Sometimes, it can be difficult to find actual “authentic” restaurants around your area. Many times, restaurants claim to serve “authentic” food but their dishes are rather made to please American taste buds. A while ago, one of my friends who came to the States from Japan told me that she was on a mission to find a Japanese restaurant that served some really good ramen-close to the ones that she had back in her homeland.

I decided to join the mission with her and over the course of four months, we’ve come up with a list of top 5 restaurants serving the most original Japanese ramens. Here are the list of Top 5 Japanese restaurants for those of you who are also looking forward to tasting some bona fide ramen.

1. Naruto Ramen

Naruto Ramen is known for their Shoyu Ramen, which is a soy sauce based ramen. Their dense, flavorful soup is made using pork or chicken as the base. They currently have three locations-one in Upper West Side, Upper East Side, and Brooklyn. The one that I went to was the Upper East Side location because it was the closest to my school. Recommended options are their classic Naruto Ramen and the Tan Tan Ramen, for those of you looking to have something more spicy. Naruto Ramen comes with bean sprouts, fish cake, bamboo shoot, soft-boiled egg, and roasted pork as the topping but you can also top it with additional toppings for $0.50-$1.00 each (I personally like to add corn and cha-shu to mine because they make the broth sweeter and more savory). Tan Tan Ramen is spicier and instead of one whole roasted pork, it’s topped with minced pork.

If you visit during their lunch special hours (Mon-Fri 12pm-3pm), you can pair your ramen with a choice of any of their delicious appetizers such as their chicken curry or gyoza for just $12. 

2. Meijin Ramen 

Like Naruto Ramen, most of the soups at Meijin Ramen are beef and chicken based. Their most popular dishes include the Meijin Miso Beef Ramen, Chili Chicken Ramen, and Shio Chicken Ramen. My personal favorite is the Shio Chicken Ramen, which is a Tokyo style ramen, meaning that it consists of thin, curly noodles with cha-shu, egg, and bamboo shoots usually as the toppings. According to my Japanese friend, it is often very difficult to make ramen noodles thin and curly, especially if they are pulled by hand. Doing so requires years of training and ramen noodles pulled by professional chefs are clearly different texture-wise as they are able to soak up more broth. “Shio” means “salt” so Shio ramens tend to be a bit more salty than other types of ramens. 

They also serve cold ramens, which are more like noodle salads because they lack the hot, flavorful soup that you’d encounter with your typical ramens. But nevertheless, these too were amazing. My personal recommendation is the Hiyashi Cold Ramen. It is on the pricier side of their entire menu ($15) but it’s still worth getting, especially when the weather's this hot. The noodles are dipped in their soy vinegarette sauce and is topped with fresh ingredients like tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, tofu, arugula, and cha-shu (if you want to make this a vegetarian option, just ask the waiter to take the cha-shu out for you!).

3.   Nakamura

Nakamura is one of the newer restaurants that opened just two years ago near Bowery, New York. What is special about Nakamura is that they have special options for their vegan customers. Some of their most popular vegan menu items are Truffle Miso and Summer XO Chilled Mazemen, which is their seasonal dish. I for one am not vegan and yet, their Truffle Miso Ramen is one of my favorite dishes. The cauliflower and maitake mushroom toppings, along with the chewy ramen noodles really enhance the overall eating experience of this ramen. Out of all the five places, my friend and I have agreed that Nakamura’s noodles are the best in terms of its texture.

Besides their vegan options, their chicken broth ramens are delicious too. Some of the recommended options are: Toigara (chef’s signature menu) and Jidori ramen. 

4. Menya Jiro

This place is extra special because my friend has worked here in the past and she personally recommended it to me. All of their ramens are tonkotsu or chicken based. What sets apart Menya Jiro is that they get all their soy sauce and seasonings delivered to them directly from Japan instead of using the ones shelved in American supermarkets. This allows them to “preserve the authenticity to the fullest as possible” according to my friend. 

Their customers always come back for the Kagoshima, Ibusuki, and Sakurajima ramens, which are all made with chicken and tonkotsu broth. Kagoshima is the most basic so order this one if you’ve never tried Japanese ramen before! As for the toppings, I recommend adding more boiled egg and cha-shu for some extra protein as well as some corn if you’d like to make your broth sweeter. 

5. Minca

An interesting fact about Minca is that the owner of the restaurant spent six years of his life trying out various ramens throughout different regions in Japan before he opened his own shop in New York, where he himself struggled to find an authentic Japanese ramen restaurant (no wonder their ramens taste so authentic!). Many of their ramens are pork broth based such as their Basic and Shoyu Ramen but their chicken broth based ramens are also high in demand by their regulars. 

My personal favorite is their Spicy Miso Ramen with thick noodles. The peanut sauce in the soup base adds savoriness and sweetness to the broth that could’ve been just spicy and salty.  

I usually don’t crave hot food at this time of the year but Japanese ramens are always an exception. If you’re ever in New York, then I definitely recommend you to try out one of these places, especially if you’ve never had an authentic ramen before! If you’re unfamiliar with ramens, I suggest that you opt out with the most basic Shoyu ramen because the taste of miso paste in some ramens can be too strong for some people.