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Aug 26, 2012 04:43 PM

NYC Ramen Recommendations

As my name says, a huge Ramen fan. Heading into the city this weekend and was wondering if the wait for Ippudo is really worth it? Also, I have never been to Noodle Bar (D. Chang's) and was wondering how the noodles were there. Are there any Ramen places off the beaten path that are a worth a trip? Any help from Locals would be appreciated.

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  1. Go to Ippudo earlier that day and ask to put your name down for dinner, and come back later.

    If you want to do a David Chang restaurant, go to Momofuku Ssam Bar. It does not make sense to do Noodle Bar and Ippudo. The Momofuku ramen is decent but not life-changing. However, the other dishes on the Momofuku menus are consistently interesting, fresh, creative, and delicious IMO.

    9 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      How early do you think I'd need to go to Ippudo to get a same-day reservation for 3 or 4 on a Friday for an early (6 PM) dinner?

      1. re: Pan

        If it's for this Friday, hard to say how busy they will be, as it's Labor Day weekend. And ramen never quite strikes me as a summer food...but there's always a crowd it seems, even in 95 degree weather!

        1. re: kathryn

          I just realized I never posted a report on my meal. I got a reservation for 5 for 6 o'clock by walking in around 12:30 PM or so, on the Friday before Labor Day.

          In short, the meal was quite good. The last time I went, I got the Akamaru Modern, and it was way too fatty for my stomach. This time, I got Shiokara Classic, as did 4 of my dining partners (the other got spicy ramen). Everyone was happy with their ramen, and I felt mine was very good. Also, our appetizers were excellent. We got gyoza, a special of fishcakes with squid ink, quite spicy renkon chips, and edamame. I also got extra noodles. Even the Shiokara Ramen broth is fairly oily, so next time, I'll drink less of it. But the food and the experience were good and fun, and I would definitely return.

      2. re: kathryn

        kathryn - is it possible to walk in at 3PM to eat? What about 5PM - has the queue already begun?

        1. re: saticoy

          Here are their business hours, note that Sunday is different...and 3pm seems risky but it depends what day of the week we're taking about. The line usually forms before they open.

          Mon - Sat : 11:00 am - 3:30 pm
          Sun : 11:00 am - 5:00 pm
          Mon - Thu : 5:00 pm - 11:30 pm
          Fri - Sat : 5:00 pm - 12:30 am
          Sun : 5:00 pm - 10:30 pm

          1. re: kathryn

            Thanks - I have been drooling over their menu. I have flexibility, so would like to target either a lunch or dinner with the least possible wait. Looks like maybe a very late lunch on Sunday might be my target (4PM).

          2. re: saticoy

            i wouldn't risk walking in at 3pm, especially considering that many offices will close early this Friday. Ippudo stop serving at 3:30 and don't reopen until 5pm. you could easily get shut out. definitely better to walk in early, leave your name and return later. you could always try for a seat at 5 or 6 and head to Noodle Bar if you're not able to get in.

            i prefer Ippudo's ramen and their pork bun to Momofuku's, but i'm a big fan of both. i've never had a bad dish at either.

            1. re: coasts

              How early is "early" to walk in and get a reservation for later?

              1. re: coasts

                Thanks, coasts. I'm not the OP, but will keep your advice in mind when I visit!

                I will make a point to try their pork bun - I loved the one at Momofuku Ssam.

          3. Also, pound for pound, what is everyone's favorite Ramen spots in NYC?

            21 Replies
            1. re: Always_Eating_Ramen

              I am a fan of Minca on East 5th and Rai Rai Ken on East 10th.

              1. re: mitchleeny

                This week I went to 3 ramen shops.
                Momofuku Noodle Bar- wow that place cut the size of a bowl of ramen way down. The ramen was not very good, the noodles were starchy. the broth so so. Their oyster buns have only one oyster on them, I think they are $12. Totally absurd
                I went to Ippudo. I have not been there in many months. The lines are usually too long. I used to think Ippudo had the best ramen in NY. I don't think that anymore. I think they don't take the care they did when they opened. They do have lots of people shouting Japanese words and phrases. When I responded to my waitress in Japanese, she had not a clue what I was saying. Turns out she was Chinese and only knew a few phrases.
                The Shiromaru ramen was flavorless. This is the ramen I once liked. I had to add some hot pepper just to give it some taste. The size was much bigger than Momofuku, but it was not an enjoyable soup. The pork buns are as good as I remember them. The fried chicken was not good. I was really surprised that the quality of soup here has gone so downhill.
                Misoya was my third ramen stop of the week. The ramen was full of flavor. The corn in it, even though it is frozen or canned corn, is a treat for me. The noodles were perfectly cooked. I was happy with their ramen.
                I am sure there is better ramen. Some have recommended Minca. I have passed that place many times. I will have to try it as a few CH'ers like it a lot. Totto has such ridiculous lines, I just can't force myself to wait on such a line.

                1. re: foodwhisperer

                  I think both Momofuku and Minca pretty much suck...I wouldn't be surprised if at this point Ippudo is mailing it in. It's a pretty ambitious operation to maintain consistent quality. I don't know how it works though. I haven't been in a while...I had the same experience speaking Japanese to a Chinese girl at Misoya. I don't find the ramen there superlative in any way, but it's not bad- except the chashu is always screwed up when I've been. But it's really some simple soup with a pretty healthy sized scoop of miso. Not very complex. Ramen Yebisu in Williamsburg makes a more complex broth for their miso ramen and less of a bold "miso" taste- which I prefer. I want to go once more before I write it up. I went to Totto once a couple of years ago and thought it was good.

                  When it comes to ramen shops here, it's always interesting to read about people complaining about waiting in line or loud environments or lack of side dishes, etc. It's like New Yorkers want the Tokyo experience without the Tokyo.

                  There's a few more ramen joints opening up in the EV these days. Maybe one or two of them will be destination-worthy.

                  1. re: Silverjay

                    I'm no ramen expert but I went to Ippudo a few months ago, and was very excited about it, and found the ramen completely underwhelming. The pork buns were delicious though

              2. re: Always_Eating_Ramen

                I only eat non-meat ramen, so my advice is useless if you're curious about pork quality, etc. That said, Menchanko is my favorite. I like Totto Ramen and Misoya a lot, Ippudo a little less, and Minca & Rai Rai Ken not much at all.


                1. re: small h

                  I think Menchanko's ramen could be a little underrated since it's not the restaurant's feature. The Hakata ramen there is great. I'm a huge meat eater but when it comes to ramen I care mostly about the noodles and the broth. The only with-ramen pork that stands out to me is Santouka's Tokusen Toroniku, but you have to go to Mitsuwa in NJ for that.

                  1. re: kyph0515

                    I like Menchanko Tei but I have found that "Menchanko" is the thing to order as opposed to Ramen. But I have no frame of reference to compare to any of the others. Basically anything that comes in that hot metal pot seems to be good. (and you can add extra ingredients for about $2.50) The ramen is certainly okay, but I am usually not a huge fan of "pink" broth and those fishball-like swirley things (not usually a fan of fish balls in general). I have yet to have a truly great Ramen though and have not been to any of the major ones like Ippudo etc.

                    I've been there twice now because it is so convenient to Grand Central. (I actually liked the fried chicken appetizer because it was juicy and made with dark meat chicken.)

                    Overall though, I still think I prefer Pho.

                  2. re: small h

                    Minca has an amazing toroniku with meltingly delicious pillows of pork. The toroniku broth is quite heavy though. Menkuitei by St Mark's is my go to and they have a great hakata. Ippudo is delicious but the lines are ridiculous. The times I've gone for lunch to avoid the traffic and for the lunch set, I've felt the broth has been as fully nuanced as dinner.

                    1. re: windycity

                      If you mean Menkui Tei on Cooper Square, I find them hit or miss. I've had really nice meals there, and nearly as many lousy ones - sludgy broth (which is what turned me off Minca) and flabby noodles. I also think the service there is horrible, and this makes me dislike the food. I've only been for lunch, though, so maybe the professional waitstaff arrives later in the day.

                      1. re: small h

                        The Minca broth can be very heavy, heavier than I like especially in the toroniku. I realized that it's better to go with the chicken or do a half chicken/ half pork broth there. It makes the broth more drinkable. Generally I really enjoy Menkuitei for their tonkatsu and sara udon. The service can be very indifferent at times, but I also don't have to wait 1.5 hrs like at Ippudo.

                        Totto is next on my list to try. I had a really bad experience at Menchanko that made me never want to go back. Less said the better. Rai rai ken I find meh.

                  3. re: Always_Eating_Ramen

                    My favourite spot is probably Totto Ramen on 52nd between 8th and 9th. Minca is great and its sister Kambi isn't too shabby. Ippudo feels a little "classy" for a ramen joint but has great noodles nonetheless. Haven't been to Momofoku Noodle Bar.

                    1. re: kyph0515

                      I second (or third?) Totto Ramen, although, I have to admit, I have not yet tried Ippudo.

                      1. re: kyph0515

                        I third/fourth Totto. I've only had different styles of ramen at Totto and Ippudo--so this is comparing apples and oranges--but, for what it's worth, I enjoyed my meal at Totto more than Ippudo. Ippudo is great though.

                        I've only been to Ippudo during their lunch hours with no wait. I don't think I've been on a Friday, though, so not sure if that will make a difference.

                        1. re: kyph0515

                          Totto Ramen is pretty awesome, but the line can be a pain. We go there for lunch sometimes, and I usually walk over around 11 to put my name on the list so we can get a table right when it opens.

                          If you're near their and the line is just awful, you can head over to Sapporo on 49th and 7th, which is pretty decent, cheap, and moves much faster than Totto.

                        2. re: Always_Eating_Ramen

                          Another vote for Totto Ramen. They've been consistently good and I like their cold (hiyashi) ramen, which is only available in the summer. The largest party they'll seat is 4. There's usually a crush of people and long waits when it opens at noon, but things get a little better after a couple hours (what I've noticed on weekdays, anyway).

                          Minca and Kambi aren't bad either, and Ippudo feels more stylish/classy as another poster pointed out, but the food is good. I've been meaning to try Jin Ramen as well, since it's been so highly recommended.

                          1. re: el Mitch

                            Another vote for Totto. Ramen is better than Ippudo but Ippudo has better starters/sides if you're interested in those things. Pork buns at Momofuku are better than the spicy pork buns at Ippudo. The pork belly Momofuku uses is amazing. Ramen is so so though.

                            1. re: Bkeats

                              Another vote for Totto. Their veggie ramen is amazing - they manage to make it every bit as flavorful and rich and full of texture as any pork ramen. This is coming from someone who would normally never order veggie noodles since I love tonkotsu broth so. The wait is annoying, though, as others have said.

                          2. re: Always_Eating_Ramen

                            My two favorite ramen places are Ippudo and Misoya. Totally different in styles and atmosphere.

                            1. re: Always_Eating_Ramen

                              I've only been to Ippudo in terms of real ramen houses, but I enjoy it so much I'm not very tempted to try the other places. I went there for lunch today. My better half had the Akamaru Modern, I had the Tori Ramen with a side of braised pork belly.

                              1. re: alkonost

                                To have found a favorite place and not give a damn about the others: that is culinary bliss.

                                1. re: calf

                                  I agree! It is also very convenient that all my favorite places all seem to be in Little Tokyo or very close to it (Ippudo, Yuba, Venieros, etc). It's like I just roll out of bed and be near my favorite eats in a few minutes. I'm really going to miss these places when I move to Dallas next month. Long live Little Tokyo!!!!

                            2. My favorite ramen place right now is Jin Ramen. it's a little out of the way- on Broadway just south of 125th St. But really worth the trip. IMO it's better than Ippudo and much better than Mommofuku's ramen.Their broths are all wonderful, but I particularly love Jin's ramens that are served with melt in your mouth slices of Char Siu pork, as well as the Miso ramen.Their Kara-Age and Nankotsu Kara-Age is also delicious. it's become very popular since it opened and can get
                              very busy,

                              3 Replies
                                1. re: rose water

                                  Glad to hear there is good (perhaps great ) ramen on the west side with little wait. I love Totto, but waiting 2 hours for noodles doesn't fit n my day. I have been very happy with Hide-chan, but that is so not convenient from the UWS.

                                  Gonna have to hit Jin in the next few weeks and see

                                  1. re: dyrewolf

                                    +1 on Jin Ramen. I go once a week (maybe a little less when it's 90deg out), and I am always happy. The Tonkotsu stock is the best I've had in the city: rich, almost creamy, and bursting with pork goodness. It is indeed better than Ippudo, and the head chef (Mark) is a very nice fellow and always looking for feedback.

                              1. Everyone has their own favorite when it comes to Ramen. But IMHO Minca's ramen tastes better than Ippudo and it feels more like a ramen joint.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: joonjoon

                                  I used to go to Minca's years ago and loved it. It was my favorite. Heard rumors that it had gone down hill. I'm glad that it's still good. Will have to make the trek again now that it will be cooler soon.

                                  1. re: chowmeow

                                    I have never thought of Minca as being on much of a hill to come down from.

                                  2. re: joonjoon

                                    I'm still stuck on Misoya's ramen. Their new Tokyo style ramen is good and they now have a list of things you can add as extras to the ramen.

                                  3. I had a surprisingly good by NYC standards(passable-okay in Tokyo) Tsukemen at Rai Rai Ken tonight. Soup was thin and watery compared to some of the big names in Tokyo like Ganja, Honda, Tetsu, and Rokurinsha, but it is probably the closest Gyokai Tsukemen I've had in NYC. Super fishy broth, lots of menma, thick tender chashu, good seasoned egg, some kind of xo sauce like spicy oil, and thick al dente noodles, unlike the thin disappointing tsukemen noodles at places like Kambi, Minca, and Ippudo, they even bring you a bowl of stock at the end to add to your broth to finish it off.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Ricky

                                      Definitely intrigued, but have never been a fan of Rai Rai Ken. There is also a new place in Williamsburg (Ramen Yebisu) that does a gyoukai broth, though it is not tsukemen. It's all a step forward though from tonkotsu overload.

                                      1. re: Silverjay

                                        I always thought Rai Rai Ken was mediocre and I gave them another shot the first week they moved into their new space and tried what I thought would be their signature items shio, shoyu and thought they were so underwhelming. To be fair I havent been to Rai Rai Ken since their revamp and move, so maybe those items have improved. I was surprised by tsukemen and the mabo ramen.