Thin, Straight Noodles
There are two types of noodles used at Jin, depending on the type of broth you order. The straight noodles that come with the shio, shoyu, and tonkotsu ramen are thin and slippery with a tender bounce. Are they made in-house? No, but who really cares? Their flavor and texture do all the talking here.
The walls, made from wildly protruding blocks of wood, must be a bitch to clean every night—but they go a long way towards making the space feel fun and active, even while maintaining a relatively refined, clean, date-worthy atmosphere. Several communal high-tops occupy the front window under the looming shadow of the 125th Street elevated 1 train stop, while semi-cramped low-tops fill the rest of the space. For the best view in the house, grab a bar seat to watch the cooks busily trussing pork bellies for cha siu, dunking noodles, or stir-frying in a flaming wok through the open kitchen.
Kelp Salad ($4)
Simmered kelp in a sweet dressing topped with sesame seeds is nothing mind-blowing, but it's a good, crunchy, fresh version of the classic appetizer.
Japanese fried chicken doesn't get much better than this. It arrives at the table piping hot with an ultra-thin and grease-free crust flavored with a bit of togarashi. The meat is a well-seasoned, slightly gingery blend of dark and white meat, and it's ridiculously juicy. For an extra dollar, you can upgrade to the Nankotsu kara-age, fried chicken made with a bit of tender, crunchy cartilage included. The concept might turn off some diners, but kara-age connoisseurs enjoy the extra juiciness and flavor you get from the bits of chicken closest to the bone. A light, crunchy salad of mayo-dressed cabbage comes on side.
Shio Ramen ($10)
The lightest of the ramen offered, the broth is nonetheless intensely fragrant with yuzu-kosho, a Japanese pepper-citrus blend made from the rind of yuzu. A perfectly cooked nitamago (marinated egg) comes with a soft, golden yolk center and a white seasoned with soy sauce and mirin. All the ramen except the house-special miso come standard with pork belly, egg, bamboo, and fresh scallions. An extra buck or two will get you your choice of a dozen add-ins ranging from kikurage mushrooms to spicy garlic paste.
Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen at Jin Ramen ($12)
The broth is not as thick and creamy as that at Ippudo or a couple other ramen-ya around the city, but what it lacks in thick texture, it makes up in ample flavor with a great balance of pork and aromatics. I could slurp up the broth alone by the bowlful. The spicy version comes with a slick of hot sesame oil flavored with roasted garlic paste. It's worth the upgrade. The house-made noodles are amongst the best in the city, as is the meltingly tender chashu. (Full review here).
Their noodle soups feature hands-down the best cha siu I've had in the city. Made with pork belly, rolled, trussed, and simmered in a sweet soy and sake broth, it is ridiculously tender with a buttery texture that falls apart under the slightest provocation. I dare you to lay a thin slice in your mouth and not sit back with a contended sigh as the savory-sweet flavor gently washes over your tongue. At this moment, you can't help but feel like you're just a bit happier than everyone else in the world.
Miso Ramen ($12)
I found their house special miso ramen to actually be the most disappointing of the lot, though admittedly, I've never been a big fan of miso-based ramen broth. In place of the excellent cha siu, this bowl comes with slices of stir fried pork belly, chicken sausage, bok choy, leeks, bean sprouts, and corn. The smoky intensity the wok gives the vegetables makes for an interesting variation, and the chewy, wavy noodles are a good alternative to the thin, straight noodles featured in the other bowls, but the stir-fried pork lacks the complexity of mouth-melting quality of the cha siu.