This time, we went to Jin Ramen at 125th and Broadway in Upper Manhattan. While it may be out of the way for some, the food was quite good, and definitely worth trying if you are in the area.
In the interest of full disclosure, both Marion and I have been to Jin Ramen a couple of times already. We have both come away thinking basically the same thing – solid but not spectacular. However, we decided to come back and give it another try now that the blog is up and running.
An interesting thing about Jin Ramen is its location. It is literally right beside the elevated subway stop at 125th and Broadway, meaning that once you descend the escalator to street level, you are practically right at the restaurant’s door. This must be good for business, since it has been partially to completely full every time I have been there (many seem like students from the nearby Columbia University). However, the fact that the restaurant’s façade is almost completely blocked by the subway station is somewhat strange. However, Jin’s interior is very nice with plenty of tasteful wooden accents and an open kitchen that you can peer into if you sit at the bar. It is a pretty small place that is similar in size the Chuko Ramen (meaning space for about 30 people). Therefore, don’t be surprised if you have to wait for a while. Luckily, they also have a café of sorts right next door where you can wait (and spend more money).
Jin Ramen’s food definitely impressed us this time around. We both got the regular Tonkotsu Ramen (although I added corn and kikurage mushrooms to mine) and shared an order of the homemade chicken gyoza as an appetizer. The gyoza dumplings were fried to a golden crisp and had a nice spicy scallion flavor. We both especially liked the balance that they had between meat, vegetables and outer skin. They definitely stack up well against the ones we had from Chuko a week ago. The ramen was also very good – seemingly better than we both remember it from our past visits. The tonkotsu broth was full-bodied and surprisingly smoky – a unique quality that we haven’t experienced at other ramen shops. There was also a noticeable sweetness to the broth that we both needed to balance out with a splash or two of vinegar, which you can request. They give you ample toppings with the basic bowl, too, as it normally comes with two pieces of pork, scallions, bean sprouts, bamboo, half an egg, and a square of nori. The pork was well-seasoned and sliced thinly.
House made chicken gyoza
I think the main issue that we had with this bowl was the quality of the noodle itself. Unlike the yellow noodles that you see in most places, the ones at Jin are almost gray in color, and are wider and flatter than others. Perhaps they prepare them with different ingredients according to unique alkalinity standards (the alkalinity of a noodle controls how well it will stand up to submersion in hot liquids like soup). If they do not make them on site, then they might source them from a different place than other restaurants in the New York area. Whatever the reason they have for choosing these noodles, they are not our favorite. However, we do respect the restaurant for wanting to set itself apart from other places by having its own distinct vision for ramen.
Jin’s ramen portion of the menu
Whatever way you slice it, Jin serves good quality food, from its appetizers to its signature ramen dishes. They have a reasonably large menu, are located extremely close to public transportation their price to food ratio is solid. And this is why it is so hard to rank Jin Ramen. Marion and I both acknowledge that the food there is good and will appeal to many people. However, it does not quite resonate in the same way with us. While it is very good, we would put it in the tier below places like Hide-Chan and Misoya that we have visited. We give it three and a half stars out of five.