NYC's 10 Best Bowls of Ramen
It was a chilly afternoon with a stiff west wind as I stood in front of Ippudo earlier this week. Where were the crowds I'd encountered on every previous occasion? Maybe it was the cold weather and threatening rain that had driven them away, or maybe, in the aftermath of New Year's, not so many people were ready to blow $25 or $30 on lunch. Either way, I was able to walk right in, sit down, and enjoy a stupendous bowl of noodles, with a broth the likes of which I probably won't see again in my lifetime.
Within a half-mile of Ippudo, you can count nine places either entirely dedicated to ramen or serving ramen as a major portion of their menus. How did this humble noodle, which migrated from China to Japan before coming here, become so huge? And is it finally declining in popularity after a three-year run as the city's favorite starch. (OK, maybe pizza is still bigger.)
Here, without further ado, are our ranked nominations for the best bowls of ramen in the city. Please feel free to disagree.
10. Limited Order Ramen at Chuko -- Started by two former Morimoto veterans, this ramen parlor has sent the venerable noodle twirling in a decidedly hipster direction. The broth is ghostly white and frothy and the pork tastes like bacon, and the entire roster of ingredients is austere in the extreme. This bowl scores high points for novelty and purity. 552 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-576-6701
9. Mayu Ramen at Terakawa Ramen -- This is the darkest and stormiest bowl of ramen in the city, the pork broth laced with garlic cooked almost to a cinder, a plethora of other ingredients, like wood-ear mushrooms and bamboo shoots, crowding the bloated ramen. You won't go away hungry from this unusual bowl. 18 Lexington Avenue, 212-777-2939; 885 Ninth Avenue, 212-307-0170
8. Momofuku Ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar -- This bowl lays claim to being one of the inspirations behind the current ramen boom. That said, the soup shows the touch of an ambitious chef, featuring two kinds of pork (roast belly and shredded shoulder), flowers of fishcake, whole sheets of nori as if stolen from the sushi bar down the street, and a science-cheffy egg. The bowl flaunts its noodles prominently, while other places hide them beneath the surface. 171 First Avenue, 212-777-7773
7. Chashu Ramen at Rockmeisha -- This Japanese gastropub hidden in plain sight off Sheridan Square cultivates a 1950s wrestling theme, and you're likely to see Gorgeous George tangling with a Japanese wrestler on the monitors. More important, only one ramen is offered, with no fussy options -- this is pub grub at its Japanese best, based in a murky pig-foot broth that tastes like it's been boiled for three years. Plenty of pork, too. 11 Barrow Street, 212-675-7775