Tag Archives: lower east side

Minca – 01.01.09

Minca
536 E. 5th St.
New York City

From our newest eatclubber and contributor, Margarita, who has the honor of writing the first review of 2009!

Upon arriving at Minca Ramen Factory, I was met with the unmistakable, savory aroma of ramen broth. Bear in mind, the night before was New Year’s Eve and my body was thoroughly depleted of sodium. I desperately wanted to ask if I could have the broth be put into a mug so that I could greedily gulp it while we waited for a table. Every seat was taken, with either a couple here or a small group there  slurping up noodles and salty, hot soup-y goodness. I started to fear that it would take a long while before we were sat down let alone someone took our order. One lone, busy lady was in charge of hosting, waitress-ing, busing and answering the phone (do they do take-out? was she giving table availabilities?). Luckily, two tables were finishing up and the zealous waitress did a swift job at accommodating our group.

I ordered the #9, which is described as spicy, with pork broth. The typically clear, thin Ramen broth was thickened with the “spicy” mixture giving it a light orange hue with red flecks. I found it to be pleasantly spicy and not overbearing at all. Even the more sensitive palates would be able to slop it up. The spices danced long enough on my tongue without having to rest too long between spoonfuls. The noodles were cooked to al dente perfection. There was enough springiness to it that it did not slide off my chopsticks. The obligatory egg (hard-boiled) disappointed. I would have preferred my egg to naturally cook in the hot soup, making the yolk an addition to the flavor. There was one slice of pork with a little bit of marbling that didn’t make me squeamish. I prefer a leaner cut but under these hung-over circumstances, I made an exception.

Don’t expect iced water at Minca’s or even cold water for that matter. The glasses must have come straight from the dishwasher because the water was lukewarm. It would have been more appropriate to drink a refreshing, cold glass of water to contrast the hot, flavorful soup. All in all, it was a great satisfying meal. I might not be as lucky with the service next time but the soup bowl #9 is well worth the trip to this desolate block in alphabet city. Until next time…M


Homemade pork gyoza (fried dumplings)


Miso Ramen


Close-up of miso ramen (drool…)

The crazy menu


Our newest eaters:  H&M

bru’s 2 cent review

Minca is well worth the hike out to alpahbet city.  The pork dumplings were indeed home made and cooked to perfection:  crunchy caramelzied on the bottom while chewy and sticky on top.  But the star of the night was the ramen.  The miso ramen was FANTASTIC!  It came with the recommended wavy noodles which were perfectly springy and toothy.  The broth was a complex blend of pork and chicken that was not overpowered at all by the miso (as the case usually is).  The cloudy caramel-colored concoction was surprisingly thick yet impossible to slurp enough of.   The sliced swirls of fatty pork were prepared very well and has me craving more even as I write this review.  The only flaw, if not personal prefernce, was the egg in the  soup.  Thanks to Setagaya, I expect the egg to be hard boiled but with a gooey yolk that runs somewhere between solid and liquid.  The egg was still good as it was marinated in some sort of soy sauce.  Although slightly above average at $11.50 a bowl, the miso ramen alone is well worth the price, the wait, and the trek out there.  The place is small and unassuming from the outside as it sits in a desolate street.  All that changes once you enter the door and experience the power of ramen.

Hours later, there was another confirmation that this ramen was the real McCoy:  The salt/MSG thirst that usually accompanies a typical ramen eating session never occured.  First time this has ever happened to me…or perhaps like M, I was severely depleted of sodium from the night before…

-bru

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Ramen Setagaya – 02.27.08

Ramen Setagaya
141 First Ave., New York, NY
212-529-2740

Plump Dumpling
299 E. 11 St, New York, NY
212-254-2868

 

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.

Good:
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)

Bad:
Gyoza, store bought and nothing special.
Little pricey, $10 for a bowl

Ugly:
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.

-bru


Ramen clip from movie Tampopo