I have wanted to start a ramen log for a while now. To finally kick it off, I decided to eat 3 bowls of ramen this past Thursday. It was heavenly.
In this blog post, I plan to log every bowl of ramen I eat and to take pictures along the way. Many of the ramen spots will be in NYC since I live here, but I’m not restricting myself to the city.
Without further ado, here are The Ramen Logs ranked in order of my preference.
Update (12/29/2018): I added dollar signs to each review. Although some ramen places have higher ratings in terms of taste and quality, I felt like the price should be added to reflect how often I actually want to eat at those places. The prices are based on the average amount of money I spend on a bowl of ramen with toppings (I usually only add an egg if the ramen doesn’t come with one). It does not include tax, tip, or appetizers.
|< $11||$12-$15||$16-$18||> $ 18|
1. Ramen Ishida - NY, 10/10,
Ramen Ishida simply lives in another dimension. Nothing is a compromise. Not only does Ishida care deeply about his broth and noodles, he cares about how you feel before, during, and after eating his ramen. Ramen Ishida deserves to be on a list all by itself because I have not tried a better bowl of ramen in my life.
I recommend starting with the Tokyo Shoyu or Classic Shio to get a clean taste of Ishida’s style. Then try the Spicy Mushroom with ground pork (this has 100% mushroom based broth!). Finally try the vegan ramen and have your mind blown all over again. Ramen could be vegan? Yes, and Ishida makes no compromise in flavor or texture. Ingredients are locally sourced and carefully selected to be tasty and healthy.
Tip: I think you should get extra toppings for the Shoyu and Shio bowls if you are especially hungry, but the Spicy Mushroom bowl is usually enough with its thicker broth.
|02/02/2019||Spicy Mushroom Pork||Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks Ishida is the #1 spot in NYC (fellow customers agree!).|
|11/29/2018||Tokyo Shoyu, Shio||I was reminded once again how amazing Ishida is|
2. Menkoi Sato - NY, 8.5/10,
When I walk into Menkoi Sato, I feel like I’m walking into a ramen shop in the Shimokita district in Tokyo Japan. A warm “Irasshaimase” lets you know that this place is legit. The menu is simple, shoyu/miso spin-offs of the Tori Paitan broth – choose to have it spicy or not depending on your mood.
I don’t usually like very thick broths that really make me feel heavy. But if I were to have a thick bowl of ramen, I would have it at Menkoi Sato. The flavor is wonderful and the broth is thick and creamy. The noodles are nice and wavy. You can taste the passion put into each bowl. You’ll feel like you truly accomplished something after finishing a bowl of the Tori Paitan :D. I highly recommend coming here in groups as there is open seating.
Oh and I don’t think you’ll need extra toppings.
|01/17/2019||Shoyu||Great thick bowl of ramen for a cold wintery day.|
3. Ippudo - NY East Village, 8/10,
I’ve been to Ippudo many times, but never to the NY flagship in the East Village near Astor Place. I expected the line to be long, and of course it was. But the East Village location is large and full of energy with countless folks slurping delicious ramen. I didn’t find the 20 minute wait too painful.
Ippudo is known for being foundational to ramen culture as we know it today – the classic wooden signs and decor, the obsession with taste and hospitality. They have been making their signature silky smooth pork broth since 1996!
I got the Akamaru, their Tonkotsu broth with a “secret” miso sauce. The first few slurps of the broth were delicious – I was very impressed with how refined, smooth, and clean the pork base was. The umami sauce was on point for the first few bites, but was slightly overpowering towards the end of the bowl. The chashu was ok and the egg was just as smooth as the broth! Overall, the Akamura was a solid bowl of ramen, much better than other Tonkotsu I’ve had in NY. I left feeling great without overpowering tastes in my mouth – just delicious ramen sloshing around in my stomach.
My girlfriend got the Tanakaya, a mix of pork and chicken broth that was a lot more gamy than the Akamaru. I actually liked the Tanakaya a lot more than the Akamura since it had much more natural umami flavor. The Tanakaya also had thick noodles which I much preferred over Ippudo’s classic thinner noodles. Unfortunately, they decided to put kale in the Tanakaya – it was a bit…off.
Overall, I was impressed with Ippudo’s quality given its mega-like operation with locations all over the world. There were slight kinks in each dish that didn’t push me to be entirely blown away. But I will be back to try the Shiromaru tonkotsu…only if the lines were shorter!
|12/23/2018||Akamura and Tanakaya||Silky smooth pork broth, amazing quality|
4. EAK - NY, 7.8/10,
EAK ramen is very distinct from other places on this list. As they describe themselves, “IEKEI is a style of ramen that is a marriage between Tokontsu style from the West (Kyushu) and Shoyu style from the East (Tokyo).” The noodles are thick, which you might not be used to for a thick tonkotsu style broth. There is also spinach as a topping, along with a nori that has “But First, Ramen” printed on it. I had the Zebra shio, a shio garlic oil spin on their classic EAK. I removed the piece of butter because I already had two appetizers at this point and didn’t want to have a heart attack.
The bowl itself might seem a bit gimmicky when presented with the printed nori, but once you taste the broth, you’ll know that EAK takes their ramen very seriously. All aspects of the dish felt refined, from the noodles to the chashu and the egg. The broth is thick and creamy, but not too overpowering.
Come here for a solid bowl of ramen!
|01/30/2019||Zebra Shio||But first, ramen!|
5. Ramen Shack - NY, 7.5/10,
Ramen Shack is as legit as any ramen place can be. The prolific accomplishments of Keizo Shimamoto can be intimidating, but his scrappy rise to the top can still seen in the pop-up shop feel of the Ramen Shack location in Long Island City.
Ramen Shack is a ramen lover’s dream. The broth is awesome, the chashu is absolutely amazing, the noodles are on point (Shimamoto has his own noodle company), and the list goes on. Some broths like the BGO tonoktsu with black garlic oil are not my preference, but there are easily 20 different bowls you could try here. I tried the classic shoyu with chicken and dashi broth and it was really solid. Did I mention the quality of the ingredients are really top notch? I also tried the Sunset-Red Tonkotsu to try a different version of the tonkotsu broth – it’s rich and smooth and not too overpowering.
Ramen Shack is the kind of place I can keep coming back too everyday. My only quip is that the ramen doesn’t taste as refined as I would like, as compared to Ishida for example. The specialty ramens can also get a bit pricy at $16-$18 compared to $11 for the classic shoyu. Even so, Ramen Shack is as legit as it gets.
Oh, please don’t forget to try to original ramen burger! It’s amazing!
|12/29/2018||Classic Shoyu, BGO, Sunset Shoyu||I love those ramen burgers too!|
6. Kame - NY, 7/10,
I went to Kame whilst meeting a friend for dinner in midtown. I don’t usually go to midtown, but I saw that Kame had 4.5 stars on Yelp. Promising. I walked in to a regular looking ramen shop with pleasant décor. I ordered the spicy tonkotsu and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. To my suprise the broth was delicious and the noodles were pretty good too. The egg was perfectly cooked and best of all, the two slices of pork not only beautifully garnished the bowl but also my mouth. I want to come back to Kame to try the other ramen dishes. So far, Kame ranks at the top of my list for being a pretty decent bowl of ramen that you’d expect to find regularly in Tokyo.
|12/14/2018||Spicy Tonkotsu||Pleasantly suprised, want to come back|
7. Jun Men - NY, 6.99/10,
I wouldn’t usually find myself around midtown on the West Side, but doing yoga at the Iyengar Institute calls for a bowl of ramen!
The first time, I decided to try the Pork bone ramen just to see what Jun Men had to offer. I was not dissapointed at all! The tonkotsu broth is comparable to Ippudo. The chashu, egg, menma, and noodles are all delicious. I felt satisfied with the Pork bone ramen without feeling too heavy at the end.
The second time, I tried the kimchi ramen. It has roasted pork shoulder, which I didn’t really enjoy that much. The kimchi itself is good, but I’d rather just eat kimchi on its own with a bowl of rice. I would definitely come back to Jun Men if I’m ever craving ramen after an Iyengar yoga class. But I don’t think I’d venture out to Jun Men if it were out of my way.
If you find yourself near Jun Men, definitely try it! Oh and the appetizers are actually amazing, get the crispy shrimp!
|02/07/2019||Kimchi||Pork bone + kimchi, it's ok.|
|01/18/2019||Pork Bone||Very flavorful!|
8. Misoya - NY, 5.8/10,
Walking into Misoya, you’ll see a patchwork of posters awkwardly placed on the walls describing the health benefits of miso. The decor is so bad that you’d be suprised to know that Misoya is actually a chain with locations all over the world! Fortunately enough, the ramen is delicious.
Misoya obviously specializes in miso ramen with 3 types of miso (kome, shiro, and mame explained here). I tried the Shiro and Mame – the Shiro miso is what you’re most used to in terms of miso taste. The Mame miso was richer and darker, maybe a bit too much for me. But the Shiro miso is on point! I love some of the toppings like the ebi tempura on the Mame and tofu tempura on the Shiro.
To add to that, Misoya has awesome lunch specials, with free appetizers, making it the best ramen deal in NYC for the quality! A bowl of Kome miso is just $11.
With that being said, the noodles are mediocre, the egg is OK, and the ramen is just not that refined. So why does Misoya still have a warm place in my heart? Simply because Misoya offers a taste so nostalgic that you’d think it were a Japanese ramen shop in the mountains of Hokkaido, that opened 50 years ago. They also really want you to know that miso is good for you – sounds like they found your long-lost Japanese grandmother’s miso ramen recipe!
|12/29/2018||Shiro and Mame miso ramen||That nostalgic miso taste!|
9. Zest - NY, 5.5/10,
I went to Zest after plans got cancelled to eat at Ramen Shack. I recently procured a Japanese newspaper with ramen ratings for Manhattan. Zest is one of the few with 4.5/5 stars along with Ishida and Kame – I was pleasantly suprised to see my ratings correlate with the newspaper’s 4.5 star ratings! So I was very excited to try out Zest ramen.
The ambiance is classic for a ramen-shop – wood panels, soft lighting, and a nice crowd eating ramen on a Friday night. I sat at the bar watching the chefs open up fresh oysters – they were really enticing me. So I ordered one of the most expensive oysters and thoroughly enjoyed it!
I got the shoyu and my girlfriend got the yuzu shio. The ramen itself is clean and solid, like a freshly prepared oyster. The broth is light but packed with umami. The noodles were very chewy and got softer as I finished the bowl, kind of like reading a noodle poem. The egg was perfect and the menma was delicious. The pork chashu was a bit chewy and could have been charred a bit. The yuzu ramen was good, I just don’t really like yuzu broth since I get sick of the flavor half-way through.
Overall, Zest has a nice and clean taste. Watching the oysters while eating the light delicious broth reminded me of the Okinawan island life. I think the quality of the noodles and chashu could be improved, but I’d come back to Zest anytime – that’s definitely a good sign. Come here for your next vacation to Tahiti or Sri Lanka!
|12/21/2018||Shoyu, yuzu shio||A taste of the island life|
10. Minca - NY, 5.3/10,
Minca is where my innocent young soul first discovered ramen. The place is cozy, the broths are delicious, and the noodles are nice a chewy. Sadly the egg was completely overcooked. Nevertheless Minca has one of my favorite miso ramens. The ebi gyoza is some of the best I’ve had. Come here for a nice dinner with friends.
|11/29/2018||Miso ramen, Wafoo Shio||Back to basics, tasty broth. Egg overcooked!|
11. Tatsu - NY, 4.5/10,
I’ve been to Tatsu four times now. The first time, I was so excited that a ramen place stays open until 3AM in the East Village! Tatsu also takes self-serve orders just like in Japan, yay (except on a stupid iPad). Last time I went, I left feeling like the broth was way too salty and that the quality of the ramen reflects that Tatsu is now a chain. I went back today and confirmed that yes the broth is WAY too salty. It felt like I had a salt lozenge in my mouth on the way out.
With that being said, I really want Tatsu to be better. If it wasn’t for the salt, Tatsu could really be up there among the greats. They make a really good chicken broth, which is hard enough to find. Did I mention that I love chicken broth? Unforunately, the “Old Skool” tonkotsu has less salt so it gets my vote over the “Cheeky” chicken bowl. The noodles are alright, the egg is amazing, and the meat toppings are just OK. Why Tatsu why?! I love you, but hate you so much at the same time. Nevertheless, I will probably be back.
Good for large groups.
|12/16/2018||Cheeky Ramen, Old skool tonkotsu||Continuing my love hate relationship|
12. Shinka - NY, 3.5/10,
After visiting Zest ramen, I wanted to try another ramen shop close to the lower east side. So I headed over to Chinatown to try a bowl of beef bone marrow gyukotsu! This ramen was at the 2018 NY ramen contest and had lines too long for my patience. I was glad I could finally taste this “award winning” ramen (I’m not sure how they placed in the competition, but their menu suggests that they won something).
When I got to Shinka, I was immediately struck by the kitschy décor. Shinka is connected to a bar on the first floor and the basement. The main ramen place also has a bar with 5-6 TV screens playing video clips of ramen. I think the kitchen itself is oddly in the basement.
I ordered Kakuni pork bao with the signature beef ramen. A small disclaimer here, I don’t actually like beef ramen – I had a bowl of beef broth at Mu ramen a few years ago and disliked it. With that being said, I wanted to see what Shinka had to offer.
Now for the pièce de résistance, the beef broth ramen. The broth had an initially impressive thick flavor. I had the bone marrow and it was pretty good but I think they added butter. The noodles were nice and thin, complementing the thick broth, but I would have liked less mushy noodles (they were overcooked)! The wagyu beef brisket tasted like…brisket. And the egg was good but a piece of raw garlic was placed in each egg half – a bit jarring to say the least. As far as the appetizer, the kakuni pork bao had too much mayo, the bun was too dry and sweet, and the pork wasn’t that great either. Let’s just say that the experience did not convert me into a beef broth lover.
Overall, I’d say Shinka’s ramen is very similar to their décor. Everything is a bit overdone and kitschy. I’m left with a garlic taste in my mouth as I write this review… I feel like I should give their tonkotsu or chicken shoyu a try, but I’m not sure I want to go back. Nevertheless, I could see how some folks might actually really like Shinka. The style is just not for me.
|12/21/2018||Beef bone marrow gyokotsu||Too kitschy for me|
13. Tabetomo - NY, 3/10,
I was about to go to Ivan ramen, but the long lines deterred me and my friends. We decided to go to Tabetomo instead due to the soft opening. I was really excited by the photos and ambiance on yelp! The restaurant has a cozy feel with elegant and minimalist Japanese decor. Unfortunately, the ramen wasn’t for me.
First off, I do have to say that the tonkotsu broth was nice and thick. The noodles were equally thick, but a bit too chewy. I was repeatedly disappointed that the noodles wouldn’t soak up the broth and they filled me up too fast. The toppings didn’t really shine through. The chashu itself was not as melt-in-my-mouth as I would’ve liked and didn’t have a charred or otherwise distinctive flavor. Overall I couldn’t finish the broth at the end, but I didn’t feel like I wanted to either. The saving grace was the delicious egg! I still remember that bite of egg with chashu and broth as I write this, delicious. As far as the Tsukemen, I tasted what others had gotten and there was consistently too much vinegar and salt in their broths. Good thing I went with the Jiro ramen, but I’m not sure I’ll be back soon.
Come to Tabetomo if you want a heavy meal, go to Ishida if you want refined ramen that is actually digestable.
|12/05/2018||Tonkotsu Chashu Jiro Ramen, and Tonkotsu Tsukemen||Thick broth and thick noodles, but a bit too much for me.|
14. Mr. Taka - NY, 2.5/10,
I wish Mr. Taka tasted as good as its ambiance. The chicken and bonito broth tasted too much like bonito. The tonkotsu broth was a bit light and had too much raw garlic on the bottom. The noodles fell flat and didn’t really soak up the broth. I found the specialty bowls a bit gimmicky (wontons in the ramen, meh). Nevertheless, Mr. Taka is passable, but the crowds should really just go next door to Ramen Ishida.
|11/29/2018||Tonkotsu, Wonton Special Chicken/Fish broth||Reminded me how much I prefer Ishida|