso paste flavour.
- There was a little bit of heat, but it’s definitely not spicy, and the temperature of the broth was hot, but not piping hot, which is ideal for traditional ramen.
- It had two pieces of thinly sliced braised pork belly (kakuni) that was obviously fatty, but not only fat either.
- The fatty layer of the pork didn’t melt in my mouth and instead of being buttery and creamy it was chewy and gelatinous like jellyfish, so I wasn’t liking that part. The leaner part was quite tender though.
- The noodle selection is supposed to match the type of broth.
- The noodles were unexpected and it was a thin round buttery soft noodles instead of the chewy curly typical ramen noodles.
- It was very soft though and perhaps a bit overcooked.
- Since the noodles was less substantial than the curly kind it was appropriate for the somewhat lighter flavoured pork broth.
- On the other hand, I generally prefer the curly ramen noodle with any kind of broth.
- Our famous Tonkotsu noodle soup infused with wasabi. Topped with pork loin chashu, fresh chopped wasabi, menma, naruto, sesame, and scallions $15
- Nitamago (Seasoned soft boiled egg) +$2
- I really like wasabi and I found this soup very mild with wasabi and it didn’t hit my nose.
- It wasn’t until I had more of the Akamaru Modern Ramen and went back to this Wasabi Ramen that I could really tell that there was a distinct wasabi flavour.
- It wasn’t a spicy broth, but it was still very rich and creamy and garlicky like the Akamaru Modern Ramen, but that one was stronger, more pungent and more savoury.
- It tasted like wasabi paste or Japanese mustard infused into the standard pork broth and it had that paste like grainy texture, and I really didn’t get any fresh wasabi flavour or texture. It said there was some on the menu, but I didn’t notice any.
- Again there was no roasting of pork bones, so it wasn’t a Southern style ramen bowl, and I still found the pork flavour to be mild in the broth.
- The toasted sesame seeds didn’t play a significant role in flavour, but it was almost more of a garnish.
- It had 2 slices of pork loin rather than the braised pork belly (kakuni) served in the Akamaru Modern Ramen bowl.
- It was lean and still very tender and well infused with soy sauce, but not too salty.
- It wasn’t juicy since there isn’t much fat, but it wasn’t dry either and they were very easy to chew and I enjoyed them.
- I added the soy sauce seasoned soft boiled egg (Nitamago) which I found was a bit overcooked, but flavourful. The yolk should be slightly creamier and runnier – see the Ramen Santouka egg here.
- The noodles were the curly thicker kind and it did suit the soup base especially with the added wasabi and/or Japanese mustard.
- They were chewy and not overcooked and again the ramen bowl was served at the right temperature. It was hot, but not piping hot, which is how ramen is best enjoyed.