I tried 25 bowls of the best ramen in New York City on a work trip. Here they are.
Now I didn’t mind the occasional bowl of good ramen back in the day, but as I moved away from the sweltering tropical humidity of Singapore to the biting-cold winters of Manhattan, I found in ramen an unexpectedly comfortable refuge. The first few bowls of good ramen I had around town were just casual unthinking dinners, but then I decided to get serious. I was going to thoroughly explore what the city had to offer as its popular, late-night, pick-me-up dish. This sparked off a hunt around town (and the boroughs) for twenty-five glorious bowls of ramen.
Here’s a summary graphic and a Google Maps layer if you’d like to join in on the ramen journey:
The full list is below, in alphabetical order. This in no way exhaustive, of course. I’m also not ranking them because they’re all a unique experience in their own right.
212 East 45th St
Chef Taka from Kuu Ramen in the Financial District opened this Ramen bar along Midtown East, just a few minutes’ walk from my workplace. They sport Nagahama-style tonkotsu ramen, a style unique to a district in Fukuoka, Japan of the same name. I had their Tan Tan Men for dinner one evening, a bowl of spicy tonkotsu broth with sesame ground meat and mugifuji pork. Try their classic Tonkotsu too.
360 West 46th St
E.A.K. brings Iekei-style ramen to the States, a blend of Tonkotsu-style and Shoyu-style ramen from the western and eastern regions of Japan. I took a half-hour walk down to Hell’s Kitchen for lunch here, and had its classic E.A.K. Ramen: A really intense pork-chicken-soy broth, with tender pork chashu, spinach, and noodles that were thicker than usual (probably to balance the broth). There was a lot going on in that broth.
248 East 52nd St, 2nd Floor
My colleagues were gastronomically divided into two camps on the Totto vs. Hide Chan line — both ramen restaurants are in the same building in Midtown East, with Hide Chan a floor above Totto. Hide Chan sports Hakata-style ramen: rich tonkotsu pork broth with ultra-thin noodles. I had the Classic Pork Broth Ramen: pork broth, pork slices, really firm and thin noodles, mushrooms and scallions.
152 West 49th St
Ichiran has a global presence, with many of my colleagues raving about their experience of its famed Hakata tonkotsu ramen in Tokyo and in Singapore. I had to try it for myself. Walked all the way down to Times Square and sat in one of their solo wooden booths, designed to allow maximum kitchen-to-table speed as well as for the customer to focus on the tasting experience). Naturally, I went for the Classic Tonkotsu: skimmed pork bone broth, special raw noodles from a blend of different types of flour, spring onions, and really tasty lean pork chashu. It didn’t let me down.
24 West 46th St
This global ramen chain has a strong following all over the world, and had bagged many awards in Singapore. I took a walk over to Midtown West to see if it would live up to the hype here in the city. It didn’t disappoint. I had the Akamaru Kasane, thin noodles in tonkotsu broth topped with Ippudo’s secret “Umami Dama” paste, with pork belly chuashu, sesame kikurage mushrooms, and a dollop of garlic oil. What amazes me is how Ippudo manages to achieve such consistency across its stores worldwide.
25 Clinton St
I was looking out for Ivan Ramen even before I flew into New York. Ivan grew up in the States but moved to Japan and fell in love with everything Japanese. Against all odds he set up a ramen shop in Japan, which became one of the top ramen shops in Tokyo. The ramen shop along Clinton St is the US flagship. It’s featured on the Netflix series Chef’s Table. I had the Chicken Paitan: thin rye noodles in rich chicken broth, with minced chicken, egg yolk, and shio kombu. Broth and noodle combo was unique and nothing like whatever I’ve tasted before. I would go back for the Tokyo Shio too; heard from a proper ramen head that it’s legendary.
337 West 14th St
I took a subway ride to Chelsea after a long day of work to Kogane Ramen, a cosy basement ramen shop. I tried their Parco Ramen: pork bone and curry broth with crunchy pork chop, spicy pickles, a soft-boiled egg, menma, scallion, and black garlic oil. The peppery curry really warmed me up that cold evening. The charred brussels sprouts were excellent too — I was getting concerned about the lack of nutritional balance in my ramen diet.
2 West 32nd St
This Japanese-Korean fusion ramen bar along bustling K-Town was a pretty good find. I went for the Koku Ramen: pork broth with pork chashu, kikurage mushrooms, black garlic oil, bokchoy, bean sprouts, and seaweed. It was a pretty light meal and probably a good starter before a crazy night out along the rest of the street.
Urbanspace Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt Ave
A quick-service ramen bar started by Ippudo New York with multiple outlets at food hubs throughout the city, I stopped by one for a quick lunch in between meetings and had their original Kuro-Obi: chicken paitan, with springy noodles, garlic oil, savory miso paste, mushrooms, and pork belly chashu. For the volume at which they’re producing their ramen bowls, this was satisfying.
536 East 5th St
I set out for this little ramen-ya tucked away in Alphabet City on one of my first weekends in the city. It was spartan, took only cash, and you could sit facing the chefs and watch them in their element. I had the Minca Sio: a half-pork, half-chicken broth bowl of thin noodles with salt and roast garlic, tender chashu pork. This was a very balanced bowl of ramen with its broth, noodles, and meat/vegs all pulling their weight. If I were to live here for a year or more, going to Minca would be part of a weekly routine.
129 2nd Ave
It was absolutely freezing that night. I trodded down to this little ramen shop around East Village’s Little Tokyo known for singing the praises of miso and its health-prolonging properties. The Miso Curry Chicken Katsu I had was probably the heartiest bowl I had in this list: three massive pieces of katsu chicken and ground pork, egg, fried potatoes, pickled daikon radish, lots of corn embedded in rich piping-hot miso broth with sweet curry and moderately thick noodles. I left the ramen shop feeling very comfortably warm and full.
Momofuku Noodle Bar
171 1st Ave
David Chang and Tony Kim started a noodle bar with an ever-changing roster of noodles. Good place for experimental flavours. The East Village bar opened at 5.30pm for dinner that Sunday evening, and I had to grapple with a horde of patrons, all similarly anxious to grab a seat. In less than fifteen minutes the entire place was full. I had the Smoked Pork Ramen: Tender pork belly, an egg yolk, bamboo and vegetables in a clear soy broth and momofuku barley noodles. One should try the various types of ramen here because you won’t have the same experience anywhere else — but go really early.
Momosan Ramen & Sake Bar
342 Lexington Ave
This hip ramen bar in Midtown East is known for their “temomi” noodles that don’t absorb moisture as quickly, resulting in firm noodles that don’t turn soggy in the broth. The noodles also have thinner and thicker segments to latch onto the broth. I had their Tonkotsu: 70–30 pork-chicken bone combination broth, with pork belly chashu, overnight marinated egg, kikurage mushrooms, toasted nori, and homemade garlic oil. A real treat when paired with the sake here.
170 Allen St
Chefs Takatoshi and Takayuki’s Bigiya ramen restaurant was listed on Michelin Tokyo in 2015. They later brought their ramen expertise to New York in the form of Mr. Taka at the edge of East Village. I had the Tonkotsu: pork broth, thin noodles, really tender sliced pork belly that melted in my mouth, scallion, bean sprouts, kikurage mushrooms, shredded red ginger, fried garlic, sesame seeds and black garlic oil. Probably one of the best bowls I’ve had here, and the crowd validated it – was lucky enough to snatch the final vacant bar seat for dinner at 5pm.
1209 Jackson Ave, Long Island City
I initially heard a lot of hype about this ramen restaurant’s special Mu Ramen – a special oxtail broth bowl of noodles that was limited to only twenty bowls a day. Took a subway train across the river to Long Island City for lunch, in the hopes of landing one of these oxtail broth bowls for lunch. Unfortunately the staff said that the chef decided not to make the Mu Ramen bowls anymore. I went for a classic Tonkotsu Ramen: kurabuta pork-based soup, topped with tender pork, kikurage mushrooms, bamboo, and negi. Broth was really creamy, yet not too obsessively rich.
172 Delancey St
This little ramen restaurant near Chinatown was the first restaurant in the States opened by Chef Shigetoshi Nakamura, who started his own ramen shop at the age of 22. I had the Tontoro Pork. Broth was a mixture of soy and pork, a creamy blend which was absolutely delicious. I finished every drop of that broth. Chashu pork was tender and the right balance between fatty and lean. The noodles were the thicker and wavy variety and held the broth pretty well. If I could visit again, I’d definitely try the XO Miso Ramen.
302 East 49th St
This ramen shop is popular for mid-day lunches and also for late-night, post-drinks comfort suppers. It was right down the street from where I lived. Can’t have a ramen shop untried under your nose. I had the White Kakuni Ramen for a quick lunch: a pork paitan broth with thin noodles, chashu pork, bok choy, a generous amount of onions that really defined the flavour of the broth, green onions, and seaweed. Nishida Sho-ten also runs another store right next to it, really creatively called Nishida Sho-ten NEXT, that adopts a chicken paitan base spin on their ramen.
Rai Rai Ken
210 E 10th St
One of the first ramen shops in New York City, Rai Rai Ken focuses on Tokyo-style shitamachi ramen: light, clean broth with fresh ingredients. Their speciality is either shoyu or shio ramen. I went for their Shio ramen: sea-salt flavoured chicken broth, chashu pork, egg, bamboo, spinach, fish cake, scallions and seaweed. The broth was light yet flavorful, clear yet hearty. Couldn’t get enough of the tender and fatty pork slices either. If I resided here in East Village I would come here every day.
122 Ludlow St
Yohei Ishida opened this small ramen shop in 2017 around the Lower East Side to challenge the notion that clear broth (chintan, as opposed to cloudy paitan) was less flavorful than their tonkotsu bretheren. This came highly recommended by a native New Yorker friend, so I trudged out here in the pouring rain. I had the Tokyo-style Shoyu Ramen: Clear chicken and soy sauce broth with truffle and porcini mushrooms, with thin chewy flour noodles, chicken breast, and probably the best-tasting charred chashu pork I’ve had in a ramen bowl here. Broth was refreshingly delicious. It hit the right balance of umami.
167 1st Ave
This ramen bar in East Village originated from Los Angeles by a duo inspired by the Tokyo ramen scene. It opens from 11am all the way to 5am the next morning. Orders are all done at the door on an iPad before you take your seat. I had the Bold Ramen, a homemade 14-hour tonkotsu pork broth with 11 ingredients, thin noodles, a marinated soft-boiled egg, scallions and fried onions. You can choose between pork belly chashu, chicken breast, or tofu, and can determine your own quantities of chilli oil, garlic, and green onion. A side of wagyu ramen burger goes pretty well with it too.
159 East 55th St
The first restaurant to be opened in the States by a Japanese chef with the moniker ‘The Ramen Backpacker’, this basement ramen joint in Midtown East was a delightful find on a cold rainy day. I went straight for the Maji Teppen, limited to a maximum of 20 bowls a day. Rich miso broth with red and black peppers, wavy noodles, tender char-siu pork belly, a mountain of sesame, leek, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, ground pork. Left the place feeling really satisfied — and a lot warmer.
13 West 36th St
This Tokyo-based ramen bar just a few streets off K-town was packed when I walked in at noon on a work day. Managed to grab a seat at the bar. I had the Tonchin Classic Tokyo Tonkotsu Ramen, with Tonchin’s homemade noodles, rich tonkotsu broth, roasted pork, egg, scallion, menma, and seaweed. Guy seated next to me was so happy with his ramen he said it was worth it when he got his shirt stained with ramen broth (the restaurant offers classy black paper bibs for that).
248 East 52nd St
In the Totto vs Hide Chan war among my colleagues, I have to say that I’m on Totto’s side. This was the very first ramen place I went to just a day after I landed in New York. Many years ago I lined up for hours outside the first Totto store in the winter as a college student, and wasn’t disappointed. They’re a powerhouse in chicken paitan broth. I had the Mega Paitan — blowtorch-seared pork in rich chicken paitan broth, with a mound of hearty vegetables. It was a feast.
This restaurant was a nice minimalist space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I braved a row of subway delays to get here on a pretty frosty afternoon. I’ve heard about the BBQ Beef Ribs Ramen, and it did not disappoint. Really tender beef ribs, embedded in a really rich and creamy beef broth with a marinated egg, arugula, onions, scallions, bean sprouts, garlic oil, and some rosemary. Heard the curry over rice here is good too.
142 W 72nd St
This place around the Upper West Side doesn’t have its own website. It was already pretty full when I walked in for lunch on a rainy Saturday afternoon. The ramen shop is known for its chicken broth — slowly cooked for 8 hours before serving. I had the Zurutto Deluxe: a bowl of chicken broth ramen with garlic oil on the side, a generous number of tender pork slices, egg, bamboo, scallions, and firm yet chewy noodles. I would recommend to go easy on the garlic oil to enjoy the full flavor of the chicken broth, or go for the Zurutto Classic without the garlic oil.