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Ramen Setagaya (らーめん せたが屋) 1st Ave (btw 8 & 9)

Ramen Setagaya has got it all- young scowling, diligent chef, tested taste success in the home market, and a unique recipe. Chef Tsukasa Maejima’s home shop is in the posh Setagaya Ward of Tokyo, where he has set up a mini chain and gained nation-wide notoriety for his televised cooking battles on the acclaimed (by me at least) Japanese television show “Dotchi no Ryouri”. “Dotchi” pits two items and thus two chefs, against one another in a contest that meticulously follows the origin of nearly every ingredient and every technique. You can in fact follow Maejima’s exploits on the flat screen tv in the shop, which loops his appearance on a program where he took on a rival shop. Setagaya’s specialty is shio-ramen, which means “salt” broth- i.e. using actual salt instead of shoyu to season. You can read about all the ingredients in the broth on the back of the menu, but in a nutshell it’s a typical mix of pork, chicken, and dried seafood, besides some different seaweeds. Of particular interest to me was the dried scallop, which is not so common in ramen broths.(The dish is also “finished” with a powered medley of dried scallop, fried onion, and grapeseed oil, which mostly affects the aroma more than the actual taste.). According to the video, Mongolian rock salt was used for the actual “shio” on his television appearance, but I’m not sure if that’s the case with this particular shop’s technique. Nevertheless, as it’s a key ingredient in the soup, I’m sure whatever salt they used is of some particular interesting background.

Setagaya’s broth is classified as “assari-kei” which means it tastes lighter in oil content (generally the case with shio-ramen). It certainly has a light consistency and a reasonably complex taste, with the scallop and other sea elements playing stronger than the meat elements. There’s a fairly delicate flavor there and a nice balance without being too salty. You’re not going to be blown away by anything bold, rich, or too savory with this ramen. But it’s a pretty impressive ramen and um, complex in it’s simplicity. Actually, shio-ramen, which is a rather newer invention in the history of ramen, has been enjoying a sort of boom in Japan. There are three broad reasons that I can surmise: first, the perceived health benefits of less oil, less rich, soup is appealing for those watching their weight. This dovetails into the second reason- rising popularity among women in Japan. There’s just an obvious economic upside to making shio-ramen for the hordes…no that’s not nice…flocks(?) of office women in Japan. The third reason, and I’ll stop babbling after this, is that the “complex simplicity” of shio-ramen is a call to arms of sort to the macho-virtuoso world of ramen chefs in Japan. If you can catch the video playing in the shop when you’re there, you’ll see what I mean.

The chashu (pork) was thickly cut, only lightly marinated, and deliciously fatty. It was homemade, cared for, and tasted every bit so. This wasn’t a roll of pork dumped in a vat of soy sauce overnight. I’ll take one slice of this guy’s chashu over three slices of Momofuku’s any day. Other toppings include bamboo “shootings” (their word, not mine) otherwise known as “menma”. The menu explanation points out that their menma has been marinated in broth overnight so as to better harmonize with the ramen. Whatever. But if anything, it shows they aren’t simply serving canned bamboo “shootings”, something many ramen shops can’t say. You’ll also find some shaved Japanese long onion (naga-negi), which I could have used more of, and some seaweed (not my forte vocabulary-wise), and a nice glassy egg. Ah yes, the noodles. They’re rather thin- somewhere between the angel hair-like Hakata noodles, and spaghetti. There’s something on the menu about how the noodles are served with three different gauges of thickness, by I couldn’t tell. Anyhow, thin noodles are the way to go with shio-ramen, so these were fine.

The menu is simple. Shio-ramen straight or dipping style, with extra chashu or extra noodles or extra both as options. There’s also a few tempting rice side dishes including a min-chicken teriyaki-don (pretty rare since teriyaki chicken isn’t big in Japan) and a mini “oyako-don”, which is chicken and onion topped with an “organic” egg. These mini-don were both $3. The base ramen was about $9 and with extra chashu, a few dollars more.

With Ramen Setagaya, we’ve broken some interesting ground. It’s the first time, other than a few select occasions, that I know of at least, when a solid and respectable ramen chef has set up shop, literally, here in NYC. I’m sure Maejima-san won’t actually be manning the wok and ladle here in the States. But this foray I hope, will be a gauntlet being thrown down to the ramen chefs of Japan, ideally the starting of a furious battle of global ramen one-upsmanship as other chefs join in to capture our steamy, pathetic ramen loving, red, white, and blue hearts. The importing of Japanese chain shops or ramen stars is really our best hope of surviving the next century and saving the world from the effects of global warning, rising gas prices, and virus infected killer zombies that run fast.

....Oh, forgot to mention. I met the master himself, Maejima-san, and received a free Ramen Setagaya t-shirt. Hurry while supplies last!

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  1. Great review! I can't wait to go ...

    1. Excellent review! I'm setting my expectations Santouka-high for lunch tomorrow.

      1. Thanks for the review! I walked past this weekend and wondered if it was new...I suppose now I know.

        How would you rank it against other (non-Momfuku) places like Rai Rai Ken or Men Kui Tei, etc.?

        5 Replies
        1. re: kathryn

          Those two places are terrible. This has got to be better.

          1. re: Peter Cuce

            I do think Rai Rai Ken is bad. I never understood why people rave about it. One friend always refers to it as the place, "that makes their broth from old sweat socks." I go about once a year to see if it's changed, but it hasn't. I like their fried rice, but it's tasty because it's greasy. Usually if I'm in the mood for ramen, I go to Momofuku for new wave stuff, or that little joint off Avenue B near the school if I want more authentic...and of course Sapporo in midtown, excellent. Looking forward to trying this new place.

            www.SnapshotArtifact.org

            1. re: Midtown Jimmi

              Minca on Avenue B?

              I tried it (once) and the ramen was distinctly lukewarm. So was my friend's ramen. Was this unusual?

              1. re: kathryn

                It depends on the chef. It's usually one of the same two cooks. When the japanese cook is there, the broth is a nice temp, the other guy well he refuses to follow the orders of requests of the even the waitresses to make the broth warmer. So my friends and I leave when we see that guy tending the kitchen.

              2. re: Midtown Jimmi

                I like Minca better than most, although sometimes it can be bad. I don't find Sapporo to be excellent, merely average.

          2. Thanks for the review. Very well written.

            1. One thing to add and a few afterthoughts:

              Forgot to mention they have a license and sell beer- amen. Also, I didn't mean to link the method of making chashu by marinating with Momofuku. In fact, I'm not sure that Momofuku even seasons their ramen pork. (Can't recall and certainly didn't leave any lasting impression on me.)

              To be honest, this ramen won't be for everyone and I'm a kind of surprised this was the first of one of these ramen tigers to establish himself here. The Japanese impression of American tastes is that we like things strongly flavored, so I would intuitively expect a tonkotsu or miso foray to have set up. I've actually heard that Ippudo, a popular tonkotsu chain is indeed close to opening up shop here. Nevertheless, it's a pretty ballsy move to go with shio-ramen. Again, you won't be blown away by this taste-wise and the flavor profile is quite subtle on the seafood-side. What I'm most pleased about is that he is here and that hopefully, more will come. I'm not really such a shio-ramen fan myself, but honestly, I don't think the ramen's I like and the ones most popular in Japan now will ever come here. But I hope to be proved wrong.

              As for shop comparison, Santouka in Edgewater and Setagaya certainly have the pedigree and I've had good bowls at each. None of the others are worthy of being discussed beyond CitySearch as far as I'm concerned. The reality is that I can get better pizza in Tokyo, than ramen in New York City.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Silverjay

                Anyone knows whats up with Setagaya the last couple days? I tried to go Sunday night around nineish and they were sold out of Ramen. Checked Mon and Tues and they were closed both times.

                1. re: dngovy

                  We have tried to go there last Friday and they were sold out of ramen by 10:30pm.

              2. Went yesterday and some guy behind the counter said it's still closed and they'll open today. But today they're still closed! They said they don't know when they'll open as they'll still awaiting inspection. Sure enough, as we're talking the inspector arrives.

                Weird thing-- yesterday while I was there there was a group of Japanese guys who came by the place. Today was the same, a mixed group of Japanese youngsters came by and were disappointed as well. But then they all seem to know what they're missing and I hate being the one in the dark.

                Should've done this before-- call @ tel# 212-529-2740 before going. But here's the deal-- just don't call too often it affects the quality of their cooking okay? ;)

                3 Replies
                1. re: bokkyo

                  While you wait for the shop to open, you might as well read about my adventures with the "Ramen Nazi", who, frustratingly, seemed to open up shop only if the wind blew up his arse...

                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/324870

                  1. re: Silverjay

                    Thanks for the link, that was an enlightening read!

                    Btw, called Setagaya a couple hours earlier and got an answering machine. We might have to rely on intelligence on the ground (chowint?) to know what's what.

                  2. re: bokkyo

                    Walked by around 5ish on my way home and noticed them cooking stuff up.. so I'm assuming its going to open for dinner tonight. The little rope blocking the entrance way was also removed. Best bet is to call though and double check.

                  3. Hakata-style ramen is next in NYC!

                    "Chikaranomoto Co., which runs the popular Hakata Ippudo chain of ramen restaurants across Japan, plans to open a New York branch later this year, company officials said Tuesday."

                    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bi...

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: oneillkg

                      Holy cow looks like we're having a Ramenaissance!

                      1. re: bokkyo

                        OMG i've tried Ippudo in Tokyo (the roppongi branch) and it is sooo good.. nothing comparable right now in NYC

                      2. re: oneillkg

                        i was wondering about this... i spoke to some ippudo guys around two years ago they talked about opening this in 2006, but it looks like they're finally doing it! now i wished i lived in new york. no, not really, i still wish i lived in kyushu. but good on you, mates! ippudo is a top notch ramen operation and would definitely be a big step in the right direction.

                      3. Finally Setagaya has opened. My lunch buddy and I went there before 12:30 pm and got seated immediately although a few minutes later there was a line out the door. Since this was our first time, I wanted to try their signature dish so we both ordered Shio ramen, a side of Shio Tama (egg) and Oshinko (pickled veggies). I took a few pictures of the lunch crowd, the kitchen and in less than 10 minutes we were served.

                        First, the broth. Silverjay went into this in great detail so I won't repeat except to say it's perhaps the best ramen broth I've had, "complex in its simplicity," as Silverjay put it. What makes it happen is really the salt, the salt that transports :)

                        Then I had some of the oshinko and a salty half-egg and note the attention to detail, there is a good degree of gastronomic gestalt here, the side dishes not only complementing the main dish but, like a good supporting cast in a movie, makes the main actor a better performer. Again, the salt.

                        Then the slice of pork. If you check the pictures you'll see what it goes through to provide that delightful tension, but if this ingredient were the antagonist in our movie, it still maintains a delicate balance. In other words, you're not overwhelmed by it.

                        Finally, the ramen. Here I'll hold back the badge of perfection. I'm sure this particular style (slightly thicker than capellini, not too al dente) is what the chef intended but it's not what I expected. A touch on the bland side, it derives its flavor from the broth's salty sheen and leaves the impression that the broth, actually, is the main character.

                        Even so, please don't let that opinion spoil your fun. There is too much attention to detail here that if I'm not "getting it," it's simply my ignorance. Finishing, I thought that even the bowls which I took to be smaller than expected turned out to be *just* the right size. That was a hot dish to eat on a warm day but stepping out of Setagaya, strangely enough, I felt blisfully cool.

                        ****
                        Uploading pictures are temporarily disabled so until that gets fixed, here's an external page with a few pictures: http://tinyurl.com/37sxbp

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: bokkyo

                          Went today for dinner a little before 7pm and got seated right away (Minutes later there was a line out the door that wrapped around the restaurant). Had the shio ramen and concur with Silverjay. I especially liked the noodles -- they were super chewy. It appeared as though the noodles w/ the dipping version were much thicker, but I can't be sure.

                          1. re: hongry_hippo

                            Ok. I need to know if the dipping noodles are different. I'm not a big thin-noodle fan and that was the low point for me- though more a matter of preference than quality. That said, Bokkyo, I did mention that thin noodles are usually the case with shio-ramen and I think you can always expect some blandness- mostly because there is less animal oil to cling to less surface area......BTW, the magazine clipping in the first photo declares Ramen Setagaya the #1 shio ramen, which may be what the "#1 in Japan" placard in their window is referring to. I've actually never seen this shop ranked very high in any of the overall top ramen lists in Japan. But I had heard of it before.

                            1. re: Silverjay

                              Silverjay, the group beside were having separate noodles/broth (probably Tsuke-men?) and the noodles were noticeably thicker.

                              1. re: Silverjay

                                Was there last night and split an order of tsukemen w/ a friend to go with my shio ramen. The first thing you notice is the volume and thickness of the noodles - you get a huge bowl with a towering mound of thick, slightly curly noodles - think a much thicker version of fettucine. The noodles were cooked perfectly, with a nice bite.

                                We got the deluxe pork version which came with a bowl of salty, powerful dipping sauce - a huge contrast to the delicate broth of the shio ramen - and I mean this in a good way. The dipping sauce was also laced generously with chunks of the aforementioned chasu. It was the perfect thing to eat on a hot summer evening.

                                1. re: Silverjay

                                  silver, you weren't there opening night? >< lol...

                                  but yea i'm a little skeptical about "#1" or "ramen champion" claims (see chabuya). although it sounds like you guys have got a new winner on your hands. my NY friend went yesterday and flipped out to me on IM this morning about how awesome it was...

                            2. I finally made it there last night (around 9-9:30pm) and after waiting in line for 20mins or so (overhearing someone else mention a site for people obsessed with food ^_^) we were seated. We both got chashu ramen with side order of menma and the egg.
                              I won't repeat previous posters about the ramen itself except to note that yes the broth is quite different from other non-tonkotsu broths in my experience with a strong seafood flavor at first (seemed to not be noticeable after 2 sips). The pork was amazing especially the round slices (meat surrounded by fat) -- they had an almost smoky flavor. Menma was quite good and I could eat 3 side orders by themselves, but my bf was most impressed with the egg (not that it was the most impressive part of ramen but because it was so outstanding compared to other eggs in ramen we had). The egg had a great creamy consistency with semi-runny yolk and great salty flavor.
                              Next time I'll be trying tsukemen as it looked great and the couple next to us who got it couldn't stop exhaling Oishiii~~~ and pulling the bowls for sharing.

                              1. Went here on friday...bottom line i thought it was pretty good although im not sure its worth the wait (an hour)

                                long line going outside...sit down, the menu is pretty simple

                                - chashu zara - five pieces of chashu with scallions topped on it, while i liked it and it had great flavor, it was a little drier than i expected...when i've had great chashu (japanese style) its been very tender, this was a little drier than that, but the flavor was very good
                                - chashu ramen "dipping" style - this is actually different from the straight chashu shio ramen...its served with thicker noodles that use egg i believe (they are yellow), noodles were very good, home style kind of chewy; the soup itself is more oily and spicier with chunks of both dark and white meat chashu...its actually alot of food, i thought it was very good
                                - chashu shio ramen - my gf got this, its in a much lighter shio broth and the chashu is all thinnly sliced white meat....i liked this alot, maybe better than my own

                                overall, i'd highly recommend going although i think you should go early, the wait was a pain in the a$$.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Lau

                                  Just ok-staff very nice but not waiting more trhan 10 minutes-the half cooked boiled egg rocks!!!!!!!!!! i will go back just for that!!

                                  1. re: Lau

                                    I'm going to reply to your post for my follow-up, because I ordered the exact same thing and share your opinions.

                                    Someone erred earlier by suggesting that the chashu appetizer comes with dipping sauce, but it doesn't. Just as you say, with scallions. And I agree with your take. The meat was sort of finished on the grill, but is was too dry. Note: This is not the same chashu that is served as a topping on the shio ramen.

                                    Nice description of the tsukemen. Yes, the broth is different. It's been either finished in more oil or the bowl size is smaller, so the oil more pronounced. I found the flavor much bolder, less delicate than the regular shio ramen, and tasting much more like katsuo-bushi (dried bonito shavings), than scallops. My take on it is that it's good, reasonably cravable, but hardly deserving of accolades....I don't mind the lines. They'll die down.

                                    1. re: Silverjay

                                      how did it compare to the shop in tokyo?

                                  2. Can anyone shed some light on how the egg is prepared? I've never experienced anything like that. Perfectly done.

                                    4 Replies
                                      1. re: BohFoisSelecta

                                        ahh good ole' hanjuku, or as the finer ramen shops in japan call them, the "half-cooked egg". chef chiba from tokyo's chibaki-ya ramen shop alledgedly innovated the use of this basically soft-boiled treat in ramen:

                                        http://www.rameniac.com/index/comment...

                                        1. re: rameniac

                                          Wouldn't it be great if Chibakiya came and opened a shop on the LES? They serve a great beef tongue shio ramen that's part washoku-part Jewish deli food...

                                          http://www.chow.com/topics/347668

                                          1. re: Silverjay

                                            lol that looks a combination of two of my favorite foods, as if gyu-tan from a yakiniku shop exploded all over my noodles. (isn't that how they invented the sandwich tho, when the earl of sandwich couldn't be bothered to stop gambling, so his servants just put meat and bread together...)

                                    1. wow, sounds like a spot to check out

                                      1. I'm finally going to get a chance to go tomorrow, being Thursday the 5th.Can someone confirm their hours? I've heard they close at 3 and then re-open at 4:30.
                                        P.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: Polecat

                                          i'll be there too. i'm planning to go right away -- around 12:30 for lunch.

                                          i can definately confirm they are closed 3-4:30pm. i missed the boat yesterday (tues) and went to MOMOFUKU NOODLE instead. i got the tsukemen there and plan to do the same at SETAGAYA for comparison. i'll save the shio for next time.

                                            1. re: mrnyc

                                              jus my 2cents - momofuku can't come even close to Setagaya- first the broth over at momofuku tastes like chicken stock - if anyone can tell me that it's more complex than that please post your thoughts, but really...just because you use berkshire pork and have an egg in there..the noodles are ALWAYS OVER COOKED, it would make any real ramen chef cry. For sure hands down Setagaya, tasty complex but not overwhelming broth, good portion cooked perfectly ramen - I'd rather wait an hour for that than wait an hour for something that is not nearly as authentic and I believe everything at mf is just a little more pricey.

                                              1. re: wheretherearewolves

                                                agree re MOMOFUKU, too pricey plus the broth and noodles need work. thats always the hardest part and the secret to good ramen isnt it?

                                                however, the shredded pork and other ingredients are top notch.

                                                in sum i certainly wasnt blown away, it wasnt perfect, but i didnt dislike it either, it was just ok (my own ramen reference point is MINCA on a good day and the friday shoyu lunch special at CHIKUBU).

                                          1. I guess it's a matter of personal preference, my girlfriend and I (big ramen fans) ate there last Friday at around 5:30pm so there was no wait at all. To my surprise, none of us enjoyed the noodles, first, the salt-flavored noodle soup was way too salty for us, second, we thought the noodles weren't cooked thoroughly; I love the resistancy in the noodle texture, but our noodles were just hard, barely cooked.

                                            One last thing that added to our disappointment - The place was steamy hot, eating hot noodle soup in an A/C free place is no joke... :)

                                            14 Replies
                                            1. re: via jon

                                              My wife and I thought the broth was too salty as well, but we weren't sure whether or not ramen broth was supposed to be like that or not since we're only used to the 2000mg sodium bomb instant noodles... I enjoyed the food, my noodles were well cooked and I thought the pork was very tender and flavorful. Just the salty broth that made the whole experience bleh.

                                              Are there any other ramen houses that we should try to compare this experience to?

                                              1. re: bluishgnome

                                                My personal faves are Men Kui Tei (60 West 56th) and Menchenkotei (55th btw 5 & 6).

                                                1. re: via jon

                                                  When I want ramen, I go to Men Kui Tei either in midtown or at Astor. Mechankotei is also decent. I am surprised so many people are talking about Setagaya vs Momofuku. I was not impressed with either. I'll try the real Setagaya when I go back to Japan next time and see if Setagaya-NY is true to the original. Please read my Setagaya review at http://littlemiko.blogspot.com/2007/0....

                                              2. re: via jon

                                                Had my 2nd lunch at Setagaya today and must say the experience was much different. I wanted to try Tsuke-men so ordered the Charshu deluxe but was told they had ran out of that noodle so were substituting regular ramen instead. Should've taken that as a sign... because there was simply too much ramen (although I liked these better than the first time I went there) and the separate broth was way too salty. I checked the kitchen and it's the same crew... I never imagined I'd say the infamous chowish "eh" (imagine Larry David saying it ;) but that's what lunch was like today.

                                                1. re: bokkyo

                                                  just got back from there myself and had the same thing. Gotta say that i love the al dente ness of the thin noodles. and it's too bad that the broth is so salty, but it works perfectly when you dip the noodles in and pickup some of the chunks of pork and scallop. But i also could not drink the broth once my noodles were done. I also am a big fan of the salt eggs, oshinko and salted bamboo shoots.

                                                  1. re: FattyDumplin

                                                    i went at noon yesterday (friday) and had a seaweed salad and the charshu tsukemen. the noodles were off the charts great. thick and perfectly al dente. the dipping sauce was amazingly rich with chopped grilled pork and scallops. in fact you need to prepare yourself for how rich it is, it surprizes you. i liked to alternate between just eating the noodles alone, dipping and eating quickly and sometimes letting the noodles rest in the broth a bit to really soak it up -- that gets you three much different tastes in one!

                                                    no, no, no MOMOFUKU NOODLE's tsukemen is not even in the same ballpark.

                                                    i can not wait to try the shio ramen next time, that's what most people were eating.

                                                    ps- i think my total bill was $15 & yes it was crowded, but no line.

                                                    1. re: mrnyc

                                                      That's what I've been telling people too! No comparison. Glad you enjoyed it.

                                                      1. re: mrnyc

                                                        haha. i did the same dipping manners you just described above without realizing it while i was eating. the fourth is when you pick up some chunks of the scallop and pork with a long dip, which is a really intense flavor.

                                                        and i agree with you that momofuku pales in comparison. i don't care that it's not supposed to be real ramen. it's just not as good, plain and simple. his noodles are mediocre.

                                                    2. re: bokkyo

                                                      I went there myself Friday 6:30 -- waited for about 15-20 minutes (not a group meal sorta place btw.) I didn't find the soup to be overwhelmingly salty. It's SALT ramen everyone! I love the al dente noodles and the lightness of the broth. It's my new favorite and cannot wait to see Ippudo come later this year? next year?

                                                      1. re: Hanachan

                                                        it's really only with the broth that comes with the tsukemen that is really salty, but i guess you're also not supposed to drink it like you would in a shio ramen. i tried my wife's shio ramen and the broth is perfect for drinking along. and if ippudo tonkatsu ramen is indeed the revelation that some say it is, then i'll be right there with you.

                                                        1. re: FattyDumplin

                                                          I am not sure if that soup/broth that comes with tsukemen are for drinking... Tsukemen broth are typically made stronger, bolder so that the flavor stays with the noodle until your consumption.

                                                          I had shio ramen and yes, it is definitely for consumption :]

                                                      2. re: bokkyo

                                                        Gave the Charshu Tsuke-men another shot yesterday and must say my previous experience was a fluke-- this was a much better dish and, honestly, I'd take it over the Shio. When I had first tried the Tsuke-men, they mentioned they had ran out of the thicker ramen and were gonna substitute with the regular-- and they overcompensated, but then the accompanying broth then was neither rich nor complex, just overly salty with not enough chunks of Charshu. Setagaya was also very crowded then.

                                                        Yesterday, I went early and got the same dish and it was excellent-- Charshu Tsuke-men is Setagaya's "yang" to the Shio Ramen's "yin". Broth was rich and complex, there was a distinctive scallopy flavor, salty, but far from overwhelming. Although I still don't think it's the type of broth you drink down. Lots of diced Charshu chunks. Must try again very soon to see if they can maintain consistency ;)

                                                        http://tinyurl.com/37sxbp

                                                        1. re: bokkyo

                                                          i agree. i have to say tho that you could just eat the fat tsukeman noodles alone without dipping at all and still be in nirvana. i am going to japan next summer and if this is anywhere close to what they get for noodles - wow.

                                                          1. re: bokkyo

                                                            You know, I've been to places in Japan where they will take your remaining tsukemen broth and top it off with stock to make it more of a drinkable soup. Maybe ask them next time at RS.?.?. Wonder if they would comply?..Although this strategy would probably be best to do on a cold, cold day...

                                                      3. Having been to Japan several times, most recently in April of this year, and sampled countless satisfying bowls, I feel that if you plunked the NYC branch down in Tokyo, it would still merit repeat visits. In fact, I've had very few bowls there that can match the balance of ingredients here. In many cases, I've walked away from a place thinking things like, "great broth, decent noodles, okay charshu" etc. At Setagaya, it's all happening. A party, going full throttle, in the bowl. The thick charshu chunks in the tsukemen, at their most tender, rival those of my all-time favorite ramen-ya, the now defunct Manten Ramen (near the JR Koiwa Station in Tokyo's outer reaches).

                                                        In my mind, great ramen has finally reached our shores. We should definitely give props to places like Rei Rei Ken, Minca, etc., whose earnest efforts generated the interest to begin with. Without them, there might never have been a NYC branch of Setagaya. But we also need to give ultimate respect to Sapporo, on 49th, which has been serving up ramen in NYC for at least 30 some odd years (I dig the Chahan, personally).
                                                        P.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Polecat

                                                          Hmm. See I feel the shio ramen is really outstanding and merits repeat visits. But I'm just not as high on the tsukemen. My bowl was made with much too heavy a hand with the oil and I thought the broth was rich without being subtle. And I'm pretty sure the pork is just the leftover and crumbled off bits from when they made the chashu...or charshu....or however it's spelled. Don't get me wrong, it's all pretty good stuff. But this guy made a name for himself in Japan with his approach to shio ramen. I've been to the "hot" tsukemen shop in Tokyo recently and that's world's better (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/347723) .

                                                          BTW, I heard the lines at Setagaya are an hour wait now. I wonder if it's on account of our little thread here?

                                                          1. re: Silverjay

                                                            totally 100% agree with you re the dipping broth. its very rich and not subtle. for me not so much the oil, but it's the scallops just make it sooo rich. truth is prob the combination of all of these ingediants.

                                                            however.....and its a big elephant in the kitchen however....those tsukeman noodles. words cannot explain how good they are....even all by themselves.

                                                            i'd order this again in a heartbeat -- esp on a hot summer day.

                                                            ps -- i finally had the shio ramen and it is outstanding...of course i cannot wait to try it again too -- if they can keep up the consistancy i'd rank it better than at mitsuwa.

                                                        2. Went there for lunch today and this is my review. No lines at all on the lunch hour compared to long ones in the evening.

                                                          This is the real deal. An authentic Japanese ramen restaurant has finally landed in Manhattan. The menu is short on items as it principally serves its shio broth ramens - salt based. The broth is light with subtle seafood flavors. Very good and completely different from the rich, hearty broth found at Santoka in NJ. The toppings are all top-notch, especially the pork, which was so delicate and flavorful, basically it melted in my mouth. Noodles are done just right. Looking around I was the only Gaijin in the restaurant on the lunch hour which is a good sign for authenticity. Great addition to the lacking ramen scene in New York. Can't wait for Ippudo now. Solid place.

                                                          1. I agree with all the comments about the tsukemen being unsubtle (and too salty for my taste). All in all, I wasn't too thrilled after trying this place last weekend. I ordered the chashu tsukemen (with a side order of the shio-tama). The eggs were absolutely delicious with the perfect, creamy of a half-done yolk. The tsukemen however was a big disappointment. The ramen noodles, which are much thicker and chewier than the thin ones used in the hot dish, reminded me of cold inaniwa udon. More problematically, the tsukemen soup didn't "cling" on to my noodles and even though I found the broth too salty so I found myself needing to drink some of the soup because just dipping the noodles left the taste of the noodles but little of the broth. Next time, I'll try the regular and hope for a better experience.

                                                            I still think izakaya Ise's niboshi ramen is the best assari-kei ramen in the city.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: icchinmame

                                                              yeah i somewhat agree on the chashu tsukemen...i thought the regular shio ramen was better

                                                            2. Has any CHer stopped by recently? How are the waits?

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: kathryn

                                                                Was there recently around 7-8pm maybe, there was some wait, but not too bad
                                                                Ramen was great as usual, and tamago is amazing.
                                                                haven't tried their gyoza yet, but on monday they have some sort of deal where gyoza comes out to be $1-2 extra with order of ramen

                                                              2. So happy we relied on your review and tried out setagaya this weekend. We went to NYC to try some different ramen shops (still waiting for Ichiran...) and loved Setagaya. Was concerned we'd find it too salty based on the many comments here and elsewhere. But the broth was amazing. Light, but with a great depth of flavor.

                                                                Also visited Minca on our 24 hr. "ramen tour." Would love to have something like Minca anywhere in DC, but not even close to Setagaya.

                                                                Still looking forward to another ramen trip to NYC once Ichiran or Ippudo opens...

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: takajin

                                                                  Ichiran? Are we getting Ichiran? That would be great.

                                                                2. I just went for dinner as a singleton, no wait at all. The hype is over I think -

                                                                  it's very efficient; the waitpeople were nice and it's very clean, but I have to say I was sadly disappointed with my experience. I ordered the charsiu ramen with the separate thick noodles and the soup - both arrived tepid temperature. uh...what gives? i sat right in front of the chef team and the place was not at all crowded, like 85% or so full.

                                                                  it was ok - but not heading back there in a hurry.

                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                  1. re: chloe.speaks

                                                                    Yeah, as I posted on a different thread about this, my last two visits were disappointing. I never thought it was the be all end all of ramen, but it was probably the best in NYC when it opened.

                                                                    1. re: chloe.speaks

                                                                      Just FYI, tsukemen is often served warm, tepid, sometimes room temperature, not piping hot. Once you dip the noodles in the temperature drops down anyway. I've eaten my way through some of Tokyo's best tsukemen shops and this place is miles (kilometers) behind. I did enjoy the shio though when I went for this review, but that was months ago. The best types of ramen, IMO, that garner raves reviews in Japan, have not made it to NYC yet.

                                                                      1. re: Silverjay

                                                                        Went to setegaya on Friday...
                                                                        pretty salty shio--not necessarily bad thing, but given that I'm more inclined to salty foods-and I found it a tad (just a tad) bit on the salty side-means something (at least in my books)
                                                                        There was no line when I went (12:15 PM). Pretty standard dish. Mine came out pretty hot, which I enjoyed. Overall I enjoyed it since it was freezing outside. Something hot in the stomach is always a good feeling. Probably not the best food I have tasted, and I still think Rai Rai Ken was better, but there are many factors. I was with family and it was more of a festive environment, so I was not as critical on the food. Overall satisfying, but I probably would not be able to bring friends.

                                                                        1. re: wherethetreefalls

                                                                          So now where? I am thinking of going for ramen on Wednesday night, but now I don't know where to go. Rai Rai Ken, or Ramen Setagaya.

                                                                          1. re: aacharya

                                                                            in my opinion setagaya. not even close.

                                                                            1. re: chundi

                                                                              Yeah, even though Setagaya is rolling downhill, it's still better than RRK.