Nearly three years ago, we surveyed the ramen scene in New York, finding great bowls in Midtown, the East Village, and more. In the time since, our ramen options have only grown, particularly in Brooklyn, where a miniature revolution of nouveau ramen shops is afoot (see: Yebisu, Chuko, Ganso, etc). And so we've doggedly slurped along, seeking out new bowls par excellence.
Of course, with the good comes the not-so-good. Some of the restaurants we included in our first go-around have fallen off the list this time, replaced by other, better options (goodbye, Menchanko Tei; hello, Jin!); while a handful of buzzy new spots unfortunately don't meet the high bar set by their forebearers (not saying, just saying...Jinya). This is not, you'll notice, a ranked list of the best ramen—it's a field guide to the myriad ramen across the city. We used roughly the same criteria for judging each ramen as we did for our competition back in 2010—quality of noodles, broth, toppings, and overall satisfaction—but instead of picking a winner, well, we'll let you draw your own conclusions.
It's a golden age of ramen in New York, and you should slurp widely and deeply, using this guide for reference. Almost all of the restaurants mentioned use bespoke noodles from Sun Noodle, and while old-school, calorie-intensive styles like tonkotsu remain extremely popular, a second wave of lesser-known versions are gaining traction, like the brothless mazeman at Yuji and Chuko, and the nontraditional fusion-y broths at Bassanova and Ganso. It's an interesting time in the ramen world, and with several ramen restaurants slated to open before the year is out, it's only getting more and more exciting.
Yuji Ramen at Whole Foods
Yuji Haraguchi's small counter on the second floor of the Bowery Whole Foods is one of the most strikingly original ramen experiences you'll have anywhere. His bread and butter is a unique style of ramen he calls mazemen: "mixed noodles."
The ramen ($8 to $9) is rolled out in the style of fettucini, giving them the characteristic elastic bounce of an alkaline ramen noodle, but with the wide, sauce-clinging texture of Italian pasta. The toppings—meant to be stirred into the brothless bowls of noodles—vary seasonally from soft-poached egg with bacon to house-cured salmon with Sichuan pepper and lemon in a creamy sauce.
For the most intense experience, sign up for their five- or seven-course omakase menus ($65) where you'll be served everything from ramen dough orecchiette with a squid bolognese to sea urchin ravioli.
This Sapporo-style Williamsburg ramen shop helmed by a former Totto Ramen Chef specializes in Abura Soba ($8). The fat and springy noodles come with an intensely flavored bright orange lobster oil with a drizzle of aged soy sauce. Poke your chopsticks into the soft poached egg nestled on top and stir the liquid golden yolk around with the slices of chasu pork, bamboo, and scallions to create an intensely flavored, noodle-coating sauce. Japanese carbonara, if you will.
Also worth a taste: their Miso Ramen ($12) made with an ultra-rich pork broth flavored with salty miso paste and served with charred onions, ground pork, and bean sprouts. Stir in a dollop of their homemade spicy oil ($2) and you've got one of the tastiest spicy ramen bowls in the city.
Great ramen in Harlem? Who would have thunk it? Believe it or not, Jin, a mid-sized shop nestled under the 125th street 1 train overpass, serves up some of the best noodle bowls and Japanese-style fried chicken in the city.
All of the bowls start with homemade noodles that are rolled out wider and thicker than most of its competitors. The Spicy Tonkotsu Broth ($13) is lighter than others in the city, with a great balance of pork and aromatics. We 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.
The Shio Ramen ($10) is the sleeper hit. Made with a light chicken and vegetable broth, it gets flavor from yuzu-kosho, a Japanese pepper-citrus blend.
The new kid on the block, Bassanova is the New York offshoot of a Tokyo ramen shop that became famous for its signature Green Curry Soup ($15). Made when a Thai chef briefly consulted with the Tokyo shop several years ago, it starts with a creamy tonkotsu-style base to which is added a house-made Thai-style green curry paste flavored with galangal, chilies, makrud lime leaf, and a slew of other aromatics. The broth gets finished with a touch of coconut milk and is served with wide, curly noodles made by Sun Noodle.
Their standard tonkotsu broth is admirable as well, while their Tondaku Wadashi Ramen ($13) is a bit more divisive. If you're crazy about the intense umami flavors of dried or smoked fish, go ahead and order it. They don't mess around with subtlety.
If you've ever thought that chicken is the boring option—the one to order when you can't set your heart on anything else—a trip to Totto Ramen will set you straight. Their house specialty is an uncommon style of ramen made with an opaque chicken stock known as Paitan Ramen ($9.75). Boiled for hours just like the more common tonkotsu-style pork broth, the resulting stock comes out milky white from copious amounts of emulsified stock, protein, and minerals extracted from the chicken. Creamy and intensely rich in texture, it's nevertheless light and clean, each bite packing in several chickens' worth of flavor.
Don't worry, porkophiles can still get their fix with Totto's Niku Ramen ($15)—ramen topped with a massive pile of mixed pork meats, including their great torch-charred chasu.
Momofuku might have broken the gates and started the round of ramen infatuation that we're still arguably in the middle of, but it was Ippudo—an import from Japan—that showed New Yorkers exactly what traditional Japanese-style tonkotsu pork broth should taste like. It remains one of the tastiest, richest, most intense bowls in the city.
We're particularly big fans of their spicy bowl served with a slick of chili oil ($17), which clings beautifully to every slurpful of their thin, delicately bouncy, straight noodles, which are made in-house.
Getting into Ippudo and dealing with the noise levels can be a bit trying, and the rest of the menu is decidedly mediocre in comparison to their excellent ramen, though a newly opened Midtown location may help ease some of the crowding. We recommend heading in during their quieter lunch hours for the same great food without the hassle.
The winner of our 2010 "Best Ramen in NYC"award, Midtown East's Hide-Chan is still a very solid contender for ramen traditionalists. The Hakata Kuro Ramen ($10) is the star, with an earthy, salty, and ever-so-slightly grainy broth stained with squid ink and from a mellow roasted garlic oil, and very white, very thin straight noodles from Sun Noodle. Shredded cabbage, scallion, and an add-it-yourself tub of pickled ginger provide a welcome crunch, though the chashu was a little dry. Skip the Hakata Spicy Black Ramen ($10), which is overwhelmed by a nose-itchingly peppery broth.
If you're not in a mayu-y mood, the very rich Kogashi Shoyu Tonkotsu Ramen ($13.50) goes down smooth, with a milky broth and medium-weight wavy noodles. You can specify doneness of your noodles and richness of your broth—the full-on Hakata version arrives a glimmering sheen of fat on top, while the slightly leaner "NY style" still packs a wallop of deep flavor compared to some of the lesser ramen shops in town.
This perpetually crowded Prospect Heights joint from two Morimoto alums serves slightly newfangled ramen with an eye for craftsmanship in the details. The Soy Ramen ($13) has a delicate, clean-tasting broth made from pork and chicken, plus thin straight noodles from Sun, and scallion, egg (slightly overcooked for my tastes), and delicious bamboo shoots sautéed in mirin, sake, and sugar. All ramen come with your choice of meat topping—rich roast pork, tender steamed chicken, or ground pork, and a little bowl of chunky roasted garlic and chiles in oil for spooning at will.
The Miso Ramen ($13), in contrast, was heavier and than the soy, with thick wavy noodles buried beneath mounts of corn, ground pork, scallion, egg, and chili. There's too much going on, and it overwhelms the broth, but it's still hearty and flavorful—ideal for chilly fall nights. Sides like Crispy Brussels Sprouts ($8) seared with fish sauce and peanuts are extremely addictive.
A low-key Downtown Brooklyn newcomer (as of last winter), Ganso has some creatively conceived bowls, but the execution isn't always on point. The eponymous Ganso Ramen ($13) is similar to a shoyu broth, albeit overly salty and slightly wan (throw some more pork bones into the stockpot!), with lots of black pepper floating around in there. It comes with two kinds of pork, thinly sliced shoulder, and a richer belly cut. Local broccoli rabe on top adds an unusual bitter bite, though and the medium-boiled egg was cold in the bowl.
Stamina Ramen ($14) has thin, curly noodles cooked al dente, with a slightly limpid, though interestingly flavored chicken broth laced with soy sauce, chili, shrimp paste, and lots and lots of garlic chives. The chicken chasu is about as meaty as chicken chasu can get, though the skin has unfortunate tendency to separate from the meat in the hot broth, making a mess in the bowl. It hits the spot in a pinch, though isn't necessarily worth traveling for.
Another strong case for chicken broth-based ramen, Tabata serves some respectable bowls in a neighborhood without too many ramen options (Totto is nearby, but comes with a wait). Most successful and unique is the eponymous Tabata Ramen ($9), the cheapest in the guide. The thin but intensely chicken-y broth is enriched with sweet, nutty coconut milk and thickened with nutty roasted soybean powder. The chicken is white meat and a little bland, but bouncy noodles and a very slurpable broth make up for it.
Their Tan Tan Men is also worth considering, with its topping of sesame seeds and ground pork that deliver intense sweet and salty flavors. The bowl is less balanced than the Tabata ramen, but a solid one all the same.
Tabata won't win awards for the most complex or deeply flavored ramen, but its rich chicken broth delivers on comfort, and we happily visit if we're in the neighborhood.
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