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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 amazon.jp 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.

      Pros:
      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.

      Cons:
      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: http://www.citypaper.net/authors/drew...

                    2. Well actually right over the bridge, but Sagami is your best bet.

                      1. Finally made it to Terakawa. My experience varies from Lost Squirrel, thus the post.
                        Service was a 10, wish family took that good care of me, constant replenishment of tea, water and whatever we needed.
                        Got the regular ramen, findings.
                        Broth-While rich lacked the depth of the better Japanese ones or even Ippudo in NY.
                        Ramen-Very weak, overcooked and compared to broth waaaay too much, bowl was packed
                        Pork- For me a perfect 10, as good as pork belly ever in a soup.
                        Egg-While only a half cooked very well.
                        Had to add many seasonings to give any flavor at all, something very rarely done in Japan. Was it dummied down over here, could be.

                        Also shared an order of steamed pork buns, small and again lacking in flavor.

                        Might go back to try their udon with tempura, not overly hopeful though.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                          Yes, I noticed that broth is "lighter" than other Japanese ramen places I have tried. I may talk to them one day, but I know this is a conscious decision on their parts. They said that they worry the more original broth will offend people in Philadelphia.

                          As for the ramen itself, it will be an easy fix for you. They offer four different "wellness" or "doneness", so you just need to ask the ramen to be cooked to a different degree.

                          My experience of their ramen is better than their udon.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Thanks for the doneness thing, did not notice.
                            Where in this area do you get the chewy wonderful varied texture udon?
                            Or again am l S.O.L. ?

                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                              It took me awhile, but I found this. You probably have seen these little signs standing on your table too:

                              http://www.phoodie.info/wp-content/up...

                              On the left, you can see that you can request the "doneness" of the noodle. I usually request kata-men.

                              http://www.phoodie.info/wp-content/up...

                              I believe the people there told me that the "default" is the fu-tsuu men. So if you didn't say anything, then that is what you will get.

                              I don't really know much about udon in this area. In all fairness, I only had udon once at Terakawa. All I remember is that it wasn't anything amazing. It wasn't horrible. If you find out any good udon place, please let me know.

                              I have tasted a few Ramen shops in Toronto, Canada, and I have to say those ramen in Toronto has a much richer and saltier (intense) broth.

                        2. I have been to Nom Nom many times now, and Hiro once.

                          In general, I think Hiro is better. Broth was very rich and good, pork belly was rolled rather than a slice. They also have nice side dishes, we had greens with bonito flakes on top which was fun and tasty. The place and food just feels a little more authentic and staff were very nice.

                          However last time I was at Nom Nom, they were offering special pork cheek you could get instead of pork belly. The large bowl with pork cheek ended up costing over $15, but the meat was amazing. The meat was served on the side and literally melted in the mouth and had great flavor. Expensive but worth trying.

                          1. Last night with an Asian friend tried Hiro at 11th and Chestnut.
                            Place had a few patrons at close to 9 PM.
                            Manager was very welcoming and helpful, place spotlessly clean.
                            We had their fried chicken app, the Black pig ramen and the pig and miso ramen, also brewed green hot tea.
                            Best thing were the two broths, both were ungreasy and very porky, l liked the miso addition, my friend preferred her purist pork version.
                            Compared to even Terazawa's pork belly, this was OK and just a thin slice, not enough and not thick enough to really benefit from the belly texture.
                            Apparantly there is a 'lab' in NJ that makes the ramen noodles for the Phila ramen shops according to each shops desires and recipes. It came out chewy as ordered but compared to Japanese and even NY ones was flavorless and not at all iteresting.
                            The chicken was fine with a dipping sauce and a large portion, we left some of the chicken as both too much food and no real reason to eat more of it.
                            ALL dishes including the tea were too hot to eat, wonderful for me.
                            Go again, if walking by, sure; if had to go to, probably not.

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                              Thanks.

                              "Compared to even Terazawa's pork belly" Is Terazawa the same as Terakawa? Or is that a different ramen restaurant? The Terakawa has changed its pork slice recipe a few times. It was pork belly, and then they changed it to pork shoulder, and then I think it may have changed to pork belly again. According to the owner, he used pork belly because it is what it is used in many places in Japan, but then he noticed that many consumers (especially females) do not finish the pork belly. So he changed to the leaner cut of pork shoulder.....etc.

                              I have had Nom Nom and Terakawa. While I like both places, I was blown away at Toronto. The Toronto ramen restaurants are a whole step above the Philly ones -- well, at least if we are talking about the broth.

                              Thanks for your review. I may stop by Hiro.

                              Was the your black pig ramen good? Does the black refers to the pig or the sauce/oil? I really like the black garlic oil, pig ramen at Sansotei in Toronto. Tonkosu Black. :)

                              http://www.sansotei.com/menu.html

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                Duh, Terakawa yes, confused with NakaZawa in NY for sushi.
                                Yes again, black garlic oil, but barely noticeable.

                                BTW went back with my Taiwanese friend the night before to E Mei, oh my, we left most things, greasy and way underflavored both heat and seasonings.

                                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                  <BTW went back with my Taiwanese friend the night before to E Mei, oh my, we left most things, greasy and way underflavored both heat and seasonings.>

                                  Do you mean the E Mei food was greasy and under-flavoerd? I do always find their food to be quiet greasy. Szechuan dishes are often greasy as they are, and E Mei is a bit more than other Szechuan restaurants. However, I have found the foods to be quiet favorful. That being said, I have not been there for almost 2 years now, so things could have changed. Or you and I simply have a different threshold.

                                  Any nice Szechuan restaurant recommendation? Four Rivers is no longer the same. (Four Rivers foods were noticeably less greasy than E-Mei). You may have heard that Four Rivers is sold and the original owner and head chef have left.

                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8911...

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    Yes no more greasy than before, in fact less pooled fat in dishes, but not flavorful. Most was also flabby and not temperature hot. Will not return
                                    Hoping you had a Szechuan choice, not a fan of Han.

                                      1. re: barryg

                                        /Seafood Hot and Sour soup, my mistake thought would be like normal hot and sour but was like egg drop soup with a few tiny shrimp and heat from black pepper and sour from vinegar, but very little of both.
                                        /Eggplant and garlic sauce casserole, some residual fat but no flavor at all.
                                        /peapods and pea leaves stir fried with garlic, best dish, hot garlicky and well seasoned.
                                        /Rice powder steamed with ribs, my Taiwanese companion uses this as her determinant as to whether good place or not, her comment was they used the very cheap portion of the ribs and greatly underseasoned the dish, she ate very little of it, and barely warm.
                                        They had tried to bring all 4 dishes together and while l stopped that procession to the table, they had apparently cooked the other dishes and left them cooling in the back until we were ready for them.

                                      2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                        Nah, I am not a big fan of Handy Nasty too....

                                        Did you ever try Four Rivers before it was sold? Did you like it better or worse than E-Mei? Thanks.

                                        <Rice powder steamed with ribs>

                                        I don't think this is a Szechuan dish. I have had some really nice ones at Taipei, Taiwan. Four Rivers might (past tense) have fit your friend's taste better. Four Rivers was operated/owned by Taiwan immigrants.

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          'Did you ever try Four Rivers before it was sold? Did you like it better or worse than E-Mei? Thanks.'

                                          Yes and better

                                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                            :) Interesting, you must have more of a Taiwanese influence/taste. I like the two places about the same, but I went to Four Rivers just a bit more often. Most of my Chinese friends (from Mainland) prefer E-Mei more so than Four Rivers though.

                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                              l liked the smallness and personal service at 4 r