Tag Archives: ramen

Totto Ramen – 06.18.2011

Totto Ramen
366 West 52nd St.

The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and somewhere a cauldron of pork broth was whistling.  I awoke that morning with a feeling that it was going to be a good day.  Little did I know I would experience a life changing food moment.

Seared tuna with soy ginger bonito wasabi dressing.

Totto Ramen follows the typical NYC ramen restaurant format: few tables, bar seating, and open kitchen.  This dimly lit below street level ramenya looks unremarkable with its chalk board specials and hand written menu highlights adorning the walls.  But, if a restaurant is selling hot soup on a hot June afternoon and has a wait, I suggest you get in line.

Miso ramen.  Me so hungry.

Totto may have the best ramen in New York City.  Lofty words I know.  The miso ramen is on par with my current favorite, Minca, and depending on my mood, it may indeed be #1.  The menu describes it:

The finest Koji Miso and ground pork in a scoop atop slightly wavy noodles in original Paitan soup.  Topped with a seasoned hardboiled egg, scallion, bean sprouts, onion and char sui pork.

Wavy noodles are where it’s at.

Totto nailed all three  aspects of the ramen trinity:  soup, noodle, and topping.   While Minca has a knock your socks off don’t bring home to mama kind of miso broth, Totto has a respectable and multi-layered flavor that your parents would well approve of.  The ramen is so good you may think of how you can propose to it.  (Though it will never work out because of the cultural differences).  How could you resist the wavy noodles; cooked to chewy perfection and abundantly swirling the bowl with every scoop.  They hypnotize you with their undulations above and below the rich, and flavorful broth.  Finally, the toppings.  Straightforward blend of sprouts and green onion supporting the star of the show:  the roast pork.  You get 2 richly cut portions of roasted pork, feathered with slight char and containing the stratified layers of flesh, fat, and cartilage.  Pork perfection.  I can’t describe it any other way and undoubtedly the best char sui I’ve ever eaten.  Kuboya comes close in flavor but lacks in portion size.  With Totto and Minca straddling both sides of the island, always being within walking distance of a great ramen bar is one step closer to NY reality.

Char sui is Japanese for “I’ve died and gone to pork heaven”

The #1 miso ramen in NYC!  or  The #1 miso ramen in NYC?
This is what a ramen restaurant should look and feel like.  (cough) Ahem. Ippudo.
Fast friendly staff.

If I had to be critical, the hardboiled egg.  Not horrible, but I am a fan of gelled creamy yolk.

Small place so the wait gets loco after 5pm.

-bru, Chief Ramen Officer

Eatclub left with round bellies wanting to maintain the food buzz.  When you want to go on an all-out eating bender, a Saturday afternoon in the city is like no other.

Wafels & Dinges
Riverside Park

Waffle, speculoos, and ice cream = an innocent looking but powerful dessert.

Face to the water, back to the highway

Pier 1 Cafe
West 70th St. and Hudson River

Go there for the great Hudson views and plentiful patio seating.  Stay a while with friends and enjoy the great brew selection (Coney Island Lager) and mango pina coladas.  Skip the burger but try the other dishes of their surprisingly refined fare.

A light liquid lunch

26 St. Mark’s Place

Bubble milk tea and basil popcorn chicken.  Yes, those are real authentic foods from the same culture (Taiwan).

25 St. Mark’s Place

A St. Mark’s must visit for Japanese tapas/drinking bar.  Raucous with equally audacious choice of decor, they serve inexpensive Japanese drafts and some crazy menu items.  Good times are always had here.

111 Macdougal St.
(3rd and Bleeker)

Artichoke slice needs a hearty Coke

The pizza surprise in the village. $4.50 gets you a monstrous artichoke slice that will stop you in your tracks and make your pupils dilate.  Very good.

119 Macdougal St.

Freshest and tastiest.  Fuggediboutit.

Best falafel in the city.  That evening, it was also the HOTTEST.


Zen Restaurant – 03.03.2011

Zen Restaurant
31 St. Marks Place
New York, NY

Zen is located in the heart of St. Marks amongst the multitude of asian eateries; and much like the people, all the storefronts look the same:  yellow and foreign.  Step into Zen and you will be transported to a no frills NYC-style Japanese joint.  A dime a dozen or a yen a dozen rather.

A pitcher of Kirin draft will set you back $12, not too shabby.

Zen’s signature Tonkotsu Ramen ($8.50).

Another noodle waterfall.

Ramen is the reason Eatclub meets and ramen is what we ordered.  The waitress recommended the Tonkotsu ramen:  original garlic salt flavored noodle soup with meat, mushroom, egg, and baby bamboo (shinachiku).  Eatclub has eaten enough ramen to be critical and to be brief, this ramen was slightly above average.  The noodles were wavy and chewy, the best thing going for this dish.  The meat (charsui) was average, the egg was overcooked with a greenish tinge, and sadly the broth let me down.  Perhaps it was the garlic salt base but a ramen called “tonkotsu” has to deliver in-your-face porkiness.  Instead the soup was thin and bland, especially when compared to more complex blends such as the broths at Ippudo and Kuboya.  However, if I ever had a hankering for ramen in the East Village, I would consider going back to Zen, especially with good company and a thirst for Japanese brew.

Noodles and beer. In that order.

Signature ramen’s soup was just meh.

The storefront, it looks like a bad 3-D Japanese/English ransom note.

– ramen boy

An extra seat is available single ladies.

Kuboya – 11.18.2010

536 E 5th St #2
New York, NY 10009

Not your typical ramenya storefront

Kuboya serves a great bowl of ramen but it is far from a traditional ramen restaurant.  The ramen is as much a product of NYC as the owner and head chef, Hiroshi Kubo.   Just imagine:  Drummer in a Japanese band with a passion for ramen, marries an American woman with 2 kids, takes a corporate job at Japanese mega-firm only to come running back to his true love, cooking.  With the birth of his son, Hiro finishes ramen classes to open a store in a former French restaurant next to an already popular ramen joint (Minca).  Only in New York.

Yaki gyoza (fried dumplings)

Kubo-Chan Miso Ramen

Closeup of broth, scallions, and charsui

A noodle waterfall

I love dumplings but I don’t know much about how Japanese dumplings should taste.  The fried dumplings here were definitely not from a package and although good, ramen joints never give enough;  they should really be served in multiples of 12.  But alas, ramen is why we came here and the miso ramen is what I ordered.

The soup arrived steaming and perfectly hot, just below scalding your mouth.  The pork based broth was good…very good.  After each sip, the soup in your mouth lingers for more than a few seconds as the aromas circulate through your olfactory senses.  You have to savor the richness of this soup like you would a fine wine or a craft beer.  This is what ramen-heads live for, try doing this with your cup ramen.  The noodles were cooked al dente (or perhaps slightly more toothy).  Springy and wavy with the pale yellow hue, I can just stare at the picture above all day.  As I attacked the bowl of ramen, I eventually took a bite of the roast pork (charsui) and knew Hiro meant business.  The fatty pork slice was cooked perfectly, juicy and dense with pockets of melting fat and cartilage.  My only critique, thicker slices and more of them please.

Kubo-Chan Miso ramen is deep complex and satisfying, especially on a cold city night.
Easily one of top ramen joints in the city, I WILL come back.
Helpful albeit fobby waitress.  At leasts shes legit Japanese.

It’s in AB city.  A hike for most.

Trying to decide between Kuboya or its neighbor Minca without going to both.

Strange ramen eating music

Re-visited Sapporo in midtown and it pales in comparison to Kuboya.  Sapporo churns out ramen with factory like timing and blandness.  Kuboya has expertly crafted ramen with attention to quality and detail.  It is like drinking a Budweiser and then sampling a Dogfishhead 90 Minute IPA.  Once you try, you will know.

Dos Toros and Hide Chan Ramen – 10.28.10

Dos Toros
137 4th Ave
(between 13th St & 14th St.)
New York, NY

Rustic store front complete with wooden counter

Inside is reminiscent of Chipotle

Carnitas soft taco

Grilled Chicken burrito before

Grilled chicken burrito after

The search for decent Mexican food in the city is one step closer to over; Dos Toros offers delicious (and so far the best) Mexi-Cali style burritos and tacos in New York.  The basic menu offers burritos, tacos, quesadillas, and plates with choice of meat filling.  Surprisingly, tortilla chips and dip are nowhere to be found.  Located a block from Union Square, Dos Toros has superb burritos and will always be a stop whenever I’m in the area.

The carnitas taco had a generous helping of slow roasted pork shoulder served on a soft corn tortilla.  A thin slice of mild white cheddar (I think) is laid on right before steaming the tortilla with toppings that are simple but tasty:  pico de gallo and choice of medium or hot salsa.  I skipped the guac (92 cents) and hot sauce as I wanted the pure pork experience. And what an experience it was:  the meat was shredded juiciness, with just the right amount of porkiness and spice.  The generous helping of pork in the taco included oh-so-good pockets of melted fat/cartilage that elevated this carnitas above all others.  You MUST order this taco.

The burrito was just as good if not better; it was too close to decide.  I am partial to chicken burritos and try them as often as I can but this one is definitely in my top 3 of all time.   You can taste real grilled char in the chicken chunks and I am guessing they used dark meat such as thighs instead of the bland and flavorless breast that is usually used.  Again, the meat was cooked to perfection and was moist and chunky.  The rice was definitely a contributing factor to the awesome burrito.  It was flavorful, light, and spiced to complement the other ingredients exactly.  A very tasty and more importantly, well-balanced burrito indeed.

Judging by the carnitas and chicken burrito, everything is good!
The meat fillings rocked, best mexi-cali in Manhattan

The wait, lines can form out the front entrance

The carnitas craving.  Make sure to order enough for yourself and others who may be salivating.

– Bru-ito

Hide Chan Ramen Factory
248 E 52nd St.
(between 3rd Ave & 2nd Ave.)
New York, NY

Unassuming entrance to 2nd floor.  Note requisite red ramen latern.

Hakata Kuro Ramen with “mayu”, $11

The varying surface in a bowl of ramen looks back at you.

Black garlic oil can be ordered separately

Hide Chan is an authentically run Japanese ramen house in the Midtown East area of Manhattan.   There is cramped table and bar seating in this narrow venue but all appearances aside, the star is the ramen.  More specifically, Hide Chan offers a pork based broth, tonkotsu, which is richer and my personal favorite.  They also offer an addition I have never heard of before:  “mayu” or roasted garlic oil which is dark black almost like used motor oil in color and consistency.

Overall the ramen was delicious; above average but not spectacular.   The broth was rich and not oily, very balanced.  The mayu topping does add to the unique appearance of a black yet edible and tasty crude oil slick in your bowl but with a surprisingly mild flavor of roasted garlic.  The mayu itself has the mouthfeel of very fine powder suspended in oil with a pleasant roasted aroma; a fine addition to any hearty ramen broth.  The noodles were cooked to perfection however I prefer the springy wavy noodle rather than the straight.  The pork charsui was a letdown however as you only get 2 thin slices of swirled pork.  As was the size of the entire dish, the portion of noodles and soup was unsatisfying.  Now if you doubled the quantities, you would have a fine contender for a top bowl of ramen.

Hakata Kuro Ramen with mayu, a solid bowl of ramen with perfect pork broth and al dente noodles.
Sapporo on tap (sugoi!)

The pork topping is sparse and overall portions small for what you pay.
The pork buns, DO NOT order.

When the craving for ramen rears its head, make sure you have a ramenya like Hide Chan nearby.

– Chief Ramen Officer

Ajisen Ramen – 02.08.2010

Ajisen Ramen (Chinatown)
94 Hay Street
NSW 2000

Santoka – 01.30.2010

Santoka Ramen
Mitsuwa food court
595 River Road
Edgewater, NJ

The Mitsuwa Japanese marketplace has a expansive food court offering more authentic Japanese food than your average Beni-hana but most important of all, they have Santoka ramen.  Stop by for imported Japanese products and high quality meat and produce.

Clockwise from top:  Toro Shio Ramen ($11), Karamiso Ramen ($9) , natto w/ rice ($2)

Slimy savory salty natto is not for everyone but its surprisingly mild taste is a tasty treat.

Spicy miso ramen with charsu is my favorite and at Santoka, it delivers.

Wavy noodles are a ramen-guy’s best friend.

The special shio ramen comes unadorned.

The adornments of roast pork, pickled bamboo, seaweed, scallions, and naruto.

Ippudo – 01.14.2010

65 4 Avenue
New York, NY 10003

Once you taste real ramen, you will be craving it for life.  That craving is what we succumbed to this evening as we hunted down yet another NYC ramen joint.  The “joint” this evening turned out to be a hotspot as my ramen-loving Greek pal and I ventured through the doors, exiting the quiet NYU ‘hood and entering a raucous ramen room.

Despite us getting there late (10:30pm), we had to wait 15 minutes, on a midweek evening no less.  That allowed us to confirm that Kirin beat out Sapporo as the darft of choice that night.  Anyhow, we were led to our table amid a boisterous Japanese welcome with the host actually pulling out our seats for us.  This ramen house definitely wins best service.  The place is trendy; dimly lit with close seating perfect for a ramen-lovers date.  Nothing against the place, but I did not love it.  I prefer ramen houses to be hole in the wall and and less flashy.

Despite these misgivings, Ippudo has a hip vibe and more importantly, delicious ramen.  The menu describes the Ippudo Special Ramen Kasane-Aji:  Ramen noodle in layered “tori-paitan” creamy chicken and tonkotsu soup topped pork chashu, beansprouts, onion, 1/2 seasoned boiled egg, kikurage, scallions & yuzu.  As complicated, as it sounds it is indeed tasty, especially with the garlic oil drizzled on top.  The broth is very good: creamy, rich and with layers upon layers of flava.  The toppings are also very well done with perfectly cooked boiled egg (albeit cold yolk) and excellent chashu.  Fatty and salty and not at all dry as some broiled pork can be.  The noodles on the other hand were not to my liking.  Although perfectly cooked, they were straight like spaghetti not springy and coiled.

The Ippudo Special Ramen
The rockstar service

Pricey for ramen
Darkness and loud conversations and crammed seating.

You crave beer after ramen.  After beer you crave ramen.  Repeat.

Picture perfect pork buns

Ippudo Special Ramen

Oily goodness clsoeup

Cool bar with obligatory hipster bartender