Guys!! I thought I did a noodle hat-trick in New York City, but then I was going through my photos and realised I actually squeezed in 4 bowls of deliciousness.
I’m fairly sure me forgetting Ramen-ya tells you quite a lot already, without me actually telling you anything yet.
It wasn’t bad ramen. It wasn’t great ramen. So I guess that makes it ra-meh-n?
It was a busy night in Greenwich Village, and Ramen-ya was busy too. But again, as a single diner, I was slotted in at the counter straightaway. However, someone had had the genius plan to not have the kitchen visible behind the counter, so you just looked upon an empty void used for storage of boxes.
I chose the miso Tonkotsu. It was everything you would typically expect, pork, mushrooms, egg. All very tasty, but to be honest after Mr Taka, the next noodles were always going to have to step up their game to be in the same league.
Would I go back? Sure, but only if other options weren’t available.
Ramen-ya, you were perfectly ok, but nothing really set you apart. I’m therefore giving you a firm 3/5.
I’m not one for histrionics, but I think I may have found the best ramen ever…
My plan for Friday night in New York City was to have a quick bowl of noodles before hitting up some trendy Lower East Side bars. I’d googled to find a place with decent reviews and set off in the direction of Cho-Ko…
After a traumatic journey which involved three subway lines and a bus, I looked through the window and something about it just didn’t appeal to me. Fortunately, on the opposite side of the road was a more promising ramen joint with a queue outside.
Mr Taka was BUSY! But as a lone-diner, I was able to bypass the ‘line’ and was seated at the counter with a great view into the kitchen.
Now let me tell you about the Tonkotsu noodles…
Black Garlic Oil, parmesan, spicy miso and MEAT!! Thick, fatty, smokey, anise-y meat. Looking around at what other people had ordered, I had chosen well – most dishes seemed to just have one chunk of meat, but mine had three.
The broth was creamy and had paper-thin slices of raw garlic – this was new for me, and although the first slice was a surprise it’s definitely something I’ll be adding to my own recipe now!
The restaurant was also playing some great J-Pop.
This was ramen so good that I adjusted my plans for the evening and just went home satisfied. And honestly, I don’t even feel like I missed out.
Mr Taka gets a solid 5/5. If you’re in NYC you neeeed to visit!
Next on my short burst of New York ramen eateries was Hana Noodles.
Again, this was a stall located inside a ‘market’, this time the DeKalb Market Hall in Downtown Brooklyn.
Now, it turned out this wasn’t strictly ramen (although I’m not sure there are hard and fast rules about what is and isn’t) but more like just regular noodles.
However, I’d trecked all the way there so decided to give it a shot. I decided if I wasn’t going to have proper ramen then I should at least pick something a bit unusual so ordered the Peanut Butter Noodles with Pineapple.
It took a while to make, as all noodles at this noodle shop are hand-pulled to order – you have the choice of noodle diameter and cross section (flat or round) and can watch the chefs getting very physical with balls of dough to create the noodles.
I wasn’t expecting the dish to be cold either, but it was a perfect lunchtime snack.
On the basis that Hana Noodles wasn’t ramen I feel it’s a bit unfair to score them, but what I did eat was delicious and the service was fantastic. If pushed I’d have to award a 2.5/5 – as a bowl of noodles it was tasty and refreshing, but not being ramen means points are docked!
What started as a sort of tongue-in-cheek resolution back in 2016 has almost become a way of life.
There are still plenty of places in London that I want to check out, but now whenever I’m abroad I have this unyielding curiosity about their ramen.
With a few days to spare in The Big Apple, I set about seeing how New Yorker’s like their noodles.
First up was Ivan Ramen, which has two branches in NYC. One in the East Village (more on that in a later post) and the branch I graced in Gotham West Market in Hells Kitchen.
The trend in New York seems to be for this ‘market hall’ type food outlets – think street food, but inside. You might grab ramen, but your friends could get a burger, or fried chicken, or Lebanese food or whatever. A pick’n’mix of deliciousness.
Ivan’s Slurp Shop offers a relatively limited menu, but the choices all had something different to say, this is ramen with a modern twist. Hipster ramen if you will.
I had 25 minutes until I had to be at the Upright Citizens Brigade. So although I was tempted by the Triple Garlic Mazeman I opted for the sesame-heavy Chicken Paitan on the basis that it would be less offensive to the people sat next to me in the theatre for 90 minutes.
Within minutes I was presented with the creamiest ramen you ever did see. Now, I love a thick broth, but this was almost too thick to slurp! Take a second to go back and look at it…notice it’s lusciousness!
The rye noodles were interesting too, more like the texture of rice noodles than wheat ones; springier.
I only happened upon Ivan’s by accident, because it was literally the nearest place to the theatre. It felt like it was on the expensive end of the scale, but I’d definitely recommend it. Perhaps it was because it was late on a Sunday, but I was surprised it wasn’t busier.
Now, before I go on, a word about food festivals – in general, I think they are pointless. They’re usually overpriced and repetitive. However, at just £5 for a ticket which included a free drink, it seemed like a no-brainer, and the advert I saw mentioned there were ramen vendors! Say no more!
I did a full lap of the venue and didn’t see a single ramen stall. My stress levels were mounting.
But then, I spied a lady slurping on noodles from a box. There were ramen here somewhere, I just needed to find them!
Another lap and a half later I found Thousand Knives hidden behind a queue for a bao stall. Apparently, they have a fully fledged restaurant in Dalston, so that’s another one added to the to-eat list!
The menu options were limited, but this is essentially street food/take out noodles, so I didn’t mind too much.
I went for the signature pork ramen just as it comes, and was not disappointed. In fact, the quality of take out ramen consistently surprises me – the noodles were firm, the egg was soft (although a little cold). The spring onions could have been sliced thinner and ideally, there would have been another slice of pork. However, for £8, this is some of the cheapest ramen I’ve had in the UK.
I give them a solid RAMEN (3 out of 5), which for noodles in a cardboard box is actually pretty damn good!
There’s no shortage of ramen joints in Seattle. After trying a few and an evening googling and reading TripAdvisor reviews I decided that the place I absolutely needed to visit was Danbo.
There were some really excellent reviews, and clearly, the word had gotten around – when I arrived at about 19:20 there was a queue to the end of the block.
I took myself on a little explore and found the Elysian Capitol Hill Brewery so stopped in for a beer; my strategy being perhaps it was the early evening rush and I should just give it a while.
About 45 minutes later (oh, ok, it might have been more than one beer) I trundled around the corner and, if anything, the queue had grown.
The beauty of travelling alone is that in such situations you don’t have the dilemma where you want to stay but don’t want to subject anyone else to waiting if they don’t really want to. No siree, I was committed to eating here!
I got chatting to a guy in front of me in the queue. This would definitely not happen in London!
Dan was a few years younger than me and worked at a car hire firm at the airport. He regularly eats at Danbo which I took as another excellent sign! He also gave me a wonderful spur-of-the-moment recommendation for the Pink Floyd Lazer Dome at the Pacific Science Centre, which I booked there and then for later the same evening. #Spontaneous!
Danbo offers customisation options on noodle firmness, broth thickness, spiciness and richness. I think I’ve said previously, if you get a bowl of ramen with perfectly read-to-eat noodles, then by the time you get to the last noodles they are overcooked. Opting for firmer noodles so they have some durability is definitely a top tip.
I went for the classic ramen and a side of yaki gyoza.
The broth was near perfection – leaving a slight oily residue on the roof of your mouth as a little reminder of the deliciousness, and a sweet nuttiness from toasted sesame seeds. The pork was soft and salty, and the egg yolk oozed into the broth just as it should.
It’s really hard to find fault with Danbo, other than the length of the queue, but that’s a reflection of how good the food is! There will likely be no surprise that I’m giving Danbo full marks, RAMEN (5/5).
It’s that time again, time for another Ramen Review!
Heads up, I’m currently in Dublin, and writing this in an emotional and Guinness fueled haze, but I think that can only work out well for the ramen I’m about to review!
A few weeks ago I was in Seattle. I managed to find the time, in 7 days there, to squeeze in 3 separate ramen joints. The first in the hat trick of reviews is over here.
The second place was a freak accident, and by far the earliest I’ve ever eaten the noods. I was early for the St Patricks Day Parade, and apart from a bit on how they are being really good people, the Amazon Spheres weren’t free to get in, so I was at a loss for things to do.
Kiki Ramen wasn’t one of the places I had got on my google hit-list, but I had a quick scan of the menu online and there was a ‘breakfast’ option! Ramen with bacon – I needed that in my life!
The item that actually enticed me in was the Lazy Devils (devilled eggs kiki style – whatever that is) but sadly they were only available in the evenings. Undeterred, I found a table and perused the menu.
Somebody needs to take responsibility for bringing ‘brunch noodles’ to the UK. East London hipsters would lose their actual minds! The broth was a bit on the thin side, but let us look at the facts – bacon, egg, mushroom, fishcake…these were contenders for the perfect noodle.
The only other thing which let down the Kiki Ramen restaurant was that they appeared to be playing two TV stations at the same time which it was too early for my brain to process.
Definitely check it out if you find yourself in Seattle, and let me know how those Lazy Devils are!