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From Tokyo to New York City.

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Tokyo Shoyu Ramen

It was almost the end of our New York City trip when our lovely hosts brought us out to Ivan Ramen on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. I was excited like a little child before Christmas as I missed my chance to check out his original shop in Tokyo during my last trip with the boys in 2014. The place is fairly small but pretty nicely set up with some colorful twisted wall art and nicely dimmed, yet still sufficient lighting to take halfway acceptable pictures without using a flash. Let’s do this.

I had a bit of a hard time deciding, which bowl I should get as there was everything I love on the menu – shoyu, tsukemen etc., even a couple of seasonal dishes. My gut told me to go with something traditional after that brilliant chilled contemporary beef ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar the other day. I have a copy of Ivan’s book, so I did tend towards his signature shio ramen, which is explained in a step by step guide on the last pages and I thought that if I ever get around to try making it, this could be a reference moment. However, a friend had already ordered one so I switched midst order process to a bowl of shoyu ramen instead. Excitement grew stronger and just the looks of it gave me confidence, that this was going to be good. The chicken-based broth was dark of soy, had depth and was full of salty flavor and light dashi aroma. So good. The rye noodles, they use for this one, are very thin with a lovely bouncy texture, the eggs were still a bit runny but just seconds away from that perfect waxy state and the chashu just melted away in my mouth. That’s also why I felt a bit offended by the guy on the next table, who, without even trying, just neglected all of his beautiful pork belly away on the side. What a waste. Moving on and after trying mine and every other bowl on our table, I realized, that here’s so much more goodness to have had here and that I really need to come back to this shop some day. So wait for me tsukemen.

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L.E.S. Buns

For starters we tried their L.E.S. (Lower East Side, I assume) buns, which combine the two cultures and cuisines this shop stands for, Japanese and Jewish, Tokyo and NYC. The Japanese influence was represented by the fluffy steamed buns and the crunchy daikon slaw, while the Jewish and NYC touch came from the wonderfully juicy pastrami and the ass kicking spicy mustard. Great combination of flavors, globalization right there on my plate.

Service here was super friendly, attentive and fast and the place is like a trendy but low-key New York version of a ramen shop you want to spend some more time in, than just your 10-15 minutes slurping on your bowl of noodles. Nice concept, amazing food, more complementing than contrasting, I’m sold.

Get Your Grub On!

Ivan Ramen NYC (open ever day)
25 Clinton Street
New York
NY 10002
United States of America
p: +1 646 678 3859
http://www.ivanramen.com/

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Momofuku Tour – Part 2.

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Cold Beef Ramen (Seasonal Special)

After our delicious fried-chicken-sandwich-stopover at Fuku we went just a few doors down to Momofuku Noodle Bar to have some of those tasty sounding chashu buns, our friends had been raving about while eating their crispy chicken; I love these foodies. Unfortunately, they were just about to close for their afternoon break before dinner service so we checked, when they’ll be open again and went for a little bar in the area to bridge the waiting time with some happy hour drinks. We were back at the door like 20-30minutes after they had re-opened and the place was already full and bustling with people. I must say, I came here with high hopes but very low expectations. You never really know how these hyped places turn out to be. So let’s see.

We started with a couple of beers, a few glasses of sake and some dishes to share. The spicy cucumbers were nicely done and slightly different from how I know them. Someone smashed the hell out of them and they seemed a little bit fermented, covered in that red Japanese chili pepper mix (togarashi) and some crushed almonds. Pretty nice actually. The chashu buns, the actual reason we came here for, were great. Finally, someone got that meat to bun ratio right. Two thick slices of beautifully and soft pork belly with some crunchy lightly cured cucumbers and a sticky hoisin sauce. That’s the stuff and I still regret not having tried the brisket buns too. Then came the first real surprise of the evening. I was wondering why my friend had ordered the rice cakes here and reckoned it would just take up unnecessary space in my stomach, that was reserved for that big bowl of ramen we had coming but oh my gawd, I’ll be eternally thankful to him for doing that. I don’t know how they created this texture, fry or maybe pan fry them until literally rice-crispy-crisp on the outside and teeth-sticking chewy on the inside. Then they all lay around in an absolutely insane and hard-to-define cream sauce, that was wonderfully savoury with a sweetish touch, that reminded me a bit of okonimyaki sauce. I really have to work on my palette again to become better in identifying single flavours, but for now, it was good enough for me just eating and enjoying that amazing dish. The kitchen had added even more layers of texture and flavor by sprinkling scallions, bonito flakes and tobiko over it all. The only ingredient I was indifferent about was the chicken. Anyhow, best rice cakes ever.

After this, my low expectations rose into the sky and thankfully I had the best yet coming. For the bowl, I ordered one of their seasonal summer items, a cold beef ramen dish that sounded just right for a hot day like today. The looks instantly brought back memories of Matador, with its’ perfectly rose slices of roasted beef. The meat was delicious just a bit hard to bite off from, so I ended up eating it by slice and mouthfuls. Not that I cared. The chilled or rather cold broth was light with some citrusy flavors like yuzu or ponzu. This was so refreshing that I would have actually preferred to take it outside to the street and eat it in the warm summer sun. The noodles had proper bite and bounce that reminded me of Korean Naengmyeon not only because that’s a cold dish too. Just the egg, however perfectly made, somehow felt a bit out of place to me. I loved everything about this, the unique aromas and the innovative approach of taking something traditional and transforming it into something entirely new without losing the slightest bit of awesomeness. A dish definitely in my top 3 for the year and one that makes me want to live here and see what else they come up with next.

To the Noodle Bar itself, it’s a rather simplistic and minimalist setup, with light colored wood and mainly long sharing tables, like a bar exactly. On our table getting in and out of my seat was a bit of a hassle though, climbing over other people’s bags and stuff and I also found it a bit too cold inside (having a coolish dish as well). This places is crowded and the air is bustling of chatter from a cool mixed crowd hanging around before heading out to town. Thankfully there are many more Momofuku shops and concepts for me to try out during my next trip to New York but this one’s a definite keeper. Thanks, your food made me smile today.

Get Your Grub On!

Momofuku Noodles Bar (open ever day)
171 First Avenue
New York
NY 10003
United States of America
http://momofuku.com/new-york/noodle-bar/

Momofuku Tour – Part 1.

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Special Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich (w/ Daikon)

We came to New York for a couple of days on our way through to Montreal to visit some great old friends from Singapore, who moved here about a year ago. Thankfully both of them are crazy foodies and so there were no arguments on how to spend our quality time together. Today we walked around the Lower East Side of Manhattan and passed Momofuku Ko, which gave our hosts the idea to start a little bit of a Momofuku sightseeing tour. It was getting pretty late for lunch so our first stop waited just around the corner in the form of Fuku, the popular fried chicken sandwich shop out of David Chang’s culinary empire. This place is tiny and if I remember it right, only has standing options for their customers.

We had to pay while going in and following the recommendation of my mate I purchased the special sandwich and one of their alcoholic beverages. I was kind of surprised that a fried chicken sandwich shop actually serves something, that reminded me of a pretty mean frozen margarita. Wow, that thing was strong. Anyway, I was half through my aperitif when the sandwiches showed up. The whole thing was huge, and the little soft bun was just big enough to keep everything together and your fingers sort of clean. The meat was breaded with a nicely spicy and crunchy coating and super juicy on the inside. I must admit I really liked this one, even though I would normally disagree with Mr. Chang’s view on the white parts of the meat being inferior. I actually love me some good chicken breast from time to time. White meat, dark meat, in the end it all comes down to texture for me, but this chicken thigh with its’ crispy coat did a very fine job. But what makes the special sandwich so special? A big slap of crunchy daikon shavings, which also made the otherwise fairly heaty dish a bit lighter for me. I did also get the chance to sample the famous Säam sauce, their take on a Korean chili paste with an angle. It was intriguingly addictive and I enjoyed it enough to use it on every other bite from that sandwich, I’m just not entirely sure if I actually loved it.

Anyway the concept works, fast food with great quality ingredients, nice taste with a different set of flavors and some booze to go with it. Why the hell not?

Fuku (open all week)
163 First Avenue
New York
NY 10003
United States of America
http://momofuku.com/new-york/fuku/