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: 124 Hester St (btw Bowery & Chrystie)
Price: Pho $5-6
I recently had conversation with a vietnamese dude whom I met through dodgeball and our conversation went like this:
Me: So you’re Vietnamese…which Vietnamese restaurant in the city is the best?
Vietnamese dude: None
Vietnamese dude: You kind of forget and get used to how bad Vietnamese food in NYC is until you go to another city and realize how good it can be.
Okay so MAYBE there is a mysterious Vietnamese place out there in the outer boroughs that have an amazing pho or some random French fusion Vietnamese street food. Who knows? I’ll keep looking out there but, for now I went to Cong Ly and they had a solid Pho. Its right off Bowery at a very unassuming location recommended by a friend. The noodle and broth were great and I like that they had a Pho option with a sweet beef roll thing on the side. The noodles were definitely higher quality than other places I’ve been to off mulberry and mott st. Yes I still need to go to Vietnam and experience the real thing.
So the ultimate question is…are the noodles more important, or the broth, or the other misc thing that go into a Pho (cilantro, lime, tripe, beef, etc)??
Location: 6008 Seventh Avenue, Sunset Park, Brooklyn
Price: bun bo hue $6.25; spring roll vermicelli $4.00
Okay I admit that I’ve been drooling over Vietnamese food lately but, I just can’t help it. Especially after watching that No Reservations episode when Tony goes back to Vietnam for the second time, I had to find a soup close to what that lunch lady makes. So with the help and suggestion of my Brooklynite friend Jeesoo, we made a trip to the “other” chinatown known as Sunset Park. Thanh Da restaurant, looks like any restaurant located around 8th ave but, they serve one dish that no one else serves: THE bun bo hue.
This spicy soup dish with tender pork pieces, noodles, and a mix of vegetables is what this place is known for. The soup is very spicy but, has SO much flavor to it. Actually, I think that it was a good choice that we also got the spring roll vermicelli to balance the intense flavors of this hearty soup. The spring rolls were crispy and light with a bit of meat layered inside to create a nice balance with the very fresh vermicelli noodles all mixed in with fish sauce.
I’m sure these are nothing like what you can find in Vietnam but, it certainly makes me want to go to Vietnam even more. Maybe once I move to back to Brooklyn I can at least take more trips to Sunset park and find more places to satisfy my Vietnamese food cravings.
Location: 65 4th ave. (btw 9th & 10th)
Cost: Ramen costs vary – $14 Akamaru Modern
The cure for this horrid winter weather is to warm up with a hot soup in any possible occasion. It may come in the form of 2nd Ave deli’s matzo ball soup, BCD’s tofu soup, Noodletown’s wonton soup, but my personal favorite has to be Ippudo’s Akamaru Ramen. It’s too bad so many other New Yorkers feel the same way because on my last trip I got there at 9pm & had to wait an hour to get seats…crazy. The only thing that kept me waiting was the thought of slurping the majestic broth from that bright red bowl and having a good conversation with friend over a Sapporo draft.
Having tried some of the other Ramens and the horrendous appetizer (photo below), I would feel confident saying that the Akamaru is the sure bet and safe bet if you’re trying to decide which ramen to get. Akamaru Modern ramen has so much flavor that I literally have to finish every drop from the bowl. The other reason I feel like I have to get this ramen each time is that its different from the typical traditional ramen from other ramen joints. Not quite a miso broth, nor a shio but, a bit salty with a nice touch of spiciness.
Now that I have it out of system and out of my soup rotation, I can wait a while to return to the madness that is Ippudo…maybe when the weather gets warmer.