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: 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.
Price: $11.50 for daily lunch special
Location: 211 East 43rd. St. (Btw 2nd Ave. & 3rd)
One thing I truly enjoy about NYC is the authenticity of the Japanese food that is served all over this city. There is something to be said about being served Japanese food by Japanese people in an authentic Japanese setting. Sakagura located in the Midtown East neighborhood of Manhattan & is one of those places you can quite literally escape from the normal NYC setting and end up in a place that might be straight out of Tokyo.
First off, when we arrive at the address of Sakagura we stand in front of an office building with a small sign indicating a restaurant inside. We walk through an office building lobby & down through a set of fire stairs to the basement when we come upon a restaurant entrance nestled in the corner. Inside we are greeted with a warm welcome from the Japanese hostess and she leads us to two open seats at the bar, opposite of the varieties of sake bottle lining up against the wall.
Their lunch menu consists of a variety of sets varying in price but, their best bet is the $11.50 lunch special sets. We got the “Maguro Gomadare Gohan” Tuna Sashimi Steeped in a ginger soy sauce over rice served with Soba Noodle. The tuna was slightly seared, fresh & delicious and the cold soba noodles were firm and refreshing. I enjoyed the mixture of the soba sauce & soba broth to wash down the food after the meal. It’s the perfect clean & refreshing meal for lunch and great value in a nice setting.
If you get a chance to go in the evenings, they have an extensive Izakaya menu (Japanese Tapas) and one of the largest Sake collections in the city. It’s the same owners as Decibel in the East Village so think similar but, classier.