I was feeling very nostalgic this weekend. I was craving a bowl of spicy korean ramen noodles, specifically the instant kind like Shin or Neoguri ramen. The bad thing about instant noodles is that they are full of sodium and MSG, which take all the fun out of eating them, so I had to come up with a plan B. When I browsed through the Instagram feed of Mokbar and saw page after page of ramen noodles in a bright and fiery red broth, I knew I had found the solution.Read More
Remember the world in the movie Her, where people walked around blissfully by themselves in their high-waisted pants talking to their operating systems? Had they been born centuries earlier, perhaps they would have frequented Ichiran Ramen, the new restaurant in Bushwick famous for its solitary ramen experience. Customers sit in solo “flavor concentration” booths designed to totally automate the whole ramen ordering and eating experience so that human interaction is unnecessary. There’s an order form that lets you check off how you want your broth and noodles, and all you have to do is slide it across the table, where a faceless server will pick it up for processing. If you have any questions about how different options will affect your ramen flavors, there are detailed flyers hanging in your booth that will explain all of that. And if you want some extra water, all you have to do is press a button and show a card that writes out what you want.Read More
Masaharu Morimoto is a bad ass Iron Chef whose Morimoto chain runs the world, and now he wants to conquer the ramen market. Of course the Iron Chef is going to crush it, which is why the lines for his new ramen restaurant Momosan were out of control. There were stories about how people put their names down for a table at 6:30 pm, only to have a text saying it was ready at 10 pm. I was not about to try my luck at getting a table anytime soon.
Things were a little calmer during the week. On a Wednesday, we put our names down for a table for two at 7:00 pm and were quoted a wait time of 45 minutes to an hour. Pretty reasonable considering what the wait could have been. And they were true to their word, overdelivering on expectations, even. By the time it was 7:30 our table was ready.
There are four ramen options, and we tried the classic tonkotsu and the tokyo chicken. The broth in the tonkotsu is pretty intense. It’s like they boiled several pork bones and never ladled out the fat. To be precise, Momosan uses a blend of 70% pork bones and 30% chicken bones boiled for 12-14 hours to make its tonkotsu. It’s thick and cloudy and extremely rich, and you will definitely have a film of fat formed around the insides of your mouth. It was a bit too much for me, as I like my broths a little lighter, but those into tonkotsu and hearty bone broths will probably like this. The pork chashu topping that came with it was excellent, consisting of tasty little slabs of bacon like meat that could be good on their own. The noodles were a little overcooked, which was surprising, as I don’t think the Iron Chef would stand for this. Despite this oversight, the bowl was pretty good and very satisfying, not quite Ippudo good, but certainly in the same league. Honestly, the tokyo chicken isn’t really worth getting. The broth, while pleasant, is as superficial and as enjoyable as a conversation about the weather. The toppings were excellent, particularly the bamboo shoots, but they weren’t enough to break through the surface level pleasantries.
The surprise standout at Momosan was the crispy mimiga, a plate of fried slivers of pig ears that could enter the echelons of fried food classics such as the french fry and the tortilla chip. There’s no mistake that you’re chewing on some cartilage, but you’ll have no problem getting all Mike Tyson on it. The menu of small plates in general sounded so appetizing, I literally wanted to order everything–the stamina tofu, the toppogi rice cakes and the zuke don–but we had to limit ourselves to the mimiga and the yaki salmon. There’s no question that Morimoto’s cuisine reigns supreme at Momosan, and I can’t wait to go back and try some more.
The Iron Chef has stolen the show with his splashy debut, but another relatively recent ramen opening that is worth your attention is Nakamura down in LES on Delancey and Clinton St. Nakamura is run by Jack Nakamura, one of the great ramen masters from Japan, and he is not shy about his reputation. His name is confidently lit up in bright lights in the middle of the restaurant so that there is no mistake that this brand of ramen is all his and is worth the trek to a relatively obscure part of town.
I first tried Nakamura’s ramen at Ramen Lab and was a big fan of the light, clean broth and the chewy and flavorful noodles. This is the type of broth that Morimoto’s tokyo chicken ramen was probably going for, but it’s nowhere as good. You can still get his signature torigara shoyu ramen and the XO miso ramen here, as well as some new options like the yuzu dashi and the curry spiced ramen. I absolutely loved the yuzu dashi, it was the first bowl of ramen that didn’t leave me feeling so thirsty and obese afterwards. In fact, the light, citrus soup and the lithe noodles left me with a little spring in my step. The curry spiced ramen was on the opposite end of the spectrum, intensely saturated with flavor and depth in every slurp so that the only logical thing to do afterwards was to hibernate for the spring.
There aren’t as many sides on the Nakamura menu, but the beef soboro rice should absolutely be one you order. The minced meat over rice is so good that you may want to eat two and make a meal out of it, but that would be crazy. Normally for a ramen meal of this quality there would be lines out the door for a seat, but somehow this place is flying under the radar. So get your foot in the door while you can.
Momosan Ramen & Sake
342 Lexington Ave (between 39th and 40th St)
New York, NY 10016
172 Delancey St (between Clinton and Attorney St)
New York, NY 10002
Nestled on a quiet residential stretch of Ainslie St. in Williamsburg is Okonomi, a tiny Japanese restaurant that is known for its traditional ichiju sansai breakfast sets. At night it operates as Yuji Ramen, which features the creative ramen bowls that chef Yuji Haraguchi served at pop-ups in Smorgasburg and Whole Foods Bowery. On the weekends, Haraguchi takes even bigger risks with his broths and noodles in an intriguing ramen omakase dinner that will hold your attention for hours.
As I mentioned before, the space itself is small and cozy, seating at most 12 people. The Danish word hygge comes to mind as the way to describe the atmosphere. It feels very warm and inviting in here, and with the jazz music on the background, it’s festive without being frenetic. I could sip sake the whole night and never want to leave.
I initially thought that I would be served 10 bowls of ramen in the omakase, but luckily it wasn’t that boring and literal. Soup and noodles were certainly inspirations, and Haraguchi seemed especially intent on rethinking the broth. There was a fragrant, lemongrass broth made from fish bones which was especially memorable and made me wonder why fish wasn’t incorporated more prominently in more soup bases. One that seemed really out there was the muscat grape broth, yet somehow the fruitiness paired remarkably well with the naturally unctuous mackerel meat. All of these unexpected broths made the finale course of a traditional shoyu ramen bowl seem downright conservative.
The most memorable course, in my opinion, was the smallest one, but by no means the least. It was a spoonful of seaweed ramen paired with uni and Thai basil, arguably the most perfect bite of food to be had. Who knew the waters of Maine were home to such treasures? The ingredients were pure and prime, but it takes a master to arrange them at their full potential, and Haraguchi has got the skills.
150 Ainslie St (between Lorimer and Leonard St)
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for omakase reservations.
On a hot summer day, the last thing I want to eat is a bowl of ramen, especially one with a thick tonkotsu broth. But it’s not everyday that I’m in Long Island City, Queens, and I figured I should take advantage of my trip out here and stop by the super popular Mu Ramen.
Luckily, it seemed like visiting during the ramen off-season was a good call, and we only waited 30 minutes on a Sunday at 6:30. (The restaurant doesn’t take any reservations other than those for the Chef’s Counter tasting dinner.) We were pretty efficient in our approach to ordering–going just for the restaurant’s signature dishes, the “okonomiyaki” and the house bowl of Mu ramen.
I now understand why the “okonomiyaki” was listed in quotes. It really has nothing in common with its Japanese roots. The Japanese version reminds me of a big, messy omelette, but Mu Ramen’s is like the Kendall Jenner of the Kardashians, beautiful and refined in a line of trashy vixens. These petite, silver dollar pancakes were more like sweet and fluffy corncake blinis, topped with some smoked fish and salty roe, and wearing a wreath of orange and yellow flowers. There was some depth to this Instagram beauty, luckily, and it was a perfect, dense bite that was filling and fulfilling because of the way it engaged all of the senses.
The Mu ramen also defied expectations, as the oxtail and bone marrow-based broth was actually of a lighter weight than the cloudy, heavy soups that seem to be all the rage. Rebellion is a recurring theme here, as the Mu ramen did a lot of things differently from a traditional ramen. Instead of a pork chashu, a brisket was used, a decision I didn’t totally agree with, as I felt this cut of meat was a little too lean and stringy for the purposes of ramen consumption. The pickled cucumbers were unexpected, adding a tang that brightened up the broth, and bringing some good texture to the dish. I thought the thin al dente noodles were perfect, and they could do no wrong wrapped around my chopsticks with a little bit of everything in between.
From the few things I’ve had so far, Mu Ramen isn’t trying to make a classic bowl of ramen noodles. It experiments with embellishments you wouldn’t have considered, and that seems to be paying off. This little preview was such a tease, I’ll have to come back for the proper 11-course tasting menu and stay for the whole show.
12-09 Jackson Ave (between 47th Rd and 48th Ave)
Long Island City, NY 11101