Posts Tagged ‘ramen’

Ichiran is one of the major ramen chains coming straight from Japan  that decided to open branches in Manhattan (two) as well as one in Brooklyn. In Japan, I tried both Ichiran and Ippudo (the other major competitor to Ichiran), but discretely, lol, as it is a bit as raving about Burger King and Mc Donald while you are in the US. Not that I do not like Mc Donald and Burger King (I do actually like both of them), but there are plenty of  artisan Chef’s (the opposite of a chain’s operation) ramenyas in Japan who do offer world class ramen  and that is what, as a true ramen fan, you should be looking for when in Japan. That said, here in NYC, Ippudo and Ichiran feature among the best ramenyas , consequently do  expect plenty of buzz about those two ramen chains.

 

The proof that ramen is extremely popular nowadays: there are 3 times more hits on my review of Ippudo than this entire blog would attract in 6 months. Yep, a miracle for a sleepy blog like this one (do not forget that this is a non marketed blog targeting just couple of close foodies, here and there, with whom I share about our foodie adventures). But that tells you how ramen is trendy.

I went slurping at one of their branches in New York, the one situated at 132W 31st .

First thing first:

My ratings of the ramen I had in Japan should NOT be compared with the ones of the bowls I had in Montreal, which, in turn should not be compared to my ratings of the bowls I had in NYC

For the simple reason that they can’t (different geographical areas mean the water is different, the ingredients comes from different soils, etc).

 

So, Ichiran NYC that is.

Style of ramen:  tonkotsu style.

Noodles: freshly made  as you came to expect from any respectable ramen shop. I picked them firm (you have to decide on  the consistency of your noodles) so that the noodles do hold in  the broth. The noodles compare favorably with its counterpart in Japan. 7/ 10

The broth: Pork-bone based that has enough strength to its taste, meaning enough nuances / complexity  flavor-wise.  Eventhough it is certainly not as exciting  as at an Ichiran in Japan. A bit thinner than its incarnation in Japan. Fine enough broth 6/ 10

The chashu (Japanese braised pork belly) – I was very disappointed with this. I kept reading   praises about their timely braised, boldly  flavoured  chashu at  Ichiran NYC. That it was delicious and so on. But mine was dry. It  had Zero flavor.  0/ 10

Tare (The sauce flavouring the broth): fine concentration of flavours, verging on the sweet side. Not as amazing  at its incarnation in Japan but still, flavorful / enjoyable enough. 6/ 10

Egg: served cold (I do not get that one). Not fully runny at all. There are parts of the world where the ramen is not their speciality and yet they are delivering beautifully fully runny eggs that are served warm and that blend well with the rest of the ramen at their ramenya. And here you have a popular Japanese chain of ramenya that seems to take such important feature lightly (as a reminder, the reason a ramenya adds a runny egg to its ramen is not to make the ramen cute and ready for instagram, Lol. It is because it add lots of enjoyment to the overall mouthfeel of the ramen). 0/ 10

Bottom line: The service is great and it is a lovely place. I went there to really like  Ichiran, but it was a disappointment on the aspect of the food.  Ichiran NYC Addr: 132 W 31st St, New York, NY 10001 Phone: (212) 465-0701 URL: https://www.ichiranusa.com/  Overall rating Food 5/10, Service 8/10

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IPPUDONYC1  Ippudo’s 博多一風堂  ( I tried the one on 65 4th Ave, New York, NY 10003, USA Phone: +1 212-388-0088  ) interior is very pretty and modern looking, with a light-wood bar in the middle of the ramenya, as well as a dining room bathed in red and the same light wood tones of the bar. Clearly, we are not at a ramenya in Japan, but in Manhattan …

IPPUDONYC  I picked the akamaru modern , made of pork broth, ippudo’s secret miso paste, pork chashu, cabbage, sesame kikurage, mushrooms, scallions, garlic oil. As with any broth, what you are looking for is the depth and subtlety of its nuanced flavors. Perhaps because they want to adapt the taste of the broth to American palates, the finest bowls of ramen in North America can’t replicate the superlative work of flavors of their counterparts of Tokyo (Fuunji in Tokyo did not blow me away — just a matter of personal taste, imho, as Fuunji is a world class ramenya— but it is ages ahead of any of the finest ramen broths of ramen of New York/North America). Ippudo NYC is no exception to my latest assertion. And yet, it is certainly one of the 2 or 3 bowls of ramen that truely stand out in NYC at this moment.

Pros: One of the good  ramens of NYC/North America (fine Pork Chashu and decent flavor by North America’s finest ramen standards)…whether you like to hear this or not.

Cons: (1) Lacking of  the depth of flavors found at the Ippudo in Japan, as one who’s truely knowledgeable about food would expect from food done in two different countries who are geographically that distant (Japan Vs the  USA). Still, a good  bowl by North American ramen standards.  (2) The egg I had in my ramen seemed to have been cooked by a lazy cook…just look at the picture above!

Just remember… it (your bowl of ramen) will be WAY pricier than in Tokyo – This being NYC. But then, there is this reality check to face: are you willing to fly to Japan for a bowl of ramen? Lol…the restaurateurs have figured that out way before Adam and Eve had their first date, and that is why Ippudo can afford charging you a hefty amount of money for their bowl…they know you will have to slurp theirs, anyway! And if it is not you, someone else will certainly do.

If you have been to Tokyo and had your share of some of their best ramen there, I know what you think…And Ippudo is not even one of the best in Tokyo, and its NYC outpost is less good, I know..we know. And I had the guts to have rated world class Fuunji lower (Be careful, be VERY careful…THEY ARE NOT in the same category! And that is clearly mentioned right next to my ratings). And I did score some bowls in Mtl even higher. Yep, again NOT same category (Montreal is an Okay foodie destination, Tokyo and NYC are world class foodie destinations, so a top tier bowl of ramen in Montreal cannot be compared to a — not even a passable — bowl in those cities). So rest assured that Fuunji in Tokyo is several cuts above the rest, I am well aware of that. Very well aware! I am well aware that Fuunji in Tokyo is superior to Ippudo in both Tokyo and NYC. I am well aware that NOT one single ramenya in Montreal gets close to any remote attempt at a glimpse of the shadow of Fuunji Tokyo or any of the fine ramenyas of Tokyo. But I am also well aware about the fact that Ippudo Nyc is clearly a top tier bowl in NYC  as well as, of course, anywhere in North America. That’s all you need to know. That is all we need to know. And if you are not happy because it is not exactly as in Japan, then may be it is about time that you  realize that Manhattan is NOT situated in Japan! Ippudo 65 4th Ave, New York, NY 10003, USA Phone: +1 212-388-0088 Ratings – The ramen (7/10 by North American’s ramen standards. Here, the score dragged down by the poor egg that I did get as well as the lack of depth of flavor in comparison to their Japanese branches), Service (10/10 – Courteous, attentive, service is fast but not rushed, perfect. I know some 1 Michelin star restaurants in NYC which service cannot hold a candle to the service found here), Ambience (10/10 – Lively, lots of people and yet you feel as if you still have your privacy, which is great.)

風雲児  Fuunji > ramenya > 2 Chome-14 Yoyogi Shibuya-ku, Tokyo-to

Fuunji 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dropped by Fuunji, a shop regarded by most local ramen connoisseurs as a top tier ramenya of Tokyo, with a near perfect score of 97/100 on the major local ramen guide ramendb (http://ramendb.supleks.jp/s/12119.html).

Fuunji 4

 

 

 

 

 

The rage in Tokyo, for almost a decade now, is to have both the noodle and its broth served separately (tsukemen).

 

Fuunji 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

You dip the noodle in the broth and you slurp. I can’t see Montrealers embracing this trend as the fear of the broth cooling too quickly could discourage many, though in Tokyo you are offered hot stones to keep the broth warm. The other problem is an issue of perception: I suspect that Montrealers may find the presence of two  bowls for 1 serving of ramen to be a bit too much on their table.

The tsukemen I picked featured noodles of perfecty mastered bouncy-ness, the noodles holding up just fine in the broth.  It’s indeed in the complexity (depth ) of the work of the flavors (mix of chicken and fish) of that broth that a shop like this one does have the edge over lesser local ramenyas.  It also, naturally, takes a good palate as you won’t get to identical results simply by relying on the notion of slow cooking. That said, although this was perfectly executed ramen (I have to give that to them: there is depth, there is complexity, there is mastery, there is even a good palate because it is still tasty), the flavor was just fine…no more….not ‘licking good’ as experienced with some other ramens.

Fuunji 2Was this ramen one of the very best I ever had? Certainly one of the better executed as far as technique goes. Do I get  the raves? It’s food, therefore subjective by nature, so Yes, absolutely…nothing is bad, nothing is good, there are things you love, others you do not. Was this the most exciting ramen I ever had? Obviously,  Not! Will I recommend Fuunji? Well, they do not need my recommendation…they have hundreds of diners lining up in front of their doors twice a day! But Yes, I recommend you try it as it is one of the very best ramen you’ll get to enjoy in terms of the sophistication/technique. Hopefully, you’ll find the flavor dazzling too.

Verdict: 7/10  (Category: world class ramen, top tier ramen in Tokyo).  I am somehow having hard time with   some of the most successful food in Tokyo. It is not about expectations based on the raves as I do not have expectations when I dine out … I just want the food to storm my palate. Take this very popular bowl of ramen: it is certainly well done and it is rare to  have home-made noodles and a broth done this well in North America, BUT I can think of many bowls that have tantalized …right there in North America, whereas this bowl did not. Again, really  well done, tasty for sure, just not as exciting in mouth as I would have liked. Paradoxally,  YOU SHOULD NOT  compare my rating of Fuunji  to my ratings  of ramenyas outside of Japan. I was not excited by Fuunji, but the best ramenyas outside of Japan do not even get close to the shadow of Fuunji in terms of perfecting the ramenya as far as the technique goes!

What I think a week later: My ratings have nothing to do with whether a meal was great or not, they are simply tools to convey, in the best way I can, how excited the food fared to me. Which, as ever, is of course utterly personal/subjective. So, keep that in mind when you’ll consider the rating above. I hope you got this right, though: Fuunji ramen’s, whether it excited me or not, is a world class bowl. I insist on the later assertion because you won’t  oftently find such technically expertly conceived bowl of ramen even in Tokyo. This is a bowl that — whether you’ll enjoy it or not at the first slurp — will certainly grow on you.

RAMEN MISOYA, MONTREALRamen Misoya
2065 Bishop St, Montreal
Phone:(514) 373-4888
https://www.facebook.com/ramenmisoyamontreal

I was, within the past 3 months,  focusing on the ramen in Montreal. The general level of ramen here is obviously not to be compared to what you can get in Vancouver  or in the US given that there’s currently no real competition and the demand is not that demanding neither. Of course, it will be ridiculous to start any comparison to ramen in China or Japan. So, I’ll stick the comparison local, which means between Montreal ramenyas.

I am familiar with the ramenyas in Montreal (there are no tons of them, and it’s relatively not that pricey…although I can understand the dissenting voices about bowls of ramen in Montreal  that are pricier than the finest ones abroad), but for this round up, I re-paid a visit to them to get a fresher opinion of their works. I won’t start a comparative exercise of ramenyas in Montreal since you have plenty of blog reviews that will let you do that. Instead, I’ll just tell you which ramenyas I believe stood as the finest of this roundup.

Two of them are what I believe to be Montreal finest ramenyas at this moment:
-Ramen Misoya (for the Japanese-style ramen)
-Yuki Ramen (chinese-style ramen)

***Ramen Misoya is a branch of New York’s Ramen Misoya. For what it worths, ramen fans in Montreal do consider it as one of the rare authentically Japanese ramen shops in town.What’s authentic? What’s real Japanese ramen? I’ll let that to the debate that awaits you over the tons of various examples of ramen out there in Japan, each promoted as being more authentic than the other, but good luck in explaining authenticity when it is that varied, Lol!. Something is sure, at Ramen Misoya they are clear about the ramen they are doing (which is not the case of many ramenyas in Montreal where simple question to the staff ..about the style and origin location of the ramen they are serving…was met with vague answers…it’s not as if I am asking you whether your noodles were handmade or not, which I never ask since I do believe only in what I see……..). They focus on ramen only, and on one style of ramen, which is miso ramen (hence their name), and that’s already a sign of a serious ramenya (avoiding the ‘Jack of all trades’ syndrome ensures greater focus/mastery in what you do). Even from people who loved RM in Montreal, I heard about possibility of the meat being either inconsistent or the broth too salty, so I went there at least 3 times with several weeks apart, to find out:
(1)On my first visit, I picked the Mame Miso, which my  waitress described as having a taste a bit reminiscent of beef bourguignon. It has a salty kick that’s less expressive than on usual Miso based ramen, so the choice to go for those who are sensitive to salt, a medium body texture which, by Montreal ramen standard, is simply the most perfected and concentrated ramen broth you’ll get at this moment in this city. Its flavor simply superior to any other ramen found in Montreal. Then there were the pork morsels themselves: packed with great flavor, boasting perfect meat to fat ratio, balanced between ideal firm to tender consistency, the noodle thin and wavy providing the right bite to chew on. Again, the pork morsels I had were ones that the other ramenyas in town do not get close to. Even the fried shrimp tempura laid atop had fresh deep shrimp flavor, its texture great, a successful piece of tempura.
(2)On my  two subsequent visits I focused on the Kome miso ramen, with 4 weeks between the two Kome miso soups. As expected from most miso-based ramen, the salt concentration is the highest of all ramen. My only concern, based on reading some reviews prior to visiting them, was that the salty-ness was  overwhelming which to me would have been a big disappointment . Well, after sampling this ramen twice, I can tell that anyone who has cooked seriously for a while will quickly realize that this is not overwhelming salty-ness at all.  Let me explain: you can’t get to such flavorful miso flavor full of character by trying to trim down the level of salt. Of course, you can lower the level of the salty-ness, but you’ll end up with a miso ramen that has  no depth (it’s  exactly why most of the other miso based ramen in Montreal taste like broths with no personality!! ). So Salty, Yes, indeed, as expected from a Miso ramen that has depth. Over-salted? Nope, not for a miso with this level of flavor concentration and great work of its texture. Any lack of consistency with the Pork morsels? Nope, to the contrary the texture, flavor, cooking of the morsels of pork were as balanced and well done as on any of the 3 visits. Noodles? Same thing: well timed cooking of the noodles, with a balanced chew (never too hard, never limpy neither).  If you have been seriously cooking since a long time and have developed a sense of detail for such things as perfecting flavor combinations and textures, you’ll admire the level of the cooking here, a level that is simply strong for the current level of local ramenyas.
My impression: I was impressed by Ramen Misoya (in regard to what can be found in Montreal). For sure if you are the kind of bragging about having seen it all with ramen, that you have known the best of them in Japan, etc then NO…stay where you are, Lol…you won’t understand why I am impressed. But if you keep your expectations realistic, which means comparing the comparable (Montreal ramenyas to Montreal ramenyas), then YES, you’ll get what I mean. You boot with a huge advantage when you can clearly express what you are trying to achieve with your ramen, when the customer clearly understands the style, the origin, the story behind that ramen. It’s right there  half of the fun and appreciation of what you are doing. They’ve covered that part without problem.  Then my years of cooking switched to their  other side, the technique, the work of flavors, the work of textures and here again, they continued to shine leaving all current competition in town, far behind.
My verdict, by the finest Montreal ramenya standards (Benchmark>Strong>Good>Fair>Weak): Strong.

***Yuki Ramen (Chinese style ramen):  the only place of which you can obviously say that the ramen is indeed made from scratch since there’s no place to hide, they are doing it right before your eyes and it’s spectacular. This, right there, gives YR a huge advantage in my books. As someone who has cooked since his tender childhood, part of the appreciation of my food are elements that I can see, efforts that I can really talk for.  Of course your food should be also tasty. On the aspect of tasty-ness, it’s important to understand that Chinese style ramen seem to have less daring flavors compared to most Japanese ramen, which could appear less tasty to someone not used to that kind of more classic ramen flavor profile. But their broth, toppings, work of the texture and flavors (picked their Pork ramen, they serve it with some hanjuku egg) at Yuki Ramen are as good as you’ll get from a Chinese ramenya shop in Montreal presently.
Verdict: Strong by Montreal ramen standards (of course, not to compare with Japanese style ramen places…it’s obviously not the same thing at all).