A big, fat stack of fluffy pancakes was the ideal way to start a Sunday morning. All that's missing is a side of house smoked bacon, which is my next project.
Alas, I didn’t eat as many bowls of ramen as I would have liked on my brief trip to Manhattan.
Bowl # 2
My second bowl of ramen was at Momofuku Noodle Bar, Dave Chang’s noodle house in the East Village. We arrived for dinner unfashionably early, around 6:30pm, so the restaurant was relatively empty,
especially in comparison to how crowded it would get by the time we were halfway through our meal. We were seated at the bar, where we were able to watch the expediter keep the kitchen on target and one of the chefs painstakingly cutting vegetables into perfect little squares.
Before I get to the ramen, I want to mention the other plates we had.
First, there was the tomato salad.
I loved this salad. The watermelon was a wonderful, crunchy surprise, the avocado was buttery, the tomatoes were firm and juicy, and the crab was beautifully delicate. All of it tied together with a scrumptious dressing with hints of sesame oil.
Our next course was pork buns.
I can’t emphasize enough how delicious these were. The buns were pillow-soft. The pork belly was melt-in-your-mouth tender, with the richness cut by the flavor of the hoisin and the slightly bitter cucumber. After having one, I seriously considered skipping the ramen altogether and just eating these all night. In the end, the rainy weather helped me decide on sticking to my original plan.
My dining companion wasn’t in the mood for ramen, and ordered the cold noodles instead.
I was a little taken aback at seeing ramen noodles not in a soup, but I tried some anyway. I thought it was a pretty good dish, with it’s fiery sauce, spicy candied cashews, and fresh spinach. It’s all about the noodle, firm, chewy, delicious.
The Momofuku Ramen, however, was a disappointment.
Ramen is a soup primarily about broth and noodles. While in this particular bowl the noodles were delicious, the broth was thin, boring, and not hot enough. The yolk of the soft-cooked, slightly slimy sous-vide egg helped the broth a little, but not nearly enough. Two paper-thin slices of fish cake, a little shredded pork,a little thinly sliced pork belly, a couple of pieces of nori, and some scallions made up the rest of the meager garnish. This soup was not worth hype.
Bowl # 3
The last bowl of ramen on this brief tour of Manhattan was consumed at Tabata’s Midtown noodle house.
I was quickly seated at the counter of this very crowded restaurant. In what felt like seconds, I was able to order a bowl of ramen.
The bowl I received quickly wiped out the memory of the Momofuku ramen I had eaten the night before. The thick, nearly milky-looking broth was intensely flavorful and addictive, with just a hint of ginger. The noodles were thick and chewy, and the soup was garnished with flavorful slices of sweet roast pork, a soft-cooked egg, crisp bean sprouts, and an enormous mound of crunchy sliced scallions.
If I were to rank these from best to worst, Ippudo would win easily, followed by Tabata, and finally Momofuku in a so-distant-as-to-be-nearly-invisible third.
None of the bowls were perfect, but Ippudo’s and Tabata’s were certainly worth revisiting. If I had to build my perfect bowl based on these three soups, it would be the broth from Tabata, the noodles from Momofuku, and the garnishes from Ippudo.
I arrived today in Manhattan for the 2012 International Chefs Congress around mid afternoon. After checking into my hotel, I bolted out of there in search of Ippudo for what I hope will be the first of many bowls of ramen on this brief trip.
After getting only moderately lost, I arrived at Ippudo at 5:15, where a line had already formed outside the restaurant. To my relief, it was still early enough for the line to move quickly. I found myself inside in less than five minutes.
My relief was short lived as the host informed the party in front of me that the wait would be about 45 minutes. Fortunately, the wait for a single was no wait at all.
I followed the host into the main dining room, where he yelled a greeting (or an announcement) to the staff before leading me to my seat at a communal table.
I ordered the Shiromaru Hakata Classic.
I loved the thick, creamy broth with full pork flavor. The garnishes of red pickled ginger, sesame seeds, and sliced green onions added nice counterpoints of flavor and texture to the incredibly rich broth, and the beautifully sliced pork was tender and sweet. Of all the garnishes in the soup, the most delicious surprise was the sliced kikurage mushrooms. Crunchy and delicious, these mushrooms added a nearly superfluous burst of umami with every bite. The noodles, which were thin and straight, were delicious, but I prefer the thicker, chewier curly noodles.
All in all, I thought it was a great bowl of ramen served in a lively, exciting atmosphere.