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Feb 20, 2012 12:35 AM

Best Japanese ramen soup in greater Philadelphia?

My friend recently returned from Japan and misses their ramen soups. Are there any authentic ones (or at least delicious ones with fresh-tasting noodles) in the area? We've seen Ramen's Boy's poor Yelp reviews and even Morimoto's ramen fails to impress some people.

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  1. I don't think there is anything. Your friend's best bet would be to get on or rakuten and order some home ramen kits directly from Japan. That, or head to NYC.

    11 Replies
    1. re: lost squirrel

      Finally made it out for ramen today. Overall, Terakawa is better than Morimoto but again not as good as NYC and on par (give or take) with a 390JPY bowl from Japan.

      Went to Terakawa for lunch today. Here's a few things I noticed and then a breakdown.

      Ordering Strategy!
      - The mayu ramen was a big mistake, the 'mayu' is supposed to be "Dark roasted leek with crushed garlic oil" and it was instead a whole bunch of charcoal oil. Whoever prepared it let it cook far too long.
      - My companions regular terakawa ramen broth was MUCH better. Next time I'd go for that, although a friend who spent some time in Matsuyama says the tan tan men is pretty good.

      Regular tonkotsu broth - surprisingly decent.
      Egg - although they're should have been a whole egg and not just a half for 10 bucks, at least it wasn't hardboiled. That's a plus. It doesn't compare to good egg in Japan but I'll give it a thumbs up.
      Condiments - good pepper, decent garlic. I would have liked something spicier than togarashi or with raw grated garlic instead of fried, but I can tell they're trying to save money with all shelf-stable condiments.

      Size - way too small!
      Chashiu - terrible. Dry and flavorless. The worst part of the Terakawa ramen and the second worst part of the Mayu (#1 goes to the burnt oil).
      Noodles - the regular ones are cooked too hard for the style of ramen they're going for. Should have been taken out a minute or two earlier. I'd like a bigger portion for 10 bucks too.
      Takoyaki - was it deep fried? WTF is that? Is Maru Global still around? Those takoyaki are a lot better.

      Neither good nor bad:
      Menma - usually it plays a nice supporting role in flavor and texture. Here it was nice to have, but was obviously canned and not high quality.
      Ginger - it's appropriate for the terakawa ramen style, but they really should have it as a condiment for those who like less or more. More would have been nice.

      I stand by my post from almost a year ago, go to NYC for good ramen or make it at home. The quality of the ingredients and the care taken with them at Terakawa doesn't match up with the cost of the meal.

      On it's face, the ramen matches with something that'd cost less than half the price in Japan. Take into account the cost of ingredients being cheaper in the US, waitstaff is paid less and rent is cheaper in Philly versus Tokyo and I can't honestly recommend it in a comparison. If you keep the comparison to Philly ramen shops, I recommend it.

      *DISCLAIMER* I'm VERY picky with ramen. I love ramen. I have eaten hundreds of bowls in Japan. In an office of over 100 people, I ate more ramen than anyone else. Don't tell my boss, but I spent a good portion of my day researching ramen for lunch at work in Tokyo for years.

      1. re: lost squirrel

        Thanks for the detailed writeup and opinion. Have you tried Nom Nom and Hiro yet?

        1. re: barryg

          No problem!

          Not yet. I've just had Morimoto a few years back and today Terakawa. I'll write up the others once I get to them.

            1. re: lost squirrel

              EDIT: I forgot that I had the ramen at the Khyber Pass pop-up about two years ago. It was definitely better than Terakawa, but also VERY small and unfortunately a limited time offering.

              I remember hearing rumors that they'd be starting some sort of izakaya somewhere and I'm hoping it comes to fruition - heck I'm hoping to get hired as a ramen consultant!

            2. re: barryg

              I am looking forward to your opinion too. I think Terakawa is comparable to Nom Nom. It is a tough call for me.

            3. re: lost squirrel

              I couldn't agree more. I have yet to find a bowl of ramen in Philly that even comes close to those I had on a regular basis when I lived in Japan. I lived in the Kansai region in the mid-90's before the huge ramen explosion, but you could find a good bowl even in a mid-sized village.

              My main complaint in general is the noodles. Too tough, and frankly, simply not ramen noodles. Now that said, things have changed in the 15 years of so since I was there. I'm not sure about the newer styles, so I'm curious as to your take.

              Even Osho had solid ramen if you were hung-over enough. Give me a large nama bi-ru, a plate of gyoza, and a hot bowl of ramen...perfect for those groggy Sundays! And don't even get me started on udon...

              1. re: Boognish

                Yeah, good noodles are tough to find here. Terakawa is going for a southern pork soup, and they have the right type of relatively brittle, thin noodles (although they cooked 'em too long). The problem is, those are my least favorite noodle to ever be added to a bowl of broth. I'm a fan of what's popular in Tokyo now, thick and springy, often curly. A rougher outside texture to help hold broth would be nice too.

                I'm a big noodle dude and I think the ones at Nan Zhou are pretty good, but still not quite good enough to really satiate my urge. I haven't tried many other places that are supposed to have good noodles, but I'm open to suggestions.

                Maybe it's time to learn how to make 'em myself? YIKES!

                1. re: lost squirrel

                  Did you ever have them at Izumi on E Passyunk? They don't make them any more as far as I know, but when they did (as a lunch special only) they were the best noodles I knew of in the city. Not that I've tried them all.

                  1. re: Buckethead

                    Really? I didn't know they had noodles. I did see a year ago that they served chawan-mushi and that made me happy - although I never managed to try it.

                    1. re: lost squirrel

                      They don't serve them anymore, as far as I know. They used to do udon and ramen at lunch, but stopped a while back, I don't know why.

          1. Tell him to hop a train and go to NYC

            1. It is true that there is little to no good Ramen in this area, but if he hasn't had Morimoto's yet, he should definitely try it. It's very good. Apart from NY, his best bet around here is to get aquatinted with Chinese and SE Asian noodle soups. Not the same, I know, but we have a lot of good options in that department.

              1. l will be at Ippudo in Manhattan for lunch later this week. Felt Morimoto, while it was ramen was not great ramen.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                  If Matt Ito of Fuji in Haddonfield couldn't satisfy you upon request I would be surprised.
                  But, that's one soup I have not had at Fuji. His soups are out of this world different and varied.

                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                    Morimoto's ramen suffered some serious issues the last time I was there. I don't know what happened in the kitchen, but the broth was horrid.

                    1. re: lost squirrel

                      Agreed, Morimoto's ramen is strangely disappointing. Broth is way too greasy for my taste. Interestingly, the chefs do a very good fish soup if you're into that. It's not on the menu, but they usually have it brewing for the crew.

                  2. Thanks very much, everyone--appreciated!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Mr. Peabody

                      Just an FYI for anyone who reads this thread looking for good ramen: I did try Nom Nom Ramen and will go back for more of their rich broth and chewy noodles. Also, City Paper recently published a helpful article about the local ramen scene: