In this solo dining adventure, Gary went to Hide-Chan Ramen, lured by the promise of “Choose Your Own Adventure” style ramen.
I’m a big fan of Serious Eats’ Kenji-Lopez Alt so when he, over several posts, proclaimed the ramen at Hide-Chan Ramen to be the best in New York City, over personal favorites like Ippudo and Rai Rai Ken, a visit from me would be in order. I was especially intrigued by what I’m calling Choose Your Own Adventure Ramen:
…the freshly made thin noodles come cooked to order, and the slow-cooked pork belly is mildly flavored, and moist. The real star is the broth, which is offered in three intensity levels. The richest is the best, and comes with bits of flavorful and tender pork fat floating on the surface.
I can choose how rich I want my broth to be – how awesome is that? The reason why Ippudo is my favorite ramen place in NYC is because they’ve got the best, richest broth around. If the richest intensity level here is anywhere close, this might be a game-changing bowl of ramen, at least in my personal view.
Too bad they took that option off the menu by the time I finally got around to visiting a few weeks back. There’s no customization of noodles or broth anymore, just the stock configuration, to borrow a retail term. Still, it’s ramen and a place I’d never been to before so I was willing to give it a shot anyway.
I ordered the Hakata Kuro Ramen – that black splotch at the north end of that bowl? Why, that’s the roasted garlic oil floating atop the broth. Sadly, the broth is nowhere near as milky rich as I’ve seen in other reviews of the place so I’ll have to assume the stock richness is decidedly not the richest option from before. Still, it is very tasty and it’s enhanced by the presence of the decidedly pungent garlic oil. I liked the char siu here – it’s not charred liked some places but there’s a very good balance of meat to fat. Best ramen in New York City? No, but it’s still pretty darn good.
The ramen by itself wasn’t filling so I was rather thankful I got an order of their Mini Pork Gyoza Dumpling. The skin is thin (as expected) and crisped nicely at the top while the pork filling is well flavored. They’re not spectacular but they’ll get the job done. I do like the option of being able to create my own dumpling sauce with the soy sauce and vinegar in separate dispensers as I tend to like mine more vinegary than salty.
The rational part of me says that this was done because it probably became bothersome to tailor each bowl of ramen, especially when it gets busy. The cynic in me says they created all these options to garner publicity – mission accomplished – and now they’ve simplified it because people will come in the door, not realizing anything has changed. I know, not really rational considering that these are obvious changes they’ve made. It’s still a classic bait and switch situation because, unless you’ve committed the review to memory, you might not realize what was off about the whole operation until you get to a computer and compare notes. Still, I’d have no problem recommending the ramen here as I think it’s still the best I’ve had in Midtown. Just don’t come here expecting a super-rich broth like I did and you won’t leave with unmet expectations.
Hide-Chan Ramen. 248 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022. [Show/Hide Map]