Regional Ramen in New York

It seems New York’s ramen boom is still booming, with stories about ramen chefs, ramen shops, and ramen labs appearing at an almost weekly clip. In a recent write-up in Eater NY, food critic Robert Sietsema sizes up the varieties of ramen found at Sapporo and Ramen Ya.

Sapporo is the first Japanese restaurant that my husband and I tried when we moved to New York in the winter of 2000. In his review of Sapporo, Sietsema seems confused by the concept of Sapporo’s shio butter-corn ramen.

Another unusual choice is shio butter-corn ramen ($10), like something that might have been thought up by a dairy farmer from Iowa. Lest you worry the bowl skimps on the butter, there’s a ginormous pat of it, and the flavor it gives the plain saline broth is really a little overwhelming: you’re better off removing half. Corn has been a component of ramen for quite a long time, and it adds virtually nothing apart from a few glints of color. Call this ramen “yellow on yellow”; I wouldn’t go back for it a second time.

Robert Sietsema
Eater NY

Shio butter-corn ramen may have been thought up by a dairy farmer, but that dairy farmer was in Hokkaido, not Iowa. Ramen is regional. Just as tonkotsu ramen is the ramen favored by folks in Kyushu in Western Japan, shio butter-corn ramen is one of the styles of ramen consumed in Hokkaido in Northern Japan, of which Sapporo is the capital, so it’s not an “unusual choice.” It’s actually the perfect choice, especially in a ramen shop called Sapporo.

I enjoyed shio butter-corn ramen in Hokkaido last November. With the trend in ramen going toward spicier or more “inventive” broths, sometimes it’s okay for ramen restaurants in New York to stick with the original formulas that make ramen great in the first place.

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Sapporo ramen in Sapporo, Japan, November 2013

I haven’t eaten at Ramen Ya yet, and Sietsema advises to “Go there before it closes.” I did have their Abura-Soba at this year’s Japan Week, and I thought it was tasty. It’s on the list on ramen places in New York – a list that continues to grow.

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Abura Soba from Ramen Ya at Japan Week 2014