Archive for the ‘Ramen’ Category

Momofuku Again

December 21, 2007

I haven’t been to here in so long because I get scared by the mad groups of Asian Americans and the Bridge and Tunnel type couples. But my friend really wanted to go and of course I’m all up for ramen at any time.

We started with shrimp and grits. It had some fancy adjectives attached but I already forgot what they are. This was a really weird combination. There was crispy bacon and a COLD poached egg. I ordered it because it sounded weird and it was. But not in a good way. We also ordered those pancakes that are like Peking duck and have hoisin and cucumber along with the Berkshire pork inside. I definitely think those are the best item on the menu.

My friend got the original Momofuku ramen but I ordered the duck leg ramen because it, again, sounded weird. I guess I assumed the meat was off the bone but actually they expected me to tear it up with chopsticks. Which proved impossible. Unremarkable broth, no memma/bamboo…everything was sort of blah. Fatty duck skin doesn’t do so well when dunked in broth.

Hitachino White Ale was so good though! I would have done better just to get the pancakes and beers. I think this place is just decent but definitely not worth the line and the loudness. Going at a weird and inconvenient time like 3 pm, which I have actually done before, is the best solution. The chef was cute though.

163 1st ave
New York, NY 10003

Mitsuwa Field Trip

December 14, 2007

For some god foresaken reason, Roach and I were inspired to take a bus to Mitsuwa, all the way out in buttfuck Jersey the day after Thanksgiving. I don’t know what it was– fantasies of all the food shopping possibilities, or simply the food court extravaganza– that lured us to make the trek. Whatever it was, we were on the 11:30am bus. I was supposed to be sleeping, in a food coma all day for fucks sake. Damn Mitsuwa.

Mitsuwa is a very large chain Japanese grocery store that is scattered all around the east and west coasts. My mom practically lives at the one in Santa Clara. I’m not kidding. It’s where she can buy her matsutake mushrooms, Shiseido shampoo, a rice cooker and rent videos of Japanese TV shows all in one place. It’s like she never left Japan. It’s sick.

There’s a convenient shuttle bus out of Port Authority for all of us Japanese people (or just Japan-crazy people, or just suburban-grocery store crazy people, or just the foodie crazed people) to take to get to Mitsuwa– can you believe it? A bus specifically to take us to Mitsuwa, in Jersey?? Ain’t America grand???

We got there in time for lunch (just as planned), and all the food stalls tempted us with their plastic replicas of the food encased right next to the register (so Japan!). Why don’t American restaurants do this? It’s really quite ingenious.

Although all the plastic meals looked tempting (soba, sanuki udon, katsu, tempura, etc. etc.), we both couldn’t resist Santouka Ramen.

The above “set” menu (plastic) of a bowl of ramen and a small bowl of ikura (salmon roe) over rice, PLUS a wonderfully soy seasoned hard boiled egg was only $11. It’s a good price, and perfect for someone like me who can never decide whether to go noodle or rice. I’m all about carb overload- bring it on.

I had Santouka once at the LA Mitsuwa after reading all the raves via Oishii Eats and my friend Jim. It’s an extremely rich pork soup base, but really quenches that thirst for a good bowl of ramen (read- good, not the best).

Below pics are not plastic- they are the real thing. Could you tell?

If you like a really hearty soup, you’ll enjoy this. The chashu pork slices were flavorful, and not too fatty, like at Menkui-Tei.

The noodles were floury, which isn’t my favorite, but I would say that the noodles themselves were better than that of Setagaya.

My ikura don- nothing to complain about here:

I didn’t take a picure of the egg, which was the best part. It was dark brown, it had been stewing for so long. Mmmm, so good.

It took us about 15 minutes to slurp and chew. To work off all that we ate, we walked just a few feet to the sprawling jungle of a megastore specializing in all things Japanese– produce, condiments, kobe beef, facial masks– all under one sturdy roof. In the end, 3 hours and less $70 in the bank later, we were ready to go home.

I am from Cupertino, California. I am a suburban girl at heart. I love this shit.


June 24, 2007

Aya: Hey Tmonkey,

tmonkey: hey
have you recovered from The Banquet?

Aya: um I don’t even know what you’re talking about because I’ve had my memories from Friday night removed from my brain.

tmonkey: nooo
ok the movie was painful
but the ramen at Setagaya!
Can’t forget that!

Aya: hmmm seem to have a faint recollection….
ok jk how could I possibly forget?! SRSLY

tmonkey: omg u r such a dork
i mean, when we finally find the BEST RAMEN IN NY

Aya: WOW bold statement!!!!

tmonkey: some cat comes along and reformats ur hard drive

Aya: LOLCATS!!!! only eaten cheezbrgrs
ok ok — seriously…
I have heard that Setagaya is a chain restaurant from California and also from Setagaya in Tokyo (which, incidentally, is where my brother lives)

tmonkey: i thought chain meant it would be bad

Aya: I know, right?

tmonkey: but boy was i wrong!

Aya: OK let’s break it down

tmonkey: well, it started out kind of disappointing
no liquor license yet

Aya: yeah, wtf, how can they be “out” of gyoza?!?

tmonkey: after that, i was like (to the waitress): “This ramen better be damn good!”

Aya: Yah, i think she was like, whatever, dude

tmonkey: i mean, we were all prepared for some serious disappointment

Aya: It’s pretty bold for a ramen shop to serve only one kind of soup

tmonkey: we = a big table of Japanese (and Taiwanese) ramen freaks
what was it? shio?

Aya: yes, shio (salt) flavor. kinda risky, considering most pp tend to favor the traditional shoyu flavor

tmonkey: isn’t that what i ordered?

Aya: no you got the chashu ramen, which basically means you got 2 extra slices of pork
the soup was the same: pale yellow color, looks light but full of flavor!

tmonkey: i love how there’s a whole different menu listing for ADD EXTRA PORK SLICES
the soup!
nice saltiness (not too much) but with good depth, and it was clear

Aya: yeah the description on the menu in bad engrish was hysterical

tmonkey: they put those three oils in it..

Aya: something like “look for the bamboo shooting on the top”

tmonkey: oh yeah, i had some bamboo gunplay going on in mine
the noodles were AWESOME imho
al dente

Aya: u r such a dork

tmonkey: shaddap
what, i like my noodles thin and al dente!

Aya: anyway the soup — made from dried shrimp, dried scallop, garlic, onion, chicken — was so full! and they added the scallop oil at the end,
very complex

tmonkey: it’s amazing how hard it is to get the soup right
momofuku you would think would be able to conjure up a good broth

Aya: ugh

tmonkey: minca’s is too thick

Aya: i don’t know WTF they are doing over there, man

tmonkey: and everywhere else just has no DEPTH

Aya: minca is way too thick and salty

tmonkey: but Setagaya, I gotta admit, EXCELLENT

Aya: yes we are in agreement there.

tmonkey: that’s half the battle

Aya: the menu also talked about there being 3 different thicknesses to their noodles.
did you notice that?

tmonkey: not sure if i got that

Aya: me neither…

tmonkey: i was too busy slurping them into my mouth i didn’t have a chance to get my ruler out

Aya: but then again, we pretty much inaled that shit
that’s what i said

tmonkey: jinx

Aya: stop stealing my thoughts

tmonkey: dork
the egg, halved and poached to perfection
no piece of seaweed though
no fancy ginger

Aya: yeah. plus bamboo shotting — they had shredded seaweed (not nori)

tmonkey: what was that orange crumbly stuff on the scallions?

Aya: OHHH dried ground shrimp i thnk!

tmonkey: gave it some nice color

Aya: and packed a flavor punch

tmonkey: i liked the restraint and the humble presentation
it wasn’t trying to do too much

Aya: We should have order extra noodles

tmonkey: um, we should have just ordered another bowl

Aya: yeah second round!

tmonkey: hungry hippo

Aya: of course by that time there were like a dozen pp waiting in line to get in

tmonkey: yeah, we have to plan to be there at some odd hour to not have to wait in line, but you know
it’s totally worth it

Aya: yesh — and next time we’ll skip the crepes from next door that gave you the tummyache
and the poop poops

tmonkey: STOP

Aya: LOL



tmonkey: KTHXBAI

Aya: 😦
i don’t know why you insist on chatting with me when you’re sitting 5 feet away from me

tmonkey: because, sometimes there are things that are better said through chat

Aya: like what

tmonkey: like
i just farted

Aya: U NYERD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sent at 11:05 AM on Sunday

Ramen Setagaya

141 First Avenue
(bet. 8th and 9th Streets)
(212) 529-2740

Links to other Umami Mart ramen-related postings:

Ramen Haven? ISE

April 2, 2007

Lunch during the workweek has never struck me as an opportunity for a truly enjoyable eating experience — especially working in midtown! But I went to ISE for the first time in a couple months and you know what, I think this place might have the best ramen in NYC that I’ve tasted so far.

They are not strictly a ramen place – in fact they have sushi and other Japanese staples, but they always have a lunch special menu, and always have a ramen set special. I’d almost always gotten the shoyu ramen, but today, Futoshi & Ryo and I all got the Niboshi (dried sardine) Ramen set — the broth is made of the niboshi, and the set today came with a small bowl of curry rice. This is a really solid Japanese meal! The Ramen:

Broth — flavorful and rich. Two slices of Chashu, nice combination of fat and meat. Scallions, bean sprouts and menma (braised bamboo). Nothing fancy — I would have loved a piece of nori seaweed and a hard-boiled egg — but otherwise solid. Nice noodles, and a full portion.

The curry rice — when it finally came — did not disappoint. Solid, traditional Japanese curry, with sweet pickles on the side. Nothing fancy. (sorry out of focus!!)

For $11.50, it’s not the kind of money I’d want to spend on lunch everyday, but a pretty good deal. This is the least disappointing ramen I’ve had in New York. While it is still sad that I’m not jumping up and down saying “the is the BEST ramen in NY” (still hoping that there’s a place that really blows me away and captures the flavor and satisfaction of the ubiquitous neighborhood ramen joints in Japan) if you find yourself in midtown craving ramen for lunch, def go to ISE, over Menchanko-tei (barf).

(212) 319-1494151
E 49th St. btw Lex & 3rd Ave.


March 31, 2007

(Editor’s note: This post was co-written by Aya and Tmonkey. All opinions and typos are theirs.)

Aya: I am always hungry. But Tmonkey, you are always always hungry. What’s up with your metabolism?

Tmonkey: I burn a lot of chi doing kung-fu. Also my massive brain controlled by alien maggots requires about 3 times more energy than a regular human brain.

Aya: That’s cool. And where does your profound desire for ramen come from?

Tmonkey: I don’t know, I think it’s a primal instinct.

Aya: Yeah. I yearn for it in a way that’s like it’s part of my DNA.

Tmonkey: Though I think the movie Tampopo helped to shape my latent cravings for ramen–

Aya: Great movie! OK so Tmonkey and I went to Rockmeisha last night.

Tmonkey: Kayoko told me about this place. I tried to go for lunch twice this week, but they’re not open until 6pm.

Aya: It took you two times to figure that out?

Tmonkey: Chut up. Anyway, I was happy to try it out. It’s a cute little cozy place, and, incidentally, right next door to the magnificent Annisa restaurant run by Anita Lo. She trounced Mario Batali in Iron Chef America. I’ll take you there sometime.

Aya: You better.

Tmonkey: OK OK. Rockmeisha is really tiny. The kitchen looked like a kitchen in someone’s house. Stuff all over the place. Plus the whole joint smelled like grease. They fry lots of things. What’s an izakaya? We sat at the bar because I like to drink. A lot. I had 2 Sapporo drafts.

Aya: I had the lychee sake. Yummy.

Tmonkey: We started off with the Tuna and avocado salad.

It was delicious – nice ponzu dressing and lots of thinly sliced onion on top.

Aya: The deep-fried mackerel was even better.

Nice fish. But we should have ordered the porkbelly special.

Tmonkey: Now for the main course. I order the Chashumen, and Aya got the Tonkotsu Ramen. Can you tell the difference?

Aya: Um. No. Wait. Which one was mine?

Tmonkey: The second one. Look closely. Mine has 3 extra slice of pork (spoken in bad Chinese accent).

Aya: Oh right. Those 3 slices of pork cost you an extra $5!

Tmonkey: It was worth it! The noodles had very nice texture and resilience. I read they are imported from Hakata – where is that?

Aya: Uh Hokkaido? No wait, oops, it’s way down south actually, in Fukuoka in Kyushu. I don’t know shit about Japanese geography it’s embarrassing. It says here that tonkotsu (pork-bone base) ramen broth originated there, as did the convention of serving the pickled shoga (ginger) with the noodles.

Tmonkey: Yeah that was weird. I don’t know if I liked that. The broth was nice and thick. But you know, it lacked the most important flavor of all – UMAMI!

Aya: Explain.

Tmonkey: You don’t know what umami is??? What’s the name of this blog? Umami is the “fifth taste” — sour, salty, sweet, bitter, and….umami! It was “discovered” by a japanese scientist, Kikune Ikeda, at the Tokyo Imperial University when he was trying to isolate the flavor of seaweed broth. It’s the taste of mushrooms, parmesan cheese, tomatoes, that “earthy” flavor. It rounds out the flavor profile by hitting a certain region of your tongue. My favorite food writer/critic, Jeffrey Steingarten, wrote a defense of MSG, called “If MSG is bad for you, why doesn’t everyone in Asia have a headache”? Or something like that. Oh just go read this article. MSG! MSG! MSG!

Aya: We’re in agreement there. So overall, I’d say Rockmeisha, meh, it’s OK – kinda pricey for an izakaya, I guess you have to pay for the location.

Tmonkey: We have yet to find the best ramen in NYC.

Aya: OK, but how do you explain this?

Tmonkey: Hey. I was hungry!

11 Barrow Street
between West 4th Street and 7th Avenue
(212) 675-7775

$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 6 & 7

March 30, 2007

$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Prologue
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 1 & 2
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 3, 4 &5

Wednesday 3/28
Total Spent: $5

LUNCH–> $0

Fumiko and I had our usual lunch date. I had leftover pasta alla puttanesca, she had made this absolutely delicious spaghetti bathed in cream sauce with artichokes. She says this is very easy, so i will need to try making this myself. Something about having 2 kinds of pasta in one sitting–one with red sauce, the other with white sauce– that is very satisfying and indulgent.


Matt and I had tickets to see Do Say Make Think at Southpaw in Park Slope, Brooklyn (great venue). But before we met up, I had a gallery opening at work that I was helping out with– all strategically planned out because I knew I could munch on hors d’oeuvres and drink to my hearts content, essentially just eat dinner there without having to spend a dime. Genius.

However, the sushi they served was pretty horrifying– big fat rolls with too much sweetened rice and not enough insides. and just really poorly rolled too, I could have easily done a better job– they were just damn ugly. It was pretty uncharacteristic too, cause the food served at my work’s receptions aren’t usually so bad. But I sucked it up and ate as much as I could– you really can’t be picky when you are on a tight budget. I think I’m finally starting to understand that.

Ok, so I head out after two glasses of bad chardonnay and a stomach full of the worst California rolls I’ve ever had in my life. Meet Matt at Union Hall, he offers me a beer, and recalling my ground rules, I accept on the grounds that I can treat him to a slice of pizza. Fair trade, no?

Wait a sec, back up– Kayoko, didn’t you just have your dinner? You are supposed to be fulfilled by the 10 or so pieces of sushi you JUST consumed. Folks, here’s another thing about me and my eating habits: I cannot tolerate having an unsatisfying dinner. God, that’s horrible and sounds snobby and self-entitled. Ugh. But it’s true– yes, I did have dinner, technically, and I wasn’t really hungry anymore– but I just couldn’t let that be my dinner. It was out of the question.

So I’ve had this weird obsession with pizza lately, and I’m always craving a slice. We headed to this random pizza place that is right off of Union and 5th Ave. It was sorta creepy, I wish I had taken pictures of it. Yellowing wallpaper and really bizarre garage sale chachke displayed everywhere. And the price chart hanging overhead was one of those really old school ones where you have to put up each letter one by one, like a theater marquee. You know what I’m talking about? This one had a 7Up logo on it– remember when 7Up was huge? This place had probably been around since at least the 70s. Do the Right Thing, baby!

I got a slice with sausage piled on top, it was very satisfying– totally worth the $, just so I could go to bed knowing that my dinner weren’t those nasty california rolls.

Sidenote: Do Say Make Think were excellent live. I guess some of the musicians play with Broken Social Scene (both outta Toronto). They create a wondrous cacophony of noise that, along with the light show, made me think of what it would sound like if a spaceship landed in Brooklyn.


Thursday 3/29
Total Spent: $21.25


Feeling groggy and heavy (it’s the bad wine), so I got a croissant on my way in.

LUNCH–> $0

Aya’s incredible Nappa-wrapped pork. what a treat!!!

DINNER–> $20

Here is where things get a little tricky for $100/2 weeks/NYC. We had made plans to go to a movie at Film Forum with work-related people a while back, so I couldn’t really back out of this, even though I fully knew what this meant: eating and drinking with them. CRAP. Finding a wallet-friendly meal is hard enough, but tagging alcohol onto the bill is guaranteed to drive the bill up. So I did my best to suggest a place that would be “affordable”, i.e. under $20 (even that was pushing it).

I always have a really difficult time finding a place to eat around Film Forum. I had heard from various message boards that Rockmeisha in the West Village served good ramen, so we met there at 8pm.

We ran into Aya and TMonkey there– I’ll let TMonkey really talk about the ramen cause he’s doing this taste test of different ramen joints in the city and will be reporting on it. But just let me say that Rockmeisha’s ramen is just another disappointment in the consistently depressing ramen scene in NYC.

Minca– bad
Momofuku– badder
Rai Rai Ken– baddest

The only place i’ll go to that is DECENT is Menkuitei in midtown (NOT the one in Cooper Square- same shop, but the ramen is not as good).

But the roasted pork at Rockmeisha was good- flavorful, just the right amount of fat, and thinly sliced- I’ll give them that. the noodles, too soft. the soup, not enough depth, despite the heaviness.

Someone, i beg you, open up a ramen shop that is at least CLOSE to the ramen in japan. PLEASE!!!

And the thing is, ramen is NOT CHEAP. this little bowl of tonkotsu ramen that I slurped in under 10 bites? $9.95!!! Dude, I could go to Great NY Noodle Town in Chinatown and get 2.5 BOWLS of their shrimp dumpling noodle soup that trumps this stuff ANY DAY. makes me mad just thinking about it.

3 beers, a starter of hiyayakko (cold tofu) and edamame, and 4 bowls of ramens later, the bill came to be exactly $20 each. I was proud that I didn’t go over that, but not proud that I now officially have less than $30 left and I have only reached the halfway point of $100/2Weeks. WAAAAAAAA!!!!!

$5 + $21.25 = $26.25 + $47 (Day 1-5 total) = $73.25

$100 – $73.25 = $26.75

this is suicide.


ps- i am sorry i didn’t take enough pictures in the last 2 days!