141 First Ave., New York, NY
299 E. 11 St, New York, NY
A night of asian fast food. Ramen noodles and a last minute stop by a Chinese dumpling shop to wet our appetites before the ramen feast. Plump Dumpling was a spur of the moment decision though it was not as great as we had hoped. It was a dingy looking almost fast food take out place with no one inside but the workers. It was a hole-in-the-wall restaurant with trays of dumplings scattered about the kitchen so either it was gonna be really bad or really good. Turned out it was neither; it was just ok. Upon entering we ordered the mixed dumpling sampler consisting of pork, seafood, and vegetable dumplings; 8 for about $4 I think. The seafood dumpling was not good as the shrimps (I hope they were shrimps) inside were bland and old. The vegetable dumpling was probably the worst; they had a strong flavor of floor cleaner. I don’t know how else to put the taste. The pork dumplings however were pretty decent and I liked the sweet and savory soy dipping sauce. One major complaint: dumplings were not served piping hot and this was worrying because I am sure they were sitting in those trays all day. Overall not too bad, in the future I would get an order of pork dumplings if I were in a hurry.
Ramen Setagaya, a popular ramen chain from Japan and the first in the the states (New York Magazine), did not disappoint. The transparent glass walls and visible kitchen help to open up the otherwise cramped space. In typical Japanese efficiency, all the tables and chairs and counters were laid out to maximize the space and minimize the comfort for the average westerner. The menu was sparse and we knew the only thing worth getting was indeed the shio ramen. We all ordered the bbq pork shio ramen and upped my ramen experience with gyoza and Asahi. I was excited as I never order shio style ramen in favor of miso broth but if I was to order it anywhere, it was definitely here.
The gyoza was store bought variety and it was slightly redeemed by it being well cooked with a nicely fried crust with pan flavor, 6.5/10. Enough banter, how was the ramen you ask? Overall i give it a solid 8/10. Ramen came out hot and steaming (very important) and expertly garnished. The boiled egg garnish was perfectly cooked, not quite runny and not yet solid, just creamy yolk. The bamboo shoots were tender and chewy and did not have the typical canned bamboo taste. It was very close to eating mushrooms and some of us mistakenly thought they were. The bbq was also cooked perfectly: alternating bands of juicy meat and smooth pork fat. Lightly seasoned as to not overpower the ramen and grilled just before plating for some caramelized flava. Now the ramen noodles were well cooked to toothy firmness and there was a good amount of it but it was lacking in the appearance and taste. I am not a authoritative judge of authentic ramen noodles but I prefer springier shaped noodles slighty more yellow in color. Setagaya’s noodles were straight and pale off white colored. This was one of two reasons why the ramen didn’t score higher. Lastly, the broth…THE BROTH. It was very good and more than just salt flavor. The salt served to enhance the soup created with various seafood, kelp, and magic voodoo ingredients. In the end, you tasted a melding of all things oceanic but not fishy further complimented by the pork and excellent garnishes. To end, the second reason why this place did not get a better score was the overall value, it was $1-2 more pricey than expected. While I am trying not to be a cheapskate, ramen is essentially fast food and should be priced accordingly.
BBQ pork shio ramen, flavorful, well balanced and tasty. Served steaming hot.
Shio broth (worth mentioning again because of the complexity and well developed flavor of the soup)
Gyoza, store bought and nothing special.
Little pricey, $10 for a bowl
The place is Korean owned! (or managed). The health inspection certification is to a Korean name and there were various handwritten Korean messages around the register.
Ramen clip from movie Tampopo