Beat The Cold With These Two Hot New Ramen Joints In NYC
Yes, absolutely, I eat ramen all year round, during the high heat of summer, during those cool evenings of our often-too-brief "in-between" seasons", and, of course, right about now as we tromp through the slushes and bitings winds of winter. But if you're more of a seasonal ramen eater sort, the time to get out there is now because 1) it's ridiculously cold, and 2) two more excellent new noodle bars–joining Mu Ramen in Long Island City, which opened right at the end 2014–have entered the increasingly, wonderfully crowded ramen scene here in NYC. I went to both Ramen Lab in Nolita, and Jin Ramen on the Upper West Side (located about 40 blocks south of their original, and still going strong, Harlem spot) recently. Here's the report…
Ramen Lab by Sun Noodle
Ramen Lab is the eagerly anticipated hole-in-the-wall from the revered Sun Noodle folks, who supply many of the cities best ramen restaurants. And I'm not kidding about this place being a hole-in-the-wall. There are nine stools total running down the bar to the back, placed so close to the side wall that, when winter coats are hanging (which they are right now), it's almost impossible to even walk down the "aisle" to the bathroom. Behind the bar are your two chefs, led Jack Nakamura, whose only assignment is the noodles themselves, and which he does with such flair and gusto–complete with fedora and non-sequitur single glove, a la Michael Jackson–that it's a joy to watch. Up front is your hostess, whose primary job is to inform people that the wait will be "about a hour", even at 5:30.
The Best Bites and Bowls at Ramen Lab
And the menu? Two types of ramen, sometimes gyoza (though not when I went), that's it. The Shoyu Ramen (pictured at top) features a lively chicken-based broth, and is topped with tender pork, a couple of oceanic elements, and a few roots and greens. It is a first-rate bowl of what you'd call "regular" ramen. But it's the vegetarian MIso Ramen (above) that really made an impression on me, with its hit of special XO sauce and almost fiery intensity. If you have to choose (I ate both), and you're in the mood for something different–or need a pick-me-up–this is the way to go. In both bowls, the noodles themselves remain the real stars though, thinner in the Shoyu, thicker in the Miso, perfectly cooked in each. Ramen Lab is a true destination noodle bar, both because it's very, very good, and because the waits are still so long it doesn't make sense as a quick-bite spot.
Jin Ramen In The Upper West Side
The Jin Ramen up near 125th Street has been a favorite here at Glenwood since it opened back in 2012, so everyone was excited that they were bringing the noodle love downtown with a spanking-new (and larger!) Jin on Amsterdam and 82nd Street. The formula's the same here as it in Harlem: a handful of starters (the buns and dumplings are both high-quality) and salads (anything with seaweed is the move here), and a generous variety of ramens. I've never had anything but a satisfying bowl at the Jin Harlem original, and one dinner at Jin UWS about a week after they opened convinced me that the noodle-and-broth guys in the kitchen here are already at the top of their game. The Shio (below) in particular stood out, bright and uncommonly refreshing with its burst of citrus, thanks to the yuzu peppers, but the dense and complex Tonkotsu was also a winner. The place was packed and in a festive mood–no surprise, on a Saturday night at 8:30–and all the elements are place for Jin UWS to become neighborhood stand-by for many years to come.
For More Information and Menus
Ramen Lab is located on Kenmare Street between Mulberry and Mott, and is open on Tuesday through Saturday from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Jin Ramen UWS is located on Amsterdam Avenue just north of 82nd Street, and is open Monday through Thursday from 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., on Fridays and Saturdays until 12:00 midnight, and Sundays until 10:00.