Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ramen Season

As soon as the cold weather hit, ramen was on my mind. Three great spots for ramen are Totto Ramen in Hell's Kitchen, Ippudo  in the East Village, and also Momofuku Noodle Bar also in the East Village. All very different; but all very good.  

Totto Ramen
If you find yourself in Hell's Kitchen and your craving ramen, stop by Bobby Munekata's Totto Ramen. Mr. Munekata also owns Yakitori Totto which is also worth stopping by. When you arrive at Totto Ramen, place your name on the clipboard posted outside the door and wait. There are rules posted all around the outside so just follow the rules and you'll be ok. And don't forget to bring cash! 

Steps below street level you enter a dark, alley-like space. You could feel the steam from the kitchen and the beats from the speakers as some kind of Japanese techno plays. It feels secret, although this gem is well known. In my opinion, seats at the far end of the bar are the best. Not only do you get to see the chefs working but you avoid the cold breeze from the door being constantly opened. Cold breeze or not, you will find plenty of warmth in the steaming broth in front of you. Its always a good idea to add spice which will keep you extra warm in the colder months. 

Friendly service although fast and super casual. The best $20 (including tip) you might spend in midtown. 

Ippudo might be my favorite ramen spot located a few blocks from Union Square. The space is airy and there's always excitement all around you. It doesn't have the secret, underground appeal of Totto Ramen; but it serves some of the bestramen I've ever had. I also love that Ippudo serves a much broader menu other than ramen. Pork buns, baby octopus, and chicken wings are just some of the small plates which are usually just as good as the ramen. I usually get the Karaka Men which is a pork noodle soup with a blend of hot spices, pork chashu, sesame kikurage mushrooms, cabbage, onion, minced pork, and scallions. Adding pork belly or an egg doesn't hurt! 

The open kitchen is jamming and it rolls into the dinning room. Good vibes with bangin' food! Definitely a place to check out. 

Momofuku Noodle Bar was David Chang's first restaurant I believe. This is where he got his reputation for awesome ramenand those glorious pork buns. Noodle Bar reflects a more Americanized version of a neighborhood ramen shop while still keeping tradition and providing a great bowl of ramen. Sit at the chef's counter and watch the chefs work--though they don't seem like they are working as hard as the chefs in the previous stated restaurants. Mr. Chang brings a complex product with levels of flavor and he makes it look easy. Momofuku Noodle Bar has become a neighborhood staple and is the foundation on which Mr. Chang has built his empire. 

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