ramen and pickles

science, technology, and medicine served up with some tasty noodles

Ippudo Ramen, Westside, NYC

I finally got to try the Westside branch of Ippudo in NYC.   Ippudo, a branch of a chain from Japan, has had a location down in the East Village for years, and it was one of my most favorite ramen places.  It has been a bit of a “scene,” with an active bar area with lots of fashionable young people on dates or in groups.  Within the past few years, they openened another branch over on 51st street.

I was in a big hurry this visit, and I think that impacted my enjoyment of the meal a bit.  Luckily I was seated within 10 minutes (often Ippudo can have a long wait).

The crowd was attractive fashionable young people hanging out at the bar area having drinks, much like the I remember from the other location.  I was seated at the bar area next to a couple on a first/blind date; he was a young guy from Long Island with a fancy watch who went to college upstate and is now starting out in finance, and she was a premed at one of the NYC colleges. He actually knew a lot about ramen and Japanese food and spent a lot of time teaching her about it.   It was close enough seating that I basically couldn’t help but hear their whole date conversation, and I think that is probably reflective of the ambience of the place overall.

As a starter, I got a fusion maki full of vegetables (notice the orchid on the plate).  It’s nice to be able to get something light, as many ramen places just have side dishes like fried chicken and fried rice.

I got the torishio ramen, with a side of pickled mustard greens.  Overall the soup was excellent.  The broth was a delicious, light shio style.  The noodles were a little bit too Hakata style for my taste (I like a little more curly/springy and yellow), but good.  The add-ins were delicious.  The egg was very good.

Overall, like the one in the Village, this Ippudo has excellent food.  It’s one of the most fashionable and up-market ramen joints I’ve ever been in, and you may have a long wait if you go during a busy time.

I don’t know if Ippudo is still one of my favorite places in the world for ramen, but it’s still quite good, and worth a visit if you go to NYC.

As a side note, apparently the chain in Japan itself isn’t really something super special; it is just the NYC locations that have become so hip and fashionable.  I guess it’s a bit like McDonald’s in places like Russia and Brazil; in the US obviously nothing special or particularly a destination, but when the first McDonald’s opened in these places, it was definitely a destination for the hip and well off youth.

 

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Ajisen Ramen, Westfield Mall, SF

Down in the food court in the lower level of the Westfield mall in San Francisco, facing the south side of Market, there is Ajisen Ramen.

It’s an underground food court, but the ramen place has it’s own seating area (not the communal food court seating), so I guess everyone in your party has to eat ramen (or katsu don or whatever else strikes your fancy on their menu).

The staff was incredibly friendly.  The menus were colorful with pictures of everything you can order.  I ordered the Ajisen ramen.  It was a white broth with cabbage, black mushroom, a marinated egg, and chashu.

Overall the broth wast decently rich and tasty.  The noodles were good.  The chashu was okay.  For some reason I really liked the consistency and mouthfeel of the cabbage and the mushroom.  The egg was really disappointing.  You can tell from the picture it has a smooshed sort of appearance and that tells you something about it’s hard mealy consistency.

Overall, Ajisen was an okay place for a mall food court chain.  It was good to get warm bowl of soup on a cold San Francisco evening, but I wouldn’t head to it as a destination.

 

 




 

Noraneko Ramen, Portland, OR

Norneko Ramen is a somewhat hard to find, but tasty place in Portland.  It’s by the people who started Biwa, and has some of the really delicious chicken karaage on the menu.  The fried chicken is a definite recommend here.  It has a lot of the Portland-hipster feel with nice wood, but something about the building makes you feel a bit like community college cafeteria.  The people that worked there were super nice and friendly (lots of people who came in asked tons of questions), and that is true of some of the customers.  However, some of the other customers we encountered on a fairly busy weekday at lunch were really obnoxious entitled acting hipster jerks, who were loud and rude about things like not wanting to wait, issues with getting the seats they wanted, etc.  It was very different from a Japanese ramen-ya experience in that way.

The shio ramen you can see was very good, with delicious melt in your mouth chashu, great soft boiled egg and other add-ins.  They also had a umeboshi soda (basically umeboshi with club soda and I assume some extra sugar), very delicious and highly recommended.

Overall, a definite recommend, but it is a seemingly odd part of town, and I don’t know what you’d be in the neighborhood to do other than going here, but it’s good enough to make it your destination reason for being there.

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Umami Burger, Pickle Plate – again

I mentioned the Umami Burger pickle plate  in a previous post.

I visited the location in San Francisco this time and tried the pickle plate.  The carrots and cucumbers were good.  I was less enthusiastic about the other pickles.  I don’t even remember what they were now.  However,  I thought I would share the photo for completeness.

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Ramen Bar, Philadelphia

Ramen Bar in Philadelphia is a tasty destination when you’re in town.

I got a traditional shoyu ramen with chashu.  It was solid, very traditional.  It’s been a while since I’ve gotten a slice of naruto fishcake, so that was a welcome addition.   It was tasty, and it was nice to find a really solid bowl of ramen in that part of the East Coast.

 

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Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas

This was a bit of a surprise, but the Cosmopolitan Hotel/Casino has pork ramen on their room service menu.  The hotel is supposed to get a David Chang’s Momofuku branch soon, so maybe this is part of that planning.  It would be awesome to get Momofuku as room service.

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The ramen was actually surprisingly good.  There wasn’t enough broth, as you can see from the picture (I haven’t had any yet), although maybe they underfill the bowl, as they put cling wrap on it and have to transport it up to the room.  However, the broth was good.  The egg was deliciously soft-boiled.  There were good onions.  The chashu was some of the most bacon like pork in ramen I’ve ever had.  It was a bit like cross grain thick cut bacon; however it was very smoky and tasty.  The noodles were the more thin and wheaty hakata style that is not my favorite (I like thin noodles, that are more crunchy and yellow, but that is just a taste thing).

Overall, the fact that you can get it delivered (still hot) and enjoy it from a view means I definitely have to give this ramen a strong recommendation.

 

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Myzen Ramen, Sunnyvale, CA

Myzen Ramen is a relatively new place in Sunnyvale; it’s only been open a few months.

We tried the shio ramen ($9.99) and the Myzen/tonkotsu ramen ($10.99).  The tonkotsu ramen broth was quite good, rich and smooth, without feeling too heavy.  The shio ramen was rich compared to other shio broths, with a strong roasted sesame and slight seafood taste.  The noodles were very good chewy consistency, a bit on the medium/thick side.  The toppings were quite good, very fresh and crunchy, including the menma, corn, and black ear mushroom.  The menma (bamboo shoots) were actually some of the crunchiest and freshest tasting I can remember having.  The chashu was okay, nothing special.  The egg was quite good, perfectly soft boiled, with a firm, marinated exterior.  The inclusion of the classic naruto slice was a nice change of pace, and actually added some welcoming friendly color.

Overall, a recommended place.  We also had the fried oysters (3 with plum dipping sauce) and pickled cucumbers, which were good, but standard.  The fried rice we saw on someone else’s order looked quite good, with lots of chunks of pork and onions in it.

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An introduction to ramen video

An introduction to ramen video.  In case you don’t know anything about ramen.  You can watch this.



RIP Leonard Nimoy, Ramen Aficionado

mr_spock




Peninsula Ethnic Grocery Stores

I thought it might be worth going through some of the grocery stores in the Mt View-Cupertino area which specialize in particular cuisines.

For Chinese (and a bit pan-Asian, including Filipino), the 99 Ranch chain is the largest.   There is one in Mt View:  http://www.yelp.com/biz/99-ranch-market-mountain-view-2, there is also Japanese grocery store (Nijiya) in easy walking distance, that has lots of prepared food as well: http://www.yelp.com/biz/nijiya-market-mountain-view

However, if you want to go a little bit further south, there is a very large complex of mostly Chinese shops, including another 99 Ranch down in Cupertino, in Cupertino Village:  http://www.cupertino.org/index.aspx?page=781

If you want a larger Japanese grocery, tea shops, sushi shop, ramen shop, gyoza shop, Japanese bookstore, Japanese bakery, and Daiso, then you can try this place in northern San Jose:
http://www.yelp.com/biz/mitsuwa-marketplace-san-jose
http://www.yelp.com/biz/strawberry-park-san-jose

If you want a Korean strip mall, with grocery store, home goods stores, food court, etc, then on El Camino, just after the Lawrence Expressway, there is this place: http://www.yelp.com/biz/lawrence-plaza-food-court-santa-clara-2

Although, for just groceries (and a fancy Korean BBQ place next to it), just a little bit before on the other side of the road there is also the very large Hankook Market: http://www.yelp.com/biz/hankook-supermarket-sunnyvale

For South Asian, probably the most fully stocked (with nearby businesses like a sweet shop, ice cream shop, sari store, etc.) this is probably your best bet: http://www.yelp.com/biz/india-cash-and-carry-sunnyvale

A little bit up the street is a similarly named, but quite a bit tidier and more low key Indian place:  http://www.yelp.com/biz/bombay-cash-and-carry-sunnyvale

For Persian groceries and halal meats (and prepared foods), there is this the Rose Market.  You get your kebabs from literally a hole in the wall:
http://www.yelp.com/biz/rose-international-market-mountain-view

For a more Arabic halal market, this place is decent:
http://www.yelp.com/biz/baraka-halal-market-and-grill-sunnyvale
There’s also an awesome Pakistani restaurant right next to it, which is a bit like a nicer version of Naan-N-Curry. It’s worth visiting not only for the food, but also the giant portrait of Dumbledore.
http://www.yelp.com/biz/shah-restaurant-sunnyvale

Happy shopping (and eating!)



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