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Apr 25, 2001 07:06 PM

Authentic Ramen- Where?

  • p

I lived in Tokyo for 4 months and fell in love with all the local Ramen shops. I am having a hard time finding any authentic Ramen restaurants in NYC. Can anyone help in recommending some great Ramen restaurants?

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  1. Hi,perry.I was born and raised in Tokyo.I lived there for 24 yrs.I tried more than 360 Ramen shops while I was living in Tokyo.Anyway,once you tried REAL ramen in tokyo,you probably noticed how the standard is so hight in that city.So that I've never had good Ramen(even OK level of taste)in NYC.Aji-sen( the biggest ramen franchise company in Japan) on Mott st. just opened a few weeks ago,but it's like McDonald's.Nothing like the Ramen in Tokyo.And I don't even want to mention about Rai Rai Ken,Menchanko-tei.It's so sad.I don't think it's impossible to make a good Ramen in NYC,but none of good Ramen chefs don't leave Japan.They are doing very good business in their own country,why would they have to leave?I hope someday NYC will have a good Ramen shop.

    13 Replies
    1. re: Aki

      what about sapporo, on 49th (i think), b/w 6th and 7th aves?

      i actually haven't had the ramen there, but eric eto's recommended it before...and per his recommendation i stopped by for lunch recently. i didn't order ramen, but my friend did and loved it. (chicken katsu kare was good!) the place was packed, lots of nihonjin.

      1. re: cj

        i also love sapporo on 49th. the one with ground pork and tofu...mmmm

        1. re: becky

          Hi,cj and becky.I'm glad to hear that you guys enjoy japanese food. To me, Sapporo is ok as a NY standard,but it's not a real deal.It's like a difference between Domino's pizza and Grimaldi's or Totonno's or Lombardi's or name your favorite brick oven pizza place.Regardless of unauthenticity,people still enjoy the pizza from domino's like japanese people enjoy the Ramen at Sapporo.You may think what is REAL ramen so different? The answer is simple.It's a noodle.The noodle which is used for Ramen in Japan is very different from chinese noodles(such as an egg noodle)or japanese Udon noodle.Ramen noodle is made by flour,water and KAN-SUI which is an alkaline cooking liquid,specially made for Ramen noodle making.Some chefs make own Ramen noodle useing by hand or machine.Some other chefs use manufactured noodle.Either way,Real ramen shops have own recipe and that reflects personalities of the Ramen chefs.And real Ramen chefs never use a frozen noodle(tastes bad,like croissants made from a frozen dough from a supermarket).Noodles have to be freshly made.I don't think nobody makes a real Ramen noodle around NY(could be entirely U.S.),so the Ramen noodles here are imported and frozen.Also it seems like nobody makes a Ramen noodle by hand. (No wonder,a hand made Ramen noodle is pretty rare even in Japan.It requires years of training and hard labor.And you can't charge big bucks for Ramen,it's a snack.Who wants to be Hand made Ramen chef?) So, what you get in here is very much like a pizza which is made with a frozen crust.If money is not a matter, It's not impossible that to import a freshly made Ramen noodle by the air every day.But Would you pay $20 for a Ramen? Or would you go to Alain Ducasse of Ramen restaurant? :)
          P.S. None of Ramen places in NY makes great broth and the other ingredients compare to Ramen places in Japan.I don't know why.It's not impossible.Very sad...

          1. re: Aki

            Have you tried the la mein at Sweet N Tart? It's specificaly under the "la mein" category and has nothing to do with all the other noodles that they offer. The noodles are nicely chewy and served in flavorful broths that usually take the edge off my noodle craving. The seafood la mein is good as is the shrimp and watercress dumpling la mein...

            1. re: FredYC

              yes,I agree with you.The broth at pretty good,better than most japanese place.Resently,many chinese restaurant have started making "Japanese style Ramen noodle soup".It's clearly on the menu.But this is a chinese version,made to suite for chinese people.It's different from what a real ramen supose to taste like.I really enjoy these types of ramen anyway.

              1. re: Aki

                I thought you were seeking the quality of the noodles and not the actual ramen dish complete with ramen broth.

                Oh, and we could go into a HUGE debate on this coment here:

                Resently,many chinese restaurant have started making "Japanese style Ramen noodle soup"

                It's one of those which came first type of arguments...

                1. re: FredYC

                  Ramen is originally from china.The word "ramen" isn't chinese,made up by japanese people under the influence of chinese noodle soup dishes.There is no official record but this is what generally japanese people believe.Around 1885,many of chinese people came to japan in order to escape from the aftermath of the war in china.And some of them started open chinese restaurant.This was the first major expose of chinese food in modern days japan.At that time,japanese people attached to heavily soy souce flavored Soba and Udon,so chinese noodle soup dishes had to be modefied to suit to local japanese people's taste.This is where a ramen was born.This is what I heard.There is a no ramen in china.Chinese noodle soup and Ramen are different cuisine.Pretty much like difference between NY style pizzas and pizzas in Italy.So, the La Mein at pretty good but I never consider as a ramen,actually it tastes and lookes nothing like Ramen.To me,It's a good chinese noodle soup with a good broth.

            2. re: Aki

              Thanks for the lesson. I hope I know it idf (and when) I find it!


              1. re: Aki

                > I don't think nobody makes a real Ramen noodle around NY(could be entirely U.S.),so the Ramen noodles here
                are imported and frozen.Also it seems like nobody makes a Ramen noodle by hand.

                I don't know about that one--I've had some pretty good ramen in L.A. There's this one place that's always filled with Japanese, I can't remember the name of the neighborhood but it's in the area where there used to be a lot of Japanese run florists and landscapers, and the noodles there are quite memorable.

                1. re: Jennifer

                  I don't know much about a ramen scene in west coast.That's why I said "probably".I tried some ramen shops in LA 2 years ago.I didn't find good one.Also I have some japanese friends in LA,and I haven't heard a good news about a ramen.But I think there might be a really good ramen shop in west coast,because of much larger japanese population and community.I really hope so.

                2. re: Aki

                  Thanks, Aki. I now realize that when I made noodles to serve with my stir-fry, I was not making ramen. So tonight, I left out the egg, and mixed the dough with soda water, as the Chinese noodle chef did in Tampopo. The dough had a completely different texture, and the noodles actually tasted like ramen!

                  By the way, how do they get those udon like that?

              2. re: cj

                As Aki mentioned, the problem is that once you've had some serious ramen in japan, the stuff you get here in the states seems second rate in comparison. Places like Sapporo, while good, seems to function to give the local expat nihonjin a familiar flavor, not a transendental experience. In japan, most serious ramen places are very small, and concentrate their efforts on their one house specialty. If you want something different, you go to another ramen place.

                In the US, serious endeavors such as these are not always cost effective (unless you already have a pre-existing clientele). As you may know, line cooks even in 4 star places barely make a living wage for NY. How is a small ramen place going to pay a top soup master? For instance, I was a bit shocked when I walked into Sobaya (on 9th St.) to find a Mexican man rolling cutting up the soba. This didn't detract from a fine meal, but I realized that it is an economic reality of restaurants in the US to keep overhead (in the form of well-paid labor) as low as possible.

                Anyway, sorry about the extended exposition. My suggestion for the disappointed ramen mavens, try a new cuisine to go gaga over.

                1. re: Eric Eto

                  Yes,Eric, you are 100% right!!I should've checked your post before I posted.......

            3. Several of my Japanese coworkers love a ramen place on west 56th. It is called Men Kui Tei and is at 60 west 56th st. between 5th & 6th avenues (closer to 6th). It is a few doors down from the harley davidson cafe and is next to the japanese restaurant Ise.

              The menu is pretty much just ramen, I think I noticed 16 variations and all cost under $10.

              The awning has "Larmen New York" written on it. Hopes this helps!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Aaron Tell
                Barrie Covington

                I used to go there quite often with an Asian friend of mine, and it's definitely one of the better ones in NYC.

                I particularly like their Jar-Jar noodle dish with minced pork in a chili/soy paste.

              2. 14 Mott st. Cost $4.75 . Tried tonight.this was second visit.Ramen was better than first visit.It tasted exactly as same as the average ramens in japan.It's still not good as a japanese standard but the most authentic ramen in NYC.This is the ramen that you get from mediocre ramen shops in tokyo.So, It's fair to say "AUTHENTIC".As I mentioned before,this place is franchised by one of the biggest ramen company in japan.Everything operated by a manual book and most ingredients are prepared at the central kitchen in japan.Culinary,it's not a serious place.It's like Outback steak,Friday's,Chili's or Apple bee's...
                Nothing like Peter Luger.
                P.S. Ramen at Ajisen is Kumamoto(southern part of japan)style.It's not a soy sauce soup,it's a pig bone white soup.Looks like milk.Heavy taste.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Aki

                  Aki, thanks for sharing your vast knowledge on these boards. I guess I'll have to try Ajisen since I haven't had a chance yet. It sounds like an improvement on the NYC ramen scene. Is it safe to assume that Kumamoto style is also known as Tonkotsu ramen? I was introduced to this style of ramen when I went to japan two years ago (my first and only visit, actually).

                  As a follow-up to the thread on chinese restaurant ramen, readers should also be aware that ramen in japan has also developed regional styles that the variety seem endless -- we tend to get a one-dimensional view in the states.

                  Another note for those following this thread, Tampopo, the movie where ramen takes center stage, is being screened at the Japan Society tonight (Friday) at 6:30. If you haven't already, check out the thread on this flick in the Not About Food board.

                  1. re: Eric Eto

                    Yes,It's exactly a TON-KOTSU(literally means "pig bone") ramen which has gotten huge popularity last 10 years in Japan.It's been a kind of big trend in a Ramen industry.The movie Tampopo really helpes to understand what is a REAL ramen and how a REAL ramen master should be.Ajisen is the perfect place after watching this cool movie.

                2. s
                  Shiki kitchen-good broth

                  I know this thread is kinda dead, but I've recently been eating at a little place on 1st ave.

                  Shiki Kitchen has great broth, syoyu, wafu, miso, with questionable noodles and sake.

                  You can taste the ingredients, not flavour enhancers.

                  Noodles are quite Lo-meinish, to hard, too eggy for my tastes. Also, push all the ingredients under before eating.. it's really thrown together. But the broth was much more home-made tasting than aji-sen.

                  I enver tried anything but their ramens.. and hijiki salad.

                  Eat there a bit, and the owner will start to serve you, and give you free stuff, so it's nice..


                  1. best soup / ramen sapporo 49th street btwn 7th and 6th