Few things are more satisfying on a cold winter’s day than a steaming-hot bowl of broth. Some are more exciting than others; unless you’re sick at home, few of us are getting worked up over a cup of chicken noodle. Ramen, the dorm room staple, on the other hand, has now reached a level of popularity that was once unimaginable. With new ramen joints sprouting up across the city on a near daily basis, though, it’s hard to determine which ones are worth the two-hour-plus waits. We’ve scoured the city to find the ten best ramens in NYC.
YUJI Ramen (150 Ainslie Street, Brooklyn; 646-262-1358)
It started as a pop-up inside Williamsburg Japanese breakfast-and-lunch joint Okonomi. But YUJI has turned itself into a complete ramen-ya in the evenings. The tiny space — there are a total of twelve seats — features a truly unique array of product. The Ankimo Miso Ramen ($17) is a perfect example. Noodles swim in a creamy monkfish liver broth with torched squid and bitter dandelion greens. It’s so far from any other version around; kind of weird, but it tastes like you’re eating the ocean.
Tabata Ramen‘s Tabata (540 Ninth Avenue; 212-290-7691)
As far from traditional as you may be able to find — which is what ramen is supposed to be all about — but definitely worth a try, Tabata’s ($10.50) namesake dish intertwines its owner, Linn San Maung’s, Burmese roots with his eleven years spent working in Japan. The broth is made with a combination of soybean and coconut, which is then topped with spicy chicken, red onions, flavored egg, and cilantro. If you’re looking for an exotic take on ramen, this is your spot.
Ivan Ramen‘s (25 Clinton Street; 646-678-3859) Spicy Red Chile Ramen
Long Island native Ivan Orkin has been steadily garnering international acclaim for combining his Jewish heritage with his Japanophile tendencies. Making his name at his ramen shops just outside Tokyo, he has plenty of ramen cred. Back on his home turf, the noodle impresario is a hot commodity. And his hottest selection is the spicy red chile ramen ($15). The crimson-hued broth is flavored with dashi and chicken broth, then filled with minced pork, rye noodles, and a smashed egg.
Momofuku Noodle Bar‘s (171 First Avenue; 212-777-7773) Momofuku Ramen
David Chang is known for a lot of things. The explosion of ramen in the States is probably his biggest accomplishment thus far. The handful of noodle dishes available at his East Village spot are all worthy of applause. But, as is the case with most signature dishes, the Momofuku Ramen is the star here. Luscious dark broth, succulent pork, crisp seaweed, squishy egg: There’s a reason this dish inspired an international trend. [
Mei-Jin Ramen‘s (1572 Second Avenue; 212-327-2800) Mei-Jin
Where most NYC noodle joints focus on broths made of chicken or pork, this Upper East Side spot is all about the beef. Owner Koji Miyamoto simmers bones for thirteen hours until he gets rich and slightly gelatinous stock. It’s offered with soy, spicy chile, and miso ($13). Go for the latter; it’s full-bodied and complex. Beef, bean sprouts, corn, arugula, bamboo, green onion, and garlic chips add some texture and freshness. A touch of sesame and chile oils makes it even more elaborate.
Ippudo‘s (65 Fourth Avenue; 212-388-0088) Akamaru Modern
The New York outpost of a 30-year-old international empire based in Fukuoka, Japan, the city known for the globally beloved tonkotsu ramen made with the broth of long-simmered pork bones. Years after opening, the East Village eatery still boasts multi-hour waits. There is a reason: This stuff is good. And the Akamaru Modern ($15) is the most popular. Silky broth and aromatic garlic oil coats the super-thin, elastic noodles. Tender pork chasu, cabbage, sesame kikurage mushrooms, and scallions are placed atop. Then there’s the bold “Umami Dama” miso paste that bring this bowl to a whole ‘nother level.
Chuko (552 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-576-6701)
Opened by two Morimoto veterans, this Prospect Heights shop offers a locavore expression of the Japanese dish. The veggie ($13) with a miso broth and market vegetables is a stunning meatless variation. Springy noodles sit in flavorful liquid with briny seaweed, sweet acorn squash, cabbage, bamboo shoots, green onion, and egg. It’s just as satiating as one of the meatier counterparts, without the ethical dilemma.
Minca‘s (536 East 5th Street; 212-505-8001) Minca Sio
This Lower East Side shop may be small, but when it comes to flavor, its noodles pack a punch. The menu includes nearly twenty options ranging from chicken and seafood to vegetable to the ubiquitous tonkotsu broth. The signature pork and chicken mix is top-notch. And the Minca Sio ($10.50), flavored with salt and roast garlic, topped with sliced stewed pork and wild vegetables, is the way to go. Here, guests can pick from five different noodle options. For this dish, though, go for the thin; they really soak up the salty, garlicky notes in the savory stock.
Ramen Lab‘s (70 Kenmare Street; 646-613-7522) Torigara Shoyu Ramen
It may have opened its doors in January, but this no-reservations, no-waitlist spot still attracts lines of eager customers in the cold. The ramen counter for Sun Noodle, the 30-year-old noodle company that supplies all the best joints in the city (and country), this place is about spreading the ramen gospel. Chef Jack Nakamura offers classes and tastings — hence the lab designation — but he only serves two variations of the dish at this standing-counter spot. Both are good, but the Torigara Shoyu Ramen ($13) is phenomenal. Chicken stock and rendered chicken fat are ladled on top of a special shoyu tare sauce, followed by melt-in-your-mouth pork chasu, menma (fermented bamboo shoots), nori, spinach, and naruto fish cake. The result is a delicate and nuanced bowl of noodles with a nice dose of hearty schmaltz.
Totto Ramen‘s (366 West 52nd Street; 212-582-0052) Spicy Ramen
One of the old reliables in the NYC ramen world, Totto is still one of the top bowls in town. The shop (now three shops) evokes traditional ramen-ya in Japan: barebones, with just a handful of unadorned tables and a counter to watch the headscarf-wearing chefs in action. The menu is solid overall, but spicy ramen ($11.25) is best. The secret is the original rayu, a chile oil filled with garlic, onion, dried shrimp, and scallops. It’s ladled on top of the house-made paitan broth, a mild combination of chicken and soy sauce. It’s no-frills, really, just firm noodles, two hunks of fatty pork, scallion, bean sprouts, and nori. The flavors meld seamlessly, giving it a nice, spicy kick with a good amount of depth. Plus, an excellent chile-garlic paste is served on the side.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.