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Jun 1, 2009 01:10 PM

Terakawa Ramen

Yet another tonkotsu ramen joint quietly opened up recently on Lexington, just south of 23rd St. I've only been once and can say that the porky broth lives up to versions I've enjoyed in Japan, as well as its local competitors like Ippudo or Minca. Terakawa seems to be another chain-ette from Kumamoto, trying to establish its footing in NYC. While I did enjoy the broth and the simplest version of their tonkotsu ramen (eponymously called Terakawa ramen), there were a few problems, which seem to be service-related. Unlike other other major Japanese chains that opened up in NYC, Terakawa looks like they're relying on local hires rather than bringing their own team from Japan to set up shop. When I went, the staff outnumbered the patrons about 3 to 1, yet there was a lot of confusion at a four-top about who ordered what. The staff in the kitchen (observable behind the glass partition) made what looked like several amateurish maneuvers or other clueless lapses. Despite these service issues, I'm encouraged because those problems can be worked out with a little more time and experience. The basics of the food seems fairly intact and the broth is good and heavy with porky goodness. The noodles are served firm, though I've never had noodles as firm as these (I think this was another lapse by the noodle guy), but I just let it sit in the hot broth a little longer than usual to let it come to a more chewable/slurpable texture. A shake of the dried garlic bits and some hot oil adds a nice dimension of flavors as well.

While Ippudo has cornered the market on tonkotsu ramen for now, I am not a fan of the lounge-vibe for what should be a fast food. If I have to wait more than 15-20 minutes, I probably won't bother. I prefer the diner-cum-pizza parlor feel of Terakawa where I can get a bowl of ramen, slurp it down in 8 minutes and be off to finish my errands. I'll give Terakawa another try in the next month or so, and see if they've figured out the service issues, and hope the broth remains as good.

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  1. Ahh, you beat me to the punch. Haven't been yet, but passed by a couple of weeks ago. When I googled it later that night, the Japanese blog coverage was rather lackluster so I didn't rush out. But I didn't read all that much and maybe it was too close to opening......Totally concur on the preference in dining styles though.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Silverjay

      I was a little more optimistic when I first saw the announcement of a Kumamoto ramen shop opening in NYC. I was thinking more along the lines of the popular black sludge of garlic (and whatever else is in there) that people associate with Kumamoto ramen nowadays. I had a version at Fukuoka's ramen stadium a couple years back from a shop called Hao Rai. But for a tonkotsu broth, I was pretty satisfied with it, maybe more so for not having to wait in an endless line in the evening, or having to schlep to NJ. I know that inconsistency is the plague that befalls many ramen shops, but as I said, I'm encouraged by what I tasted the other night, so I hope they can get a handle on things and solve all the other issues. By the way, wasn't a fan of the gyoza. Cha-han (fried rice) was better, but only passable. I'll likely stay away from the combinations and stay with the ramen.

      1. re: E Eto

        what do you guys think of the tonkotsu ramen vs ippudo (and rockmeisha while we're at it)? I love tonkotsu ramen, but I think Ippudo is overhyped, its good but not great (certainly not worth the lines)

        1. re: Lau

          Haven't had Rockmeisha, but it's not a dedicated ramen shop. So unless they are really taking it up a notch, if you want the best ramen in NYC, you had better endure the wait at Ippudo. It's most likely the only ramen here worth standing in line for.

          1. re: Silverjay

            yeah ure right...its more of an izakaya, but it was surprisingly good last time I had it there and the only place besides Ippudo that really serves tonkotsu ramen, try it out; also they have great gyoza and good tonsoku if you go

            on an absolute basis I don't love any of the ramen places in NY (hence my overhype comment, but that doesn't mean its not good) and generally not worth waiting in line for although i've endured the lines several times to get a fix for my ramen cravings

            luckily i go home enough to LA to not have to do it too often; i'm shocked that the wait is still that long at Ippudo, but more power too them b/c it probably means their business is good and making money

            1. re: Lau

              Rockmeisha's ramen is pretty good, but from memory of my last ventures there, I would probably rate Terakawa's over Rockmeisha's. I just find most of Rockmeisha's food a bit uninteresting, despite my post several years ago. Also, there are many places to get tonkotsu ramen in NYC, just not really good versions. Ippudo is probably the winner for that, but I might prefer Santoka's (in NJ... wish they would open up a spot in NYC). I'm not sure you'll find better tonkotsu ramen in LA either. Neither the well-touted places like Hakata Shinsengumi or Daikokuya offer a better product that I've found here in NYC. If you want shio- or shoyu-ramen, there are places I might prefer in LA, but as far as I'm concerned, the playing field is pretty even between both cities.

              On a final note, I think Ippudo's continued success is based on their smart market research and remaking their restaurant to fit the NY dining trends. I don't think their current set-up would fly in Japan, even with the growth of the upscaled so-called "ramen-dining" places that have been popping up here and there in Tokyo. The long wait, the lounge-y feel with the bar in the lobby is exactly what I don't like about it, but probably what most NYers do like about it. I'll chalk it up to smart business planning, but I doubt that I'll be among the throngs waiting there.

              1. re: E Eto

                i think santouka in costa mesa tonkotsu is much better than ippudo...i actually dont even think its a contest bc i like it that much better though truth be told its not as good as it was when it first opened; I've never been to the santouka in NJ although it is top of mind next time im in NJ

                shinsengumi is alright and i dont really like foo tei in hacienda heights is supposedly the best shoyu in LA now although i havent trekked out there yet


                E Eto - anyhow, back to the original sounds like u think ippudo is better than terakawa?

                1. re: Lau

                  I'm not sure it matter so much with the Santoka locations. I'm not exactly sure of this, but I believe everything that goes into their ramen is made in a central plant and distributed to their shops (in the US). The main departure with Ippudo was their insistence on using ingredients available to them in the US, and they make the broth in-house. Thus creating a "new" ramen recipe for the NY shop (at least that was what they were touting when they were opening). I'm not sure if you're saying that you think Santoka's Costa Mesa location is better than their Torrance or West LA branches, but as I said, that shouldn't matter, unless they have really expert preparers in one branch over the others, but as with most chain restaurants, the instructions are in the handbook.

                  I'll have to see about Foo Foo Tei. I've been once, and thought it was OK. They do way too much there instead of concentrating on one main recipe. Call me skeptical, so far.

                  I've mentioned 2 or 3 times in this thread how I feel about the comparison between Ippudo and Terakawa. Did you not catch that?

                  1. re: E Eto

                    ive noticed inconsistencies between the santouka branches in LA although admittedly ive only been to the west LA branch once...maybe its just my own personal taste, but ippudo isn't my thing I guess and by that i think its good (def dont think its bad), i just dont think it really blows me away or anything

                    and no i didnt catch it, but i was sorta skimming, so my bad

                    my initial reaction to the large amt of different types of ramen at foo foo tei was the same as yours (i generally find more is less in those types of situations), but the reviews ive seen are from pretty credible reviewers so i do still want to try it

    2. walked by this joint and funnily, it looked kinda rundown like it had been there for a long time already; the place is definitely the opposite of sleek ippudo but glad to hear that you like the place, will definitely give it a go. interesting the note about local hires; peeking in I thought for a second that it was a chinese crew masquerading as japanese, much like the typical delivery sushi places all over the place. might have also been the relatively low prices that made me second guess; I'm tempted by the ramen + half curry combo for $12.

      Terakawa Ramen
      18 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10010

      1. hmm, i saw them building this place but forgot about it -- thanks for the reminder. i'll definately stop in soon. tonkotsu style ramen is perfect for the iffy/rainy weather we are having.

        1. Me and a few of the eG guys are due a visit here soon, thanks for the preview. It's all about the tare, isn't it, so I'll see about toppings and such myself when I go -

          I know Ippudo had their ace man and mgt team in town when they got here - was that also the case with Setagaya? It seemed like they left it to their NY franchisers pretty quickly.

          1. Stopped by here for a meal after refusing to wait in line at the Big Apple BBQ. I had the terakawa ramen (milky, porky, pork-bone broth), bf had the hiyashi chuka. The ramen noodles were different than other ramens - the noodles were thin and straight, but nicely cooked and springy. The hiyashi chuka had the typical ramen noodles. I enjoyed my meal, no complaints, and think it's a solid and cheap place for ramen if you don't feel like waiting in line at Ippudo. The hiyashi chuka broth/sauce I thought could be more flavorful, but hey, at least they have it. Not a ramen expert by any means, but I thought it was good.

            A few Japanese customers came in and out while we were eating, good sign right?