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Apr 3, 2012 03:03 PM

Manhattan Ramen Critique thread

While there have been a good number of long threads on ramen in Manhattan, most of the posts consisted of very vague, subjective comments like "I like X restaurant more than Y." And since everybody has slightly different preferences for ramen, this often leads to directly contradictory recommendations! I'd like to kick off a thread that tries to break down each ramen place by characteristics so that people can pick out restaurants that suit their tastes more easily.

+ Broth base: Tonkotsu; Seafood; Chicken; etc.
+ Broth type: Miso, shio, shoyu, etc.
+ Broth oiliness: Light; Medium; Heavy
+ Broth saltiness: Light; Medium; Heavy
+ Noodle thickness: Thin; Medium; Thick
+ Noodle mouthfeel: Soft/doughy; Medium; Chewy/rubbery
+ Cha-shu: Any comments you'd like to make on the cha-shu
+ Other toppings: Ditto
+ Accompaniments: Cha-han, gyoza, kara-age, etc.
+ Overall impression: Any thoughts you have
+ Misc: Anything that doesn't fit into the above categories.

Obviously this is not going to be an exact science. What I consider to be light broth could be called medium by another person with a lighter palate, for example. But hopefully this rubric will help us to communicate better about what aspects of various ramen restaurants we like. Also, as each listed aspect tends to differ between different types of ramen at the same restaurant, I'd like to encourage everyone to write about the different types of ramen separately.


+ Broth base: Not sure, I think it's chicken; pretty sure it's not tonkotsu as it doesn't have that thick, earthy underlying flavor.
+ Broth type: CURRY! :D
+ Broth oiliness: Medium (the curry paste makes the broth a little heavier)
+ Broth saltiness: Medium (again the curry paste makes this a more heavily-seasoned broth, but it's still very sippable for me)
+ Noodle thickness: Medium (typical ramen noodles, not as thick as Misoya or Sapporo)
+ Noodle mouthfeel: Medium on the soft side. Definitely softer than most ramen I've had, but still with a little bite.
+ Cha-shu: Very well-seasoned and tender, with a little bit of fat.
+ Other toppings: Scallions and half a salty poached egg. Absolutely love the egg, it's much more flavorful than the typical plain boiled egg you get at lots of places, but it fits in well with the flavor of the broth. Also it's very soft, which fits in well with the texture of the noodles.
+ Accompaniments: I keep forgetting to try their cha-han because I'm so excited about their ramen every time I go there, but I always see other people order it and I stare at their order jealously because it smells so good and looks incredible. My husband ordered the gyoza once and it was just ok. Kinda weak flavors overall and very loose, wimpy filling. They serve annin tofu as desert as well, and it's pretty good. Kinda hard to fuck up annin tofu though.
+ Overall impression: I <3 this ramen! Strong on the curry flavor but still light enough to sip by itself, which I personally prefer to the heavier styles of broth that you can only consume with noodles to balances out the saltiness and oiliness. I also like that the noodles are on the softer side, because I don't like noodles that are very chewy (makes me feel like I'm eating rubber).
+ Misc: The chefs will give you a glass of ice water as you sit down, and you can order tea for extra $. I haven't tried their tea yet, though I think they don't serve barley tea which is a shame.

+ Broth base: Same as above
+ Broth type: Shio
+ Broth oiliness: Light
+ Broth saltiness: Light
+ Noodle thickness: Thin. They serve a different, thinner kind of noodles with the Shio broth, not sure if you can request it with other broth types, as they don't list it as an option on the menu.
+ Noodle mouthfeel: Soft.
+ Cha-shu: Same as above
+ Other toppings: Egg and scallions as above, I think it also comes with bamboo shoots and corn.
+ Accompaniments: Same as above
+ Overall impression: One of the lightest bowls of ramen I've ever tried. I like it, though I have a hard time imagining ordering this over the curry ramen. My husband thought it was a bit too bland. I also love the thin noodles. Not quite as awesome as my favorite Rosemead Shinsengumi noodles, but the closest to it that I've found so far in NYC.

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  1. Ramen Setagaya

    Broth base: Seafood; extremely savory, chock-full of umami
    Broth type: Shio
    Broth oiliness: Light
    Broth saltiness: Heavy; not very sippable.
    Noodle thickness: Thin.
    Noodle mouthfeel: Chewy.
    Cha-shu: A bit smoky, a bit sweet, very tender, just a sliver of fat around. Probably the best cha-shu I've had in NYC so far, and the only one worth ordering extras.
    Other toppings: Scallion slivers, bamboo, seaweed flakes, and 2 halves of a poached egg. The egg is lightly salty, not quite as flavorful as the ones from Rai Rai Ken. The bamboo is fairly bland and is fairly soft, not crunchy.
    Accompaniments: I didn't order any sides, because I was saving room for takoyaki from the Otafuku stand the next block over, but they had quite an assortment of the usual suspects. I am very curious about their onigiri offerings; maybe next time.
    Overall impression: Definitely very enjoyable; the thin noodles are right to my taste, though I would have preferred them cooked a little more. The broth flavor is fairly heavy and so not very sippable, but the proportion of noodles to broth was good and so you'll probably finish both at the same time. For $10 you get a reasonably-sized bowl, though not as big as what you get at Sapporo for $10. I like the seafood-y-ness of their broth and the thin noodles, so I'll probably be back when I'm in the mood for it, but overall, I'll probably choose Rai Rai Ken more often.
    Misc: Another enjoyable super-casual down-home venue. The waitress was very friendly and attentive; was there to take our order the second we were ready, and was there to take away our bowls and give us the check the minute we were done.

    7 Replies
    1. re: IreneDAdler

      There are a dozen or so mediocre spots like RaiRaiKen, Sapporo, and Setagaya. What are your superlative spots?...Also, you can just tell these places how you like your noodles cooked. It's up to the customer but shops will cook to a default level.

      1. re: Silverjay

        Setagaya's Ramen at all locations(even with name changes) is mediocre. Their curry
        ramen i like best. Sometimes i find their broth too oily. and noodles overcooked or starchy.
        I do like Ippudo's shiro ramen, but I like Ippudo for the side dishes especially
        mentaiko, and the pork buns.
        Misoya has my favorite ramen. The broth is miso based. The noodles curly and a little thick. The Hokkaido style Kome ramen is my favorite, i really like the corn. The pork is pretty good but could be a little juicier.Overall that is my go to spot for ramen. The owner takes pride in his work, and I like watching him on the live TV monitor thru the steam cloud.

        1. re: foodwhisperer

          Anyone have any updates on when and where Ivan Ramen is opening up?

          1. re: Ricky

            Ivan Orkin is opening a shop here in NY? That's news to me. Cool stuff.