After a beautiful yet brief stint in Colombia, I was most excited to come back to New York City for the food — particularly, Asian food, as it does not exist in rural Colombia. Of all Asian cuisine,
dumplings Japanese ramen is supreme.
There is something mesmerizing about ramen – the texture, the warmth, the way the broth soaks into the noodles. It’s all part of a delicate and creative process that has been practiced in Japanese tradition for centuries. I love observing the intense dedication to technique and the artistic pairings of noodles with different broths and garnishes. Undeniably, I enjoy documenting my ramen expeditions on Snapchat – as my friends seem to be unequivocally amused. But above all, I really just enjoy eating a shit ton of ramen.
As such, I’ve compiled my list of favorite ramen places in Manhattan¹ due to requests and for fun. If you think I’ve missed an essential spot let me know and I will happily let you buy me a bowl sometime.
This place has two locations and they are both phenomenal, though the lower east side location is the original and boasts a slightly better atmosphere. The waits range from annoying to absurd but if you’re patient and or don’t mind getting a nice buzz on beforehand, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better ramen in New York, perhaps the world.
The Akamaru Modern (pictured below) with tonkotsu (pork) broth is the most renowned here and for good reason. Though the noodles are fairly basic and thin, it is the broth that provides Ippudo with its cult-like following. The broth at Ippudo is truly a perfected art– like Stephen Curry’s jump-shot — years of skillful repetition have resulted in the most consistent and impressive broth in the league today.
There is a notably less obvious and equally as delicious choice – the sesame-based broth veggie ramen (pictured below). Before you scoff at the word vegetarian in a ramen list, trust me when I say the sesame broth is equally as satisfying as the tonkotsu and in a subtle way, maybe tastier.
#2 Ivan Ramen
I first came to Ivan after watching the Chef’s Table episode on Netflix, which is impossible to watch and not want to race here afterward (when paired, it made for an amazing date night). I’ve had almost every ramen here and not one has disappointed. It is not a stretch to say Ivan makes the best hand-pulled noodles in New York City. Everything here is amazing. I think my favorite dish may be not a traditional ramen, but the Triple Pork, Triple Garlic Mazemen (pictured). Mazemen has very little, if any broth, so when it first arrived I was a bit thrown off. But oh my lord, these are some life-changing noodles. So creamy and smooth that you’re not sure if you’ll ever experience something quite like them again.
Also notable is the Shoyu Tsukemen, which is an increasingly popular dish where you dip the noodles into the broth on the side. The more classic dishes of Tokyo Shoyu (soy sauce), Shio (salt), and Chicken Paitan are also delicious and even better with Ivan’s famous roasted tomato add-on. You cannot go wrong at this place.
I ordered the Jidori Ramen here once the waitress informed me it is made with the same signature broth as the Torigara but has chicken and chewy noodles versus pork and thin noodles.³ This place is truly special and their chicken broth tastes like no other chicken broth I’ve ever tried; it apparently comes from a 100-year-old recipe. More importantly, it is some of the tastiest and richest chicken broth I’ve ever experienced. When I first tasted it I thought they had surely brought me the tonkotsu by mistake.
I’m not often impressed with the meat that comes in a bowl of ramen but Nakmura has some of the juiciest chicken to ever land in a ramen dish. The diced pieces are a perfect balance of sweet and salty flavor. It’s conceivable that if I didn’t live so far from the Lower East Side, I would go here more often and Nakamura could rise to number two, if not number one on the list.
#4 Ramen Ya
It is possible that Ramen Ya’s rating is inflated due to the appeal of it being open late night (3am on Friday and Saturdays). As such, I don’t frequent this shack sober, per se and the bowl seems to disappear as quickly as it arrives. However, a lot of people on this thing called the Internet claim Ramen Ya’s, ‘Shio black Musashi’ is the best bowl in NYC – and it’s not hard to see why. It’s rich with truffle flavor and warms you from head to toe; the only drawback is its smaller size. The Shio Red Kajori however, boasts thicker, wavy noodles that absorb the spicy chicken broth perfectly. The seating is tiny with not much of an atmosphere, but for pure ramen indulgence purposes, you’re gonna be delighted you came by.
Shio Black Musashi (photo by Matthew M)
Jun Men boasts some of the most picture perfect looking ramen in a fairly awkward looking shop in Chelsea. The noodles here are all thin, which is not my favorite (reason number four why pho does not compare), but it hardly matters. I got the spicy pork bone, which has just the right amount of heat. The scallions add a nice and pronounced acidity. The unmistakable addition of black truffle oil results in a taste that is nothing short of spectacular. When I open my ramen shop down the road, best believe it will feature some black truffle oil. Check out their Instagram page to see a ridiculous amount of mouth-watering photos – I will no doubt be back soon to try some more of their signature bowls.
#6 Jin Ramen
This place has a lot going for it. First off, the atmosphere here is wonderful and the bartender hooked us up with free sake both times we’ve gone – legend. Secondly, the portions are probably the biggest you’ll find anywhere. Lastly, the amount of options for ramen is almost unparalleled. The first time we went I tried the Green curry coconut ramen, which was good but not as flavorful as the name suggests. Next time, I ordered the miso ramen, which is a gentler broth made with chicken and miso paste — it was excellent and satisfying; pure comfort food. I’ve also tried the kimchi ramen, which if kimchi is your thing, you certainly won’t regret ordering here. As the only spot on the Upper West Side, Jin Ramen clearly has the best location on the list.
#7 Ichiba Ramen
Admittedly, I am excited to include Ichiba Ramen on the list because this photo has somehow amassed over 10,000 views on Google – making it easily my most viewed food picture ever. I was trying to remember if it is as good as it looks here and I have concluded that indeed it is. I ordered the tantan ramen, which had the perfect chili oil consistency; definitively spicy but not too oily. The broth is fresh and tantalizing – just look at that orange sizzle. The spicy miso ramen is also highly regarded here, as well as the ramen tacos! I consider this probably the most underrated spot on the list, often left out of the top reviews and critics.
#8 Ramen Lab
Forget for a second that you have to stand while you eat. Friends I take out to ramen tend to always have a complaint – ‘the wait is too long’, ‘I don’t want soup for dinner’, or ‘I’m not going to stand while I eat’ – the only thing in common with all the whines is that they all shut up once a hot bowl of ramen stares ‘em down in the face. I’ve only had one ramen here – the vegan miso ramen (vegan ≠ bad, I promise), which was as good as any ramen I’ve ever had. The broth was a melting pot of rich, garlic, spicy, and scallion flavors. If you have read this far, then you are truly in it for the ramen – and for purely tasteful purposes, Ramen Lab can dine with the best of them.
- Unquestionably, there are ramen places deserving of recognition in Flushing and Brooklyn, but as of the time of this publication, I am choosing to omit them.
- Tamago refers to the soft boiled egg — which, if it wasn’t obvious, you must add as it’s arguably the best part of any ramen bowl.
- As a general rule, I believe wavy and thicker noodles to be tastier – they absorb broth better and have a more interesting texture.