Hello and happy new year everyone! Thank you for reading and keeping up with us as we enter a new year. The first ramenventure of the year took us to Zundo-ya, one of New York’s newer ramen shops. Zundo-ya, like Ippudo, is a Japanese import and has just opened its first shop in the States after establishing itself for fifteen years in Japan. Coincidentally, it is also right around the corner from Ippudo’s East Village/Astor Place location. We journeyed there with three good friends on a Friday evening to kick off our weekend with a nice hot bowl of noodles.
Zundo-ya specializes in tonkotsu (pork-broth) ramen. However, its soup is noticeably thicker, fattier and richer than what you would normally find at other ramen restaurants. They have about eight to nine varieties of this pork ramen on their menu, though most only differ in terms of their toppings and the spiciness level of the broth. The most interesting customization comes from the eater’s ability to choose the broth’s richness level. There are four options, from “Light” to “Super Rich.” Each person in our group ended up ordering either Normal or Rich broth, and in hindsight it might have been good to explore the Light option as well just to have an additional level of broth in our sample. They also give you a choice between two types of noodle types: thin and straight or thicker and wavy (we all opted for the thick ones).
This leads into my statement or disclaimer about Zundo-ya’s ramen. This is not a broth to be taken lightly (no pun intended). I personally consider myself someone who enjoys powerful flavors when it comes to ramen. In my mind, the richer the better. However, Zundo-ya’s Regular bowl was right on the verge of being too much for me. I still finished it, but I definitely felt slowed down and full for several hours following the meal. This is some of the heartiest, richest ramen I have ever had. If I went back, I would probably order the Light broth. Marion ordered the Regular broth and said that it was too rich for her. Our friend Richard also ordered this broth variety and agreed it was borderline too much for him. The fourth and fifth members of our group, Jack and Nick tried the Rich broth. Nick claimed he would get Regular or Light if he came back. Jack said he would still order it Rich. Both agreed that while it was delicious and flavorful, it might not be best for everyone. We all thought that the staff at Zundo-ya could have done a better job at explaining the menu and cautioning people about the intensity of the soup.
Ajitama Hot Ramen with Rich broth level
Ajitama Ramen with Regular broth level
It may seem like I am being hard on Zundo-ya. The only reason I have taken this long to elaborate on the restaurant’s broth is that it is truly unique among ramen shops in New York, at least the ones covered in this blog. Therefore, I believe it deserves special attention. I would personally recommend sticking with the Light or Regular broth levels the first time you go. Zundo-ya’s soup has an incredible meaty flavor and a thick consistency. The accompanying toppings are also very nicely prepared. The scallions are fresh, the chashu is tender and melts in your mouth and the egg had a yolk that was perfectly runny. While the bowl itself can range from $13-$18, it is worth it to experience the uniquely rich broth and the high quality of the ingredients that comprise the ramen.
We also ordered appetizers to consume before receiving our ramen. The karaage was excellent – tender, juicy and you are given a sizeable portion. It came with mayo and some kind of salt mixture to dip it in. We tried the Teriyaki and the Spicy buns and both were very good. Although you only get one piece of pork, it is high-quality rolled chashu, similar to what they use as a topping for the ramen. I would definitely recommend trying at least one of these if you decide to eat at Zundo-ya.
Teriyaki and Spicy pork belly buns
The servers were very attentive. We were asked if we wanted to order drinks by three different people within a couple minutes of sitting down. While that may be annoying to some people, we thought it was charming, as everyone working seemed to be in a good mood and willing to do whatever they could to make the dining experience better for their customers. The staff also seemed very young, so hopefully with more time they will improve their communication and iron out any kinks that may be present. The restaurant’s interior was modern, with a distinctly Ippudo-like vibe to it, although it was brighter and quieter. Additionally, it appears to be very popular already. In the 20 – 30 minutes that we waited for a table to open up, a sizable crowd grew outside. If you are interested in going here, I would advise you do so sooner rather than later, as by the summer this place could be seeing wait times similar to Ippudo’s.
Zundo-ya is new to New York yet already seems to be making a name for itself in the city’s ramen scene. Our group all agreed that the food was very good. The appetizers were fantastic and the ramen, while rich, is definitely worth eating. It would have been helpful if the staff had done more explaining about the high fat level of the soup, as this might come as a surprise to other customers. Zundo-ya is a great shop that is doing its own take on ramen: making it as rich and indulgent as possible. It is unique among ramen places in New York in this regard. We give Zundo-ya four stars out of five.