Hello, and welcome back for the latest installment of Ramen Quest!
Seriously though, it’s been quite a while since our last update. Marion and I have both been very busy the last couple of months – she was intensively studying for the MCAT and I basically didn’t see her for about a month while that was going on. I started a new job and have recently been searching for a new apartment to live in with some friends from college. It’s unfortunate but there hasn’t been a lot of spare time to coordinate and eat at any new ramen shops. It’s weird – I’ve been so used to seeing friends all the time because we were living together, going to school or working in the same place. Now we have to plan out when we are going to see each other, and it seems to get more difficult to get the whole group together. I guess that’s how life is – you make friends that you are close with when you’re young and then have to work to maintain those relationships. I think (at least I hope) that the people who matter the most stay in contact.
I don’t know where that came from, but let’s get on with the ramen reviewing! Personally, I would call this one of our greatest ramen adventures yet. We had to face down against some of the worst that nature could throw at us in the form of a torrential rainstorm (seriously, I did not know that it rained that hard in New York). But in the end we came away full and satisfied.
Our good friend Matt joined us for this latest quest. He and I met Marion at Ramen-Ya, a small shop on West 4th street. It’s a small, unassuming place (probably about 12-15 seats in total) that’s only marked with a small banner out front so it’s easy to pass by it if you’re not looking. It looked like the shop used to be an apartment space. The interior is classic and uncomplicated with a couple tables and a bar. There are also big windows to let in natural light, which is a nice change from some of the more cavernous places we’ve been to in the past.
Service was quick and efficient. Matt and Marion both got the miso ramen (Marion’s was chicken broth based) while I opted for the slightly lighter tonkotsu shoyu. All three bowls came with sliced chashu pork, scallions, kikurage mushrooms and an egg. I actually liked this approach to toppings for a couple of reasons. First, all of those ingredients are fantastic and you can basically never go wrong with them. Second, I feel like it forces you to take more notice of the noodles and broth. Personally, I preferred my shoyu over the other bowls. It had great depth and body while not being overly salty. Marion and I both thought that the miso was a little bit too sweet, which overwhelmed the other flavors in the bowl. The noodles in each bowl were very good – springy, chewy and taken out of the boiler at just the right time so that they did not become too soft or soggy towards the end of the bowl. The toppings themselves were also excellent, especially the chashu, which was nicely seasoned and torched with sweet and salty miso and the egg, which had a yolk that was the perfect consistency – firm around the edges and runny in the middle.
Overall, Ramen-Ya is a great little shop. We all enjoyed our food and would all happily return for seconds at some point in the future. In a neighborhood that is dominated by upscale American restaurants, trendy gastropubs, and classic pizzerias, Ramen-Ya stands out as a beacon of light in an otherwise (strangely) ramen-less area. It gets high marks for its quality and presentation. We were also able to get in without any wait on a Sunday afternoon, which is exceedingly rare these days (although I’m sure that the storm had something to do with that). Ramen-Ya is definitely worth checking out if you are in the area shopping or otherwise hanging out. Three and a half stars out of five.