Location: 53rd St. (btw 8th 9th Ave)
It’s interesting to me that the Japanese Ramen has a level of maturity and complexity that makes it a gourmet type food. Different types of broth, high quality meats, and homemade noodles have all contributed to elevating this food into a higher class than the instant stuff many of us have grown to love. I love the instant Korean ramen, but why hasn’t anyone made a gourmet Korean Ramen shop with noodles made in house with some long simmered broth delicious as those Korean soups at the Korean restaurants? I digress, but until someone comes up with this Korean Ramen restaurant idea I have plenty of Japanese Ramen shops that I adore to keep me busy.
Only if my #1 spot Ippudo didn’t have the crazy wait time at the restaurant I would call it my goto Ramen spot. I can’t justify waiting 1+ hour to get my bowl of Akamaru Modern Ramen, so I really wanted to find a quick and delicious spot to fill me up with Japanese ramen goodness. Up until now this is my top 5 in terms of pure quality:
- Menchanko Tei
- Men Kui Tei
- Rai Rai Ken
- Momofuku Noodle Bar & Naruto Ramen (tie)
So, with the suggestion from Eliza’s friend Soo, the three of us made a visit to the recently opened Totto Ramen, and it looked like the #2 spot was going to change. I was always a huge fan of the Totto empire (Yakitori/Soba) and I didn’t expect them to do less in terms of quality at their new joint. So they went ahead and hired Chef Hideto Kawahara, who owns several ramen shops in Japan’s Fukuoka prefecture. The difference in the Ramen at Totto is that they specialize in a creamy chicken broth (paitan) , although the miso and shoyu broths are available for those that can’t handle the chickeness.
I have to admit there was something about the smooth flavor of the chicken broth that I loved. I like that it wasn’t too salty, but had a nice balance to it with an adequate amount of kick from the chili paste. The noodles were absolute perfection and they provided the perfect quantity of noodles to ease my hunger. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to finish my noodles first or keep on sipping my broth, it really was that good.
Considering we got our food in literally 2 minutes from the time we ordered our food, we paid and we’re out of the restaurant in 30mins total. That is what you call good quality fast food! Everything from the service, ambiance, and quality of food was top notch and felt authentically Japanese.
So I repeat once again can someone please do a take on gourmet Korean Ramen…David Chang? Someone?
Location: 85 Broadway Brooklyn, NY 11211
The problem with enjoying food too much and talking about the great places to eat all the time is that it can come back to bite you sometimes. I’ve had a few situations where people were bitter that what I recommended was not that great or that I suggest a restaurant that I cherish and they come back to tell me that it was sub-par. So, I’ve come to love nights when a friend suggests a spot to eat that’s on my “places to eat” list and I have no pressure but, to show up and enjoy my personal meal. In the case of Diner in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that was exactly the case. My roommate, the last person I would think to suggest such a place invited me out to dinner with couple of other friends to this classic restaurant Under the Williamsburg bridge.
To preface, I’ve been keeping track of the best meals I’ve had each year I’ve been in NYC and it goes as follows:
2008- Momofuku Ko
2009- Blue Hill at Stone Barns
I have to say as of now for 2010, my best meal is at Diner. Don’t worry this is not some crappy diner you find in NJ or Queens but, the name only comes from the fact that they’ve converted an old Diner car into a restaurant which alone made the dining experience unique. Other interesting things about the restaurant is that they have a rotating menu depending on what the in season ingredients are and the staff will come over to scribble the menu items and specials directly on the table. The website has a full list of the specials for those guilty of needing to know exactly what they want to order before they go to the restaurant.
Our meal started off with some microbrews and cocktails and we didn’t feel any pressure to order quickly even though the restaurant was starting to fill up. Our appetizer of spinach salad tasted fresh and some unique flavors to the dressing. For the main courses we ordered a grilled salmon, the house burger, and my favorite the curry mussels. Everything was great and flavorful but, SERIOUSLY my curry mussels were out of this world. I never really associated curry with seafood but, the fact that they made this seafood concoction with these ingredients made my taste buds rejoice with joy that it was there that day eating that dish.
I didn’t leave a single drop in that bowl and I could’ve eaten so much more but, I was in a good place. We ended with a magnificent strawberry rhubarb cobbler w/ vanilla whipped cream a great topping to one of the best dishes/meals I’ve had in a while.
It sounds almost too simple to be the best meal of 2010 but, I think the music playing in the background helped and of course the good conversation at the table makes any meal a little bit better. Let me see if my hungry stomach leads me to a better meal than this for this year.