It's a little warmer today, but not much. And tomorrow the temperatures are dipping back below 20 degrees. So I feel that, despite my recent string of soup posts, I am at least somewhat justified in doing just one more. But this time, it being the weekend and all, I've got a place for you to go and enjoy the fruits of someone else's hard work in the kitchen, rather than encouraging you to sweat it out in your own.
A ramen noodle soup craze has swept New York over the past couple of years, and at this cold and dark time of year I give thanks for that. It all started with David Chang and his tiny ramen bar, Momofuku, which, when it opened, was a bit of a revelation. Lovely Niman Ranch pork with rich broth and noodles that were a million times better than the 79 cent version I used to eat on those poor days in college. But when the special ramen got up to $20, I had to move on.
First I tried Ippudo, which was delicious, but I think an hour wait for a bowl of ramen is a bit much. When I complained to Gerald, the maven of the east village restaurant scene, he pointed me in the direction of Rai Rai Ken on 10th between 1st and 2nd Avenues.
So on a lazy (and, unsurprisingly, cold) Sunday afternoon, Laia and I headed over there for lunch. We were greeted by a cozy, narrow space that was divided in half by a bar. One side was the kitchen, the other side was the seating area for customers (from what I read, fourteen seats to be exact).
We took our seats (no wait!) and ordered our ramen (Laia had miso ramen, I had the shio ramen), which were both less than $8 (not $20!). The charming proprietor behind the counter handed us our ramen after a few minutes, and we dug in. Nothing to say but yum. Delicious slices of pork, flavorful, complex broth, and oh those noodles. Nothing picks up the spirits better than long strands of carbs in a hot broth.
And when we looked over the bar into the kitchen, it became clear why everything was so good. There were massive vats of homemade stock simmering away on the burners, with bits of meat scraps and vegetables poking out the top. Whenever an order came in, the cooks scooped out a bit of fresh stock to use in the ramen bowls. As the supply got low, water was added to replenish and create new beautiful stock.
So there you have it. Delicious, comforting food that you can watch being prepared, served by friendly people who charge you a fair price. See? Miracles do occur occasionally.