I am a connoisseur of Asian noodles. From jjajangmyeon to pho, I’m an experienced noodler that cannot eat “American palette” Asian food — yucky. When it comes to my expertise, though, its definitely in one of Japan’s greatest contributions to humanity: the ramen.

When I came to NYC I was faced with a new ramen craze, noodle shops of questionable quality popping up in every neighborhood. People were so blinded by the trendiness of the Japanese noodle that they would spend the insane $14 for an extremely average bowl of ramen. It was shocking, painful and saddening because while it physically hurt me to spend so much on what is typically less than $10, I needed my noodle fix and did my research/eating. For those who are new to the ramen scene and find themselves overwhelmed by the number of options in NYC, here are my recommendations.

Jin Ramen

Jin Ramen is a staple in any Columbia University student’s diet. Morningside Heights’s severe lack of good eateries forces most students to flee downtown for something tasty to eat… Except when they’re looking for ramen. Jin Ramen is surprisingly good for a place tucked away at the edge of Harlem. Jin Ramen does not serve “Japanese” ramen. They have taken the concept of the classic street-side noodle dish and made it their own. The noodles are perfectly chewy and their miso ramen is extremely satisfying for those cold winter NYC nights.The place also has a stamp of approval from my dad, who himself is also an experienced ramen slurper from living in Japan for over ten years. It’s damn delicious.

Ippudo NY


A photo posted by Ippudo NY (@ippudony) on Jun 24, 2015 at 12:43pm PDT

Ippudo was the first ramen shop to introduce NYC to Hakata style ramen. Opened in 2008, the NYC shop was the first US location for this popular chain in Japan. While in Japan Ippudo sells for around $9, its novelty spikes the price up to around $15 in the city. It’s a pricier noodle, but its a more unique experience. Hakata style noodles are extremely different from what you’d expect from a typical ramen noodle. Thinner and less curly, some may not like the firmness of this style. Other people absolutely love it. I’m in-between, but Ippudo has an established reputation in the city and it’s up to you to decide how you feel about this style.

Totto Ramen

A photo posted by Kenny J (@kennyjayreal) on Nov 7, 2015 at 6:04pm PST

Totto Ramen may be my favorite ramen shop in the city. Many other New Yorkers agree as Totto Ramen, even though they have three locations within walking distance, is always packed. The people that prepare the ramen are actually Japanese, which is always a good sign, and with an expert hand, are swift in the ramen preparation. What I noticed the most about their ramen is the heaviness of their broth. The pork fat coats your tongue completely and lingers even after the meal is over. This may sound gross but trust me, it’s like a friendly reminder how delicious your meal was. This ramen is meant for the carnivores.

Momofuku Noodle Bar


The grandfather of ramen shops in NYC, David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar started the whole ramen craze in the city. Its success skyrocketed Chang’s career and now the chef has multiple restaurants throughout the city, such as Momofuku Ma Peche, and internationally, such as Momofuku Shoto in Toronto. Chang spent years in Japan for culinary training (watch “Mind of a Chef” on Netflix) and was able to return to the US with the right skills to prepare and serve REAL ramen.

Personally, I wouldn’t say Chang’s ramen is the best in the city, as other shops have had more time to develop and improve their version of the dish, but Momofuku Noodle Bar will always be the known as the one that set a super high standard right from the beginning. There’s a reason for the long wait time.

Ramen Lab

A photo posted by Kenny J (@kennyjayreal) on Nov 7, 2015 at 6:04pm PST

“New York City’s showcase ramen shop,” this tiny noodle shop near Little Italy offers the most authentic ramen I’ve tasted in the city. While the toppings may be lacking, the noodles are extremely slurpable and, combined with a light broth, transports you to a ramen shop in the heart of Tokyo. Ramen Lab is able to achieve this level of craftsmanship through focus on  only two types of ramen, their limited menu also rotating with the seasons. The space is extremely small, with only 12 dining spots, and there is no seating.

Ramen Lab is supposed to be a quick experience where you go in, eat your ramen, and go on with your day, just like a Japanese businessman. It’s almost more an experience than dinner, like an experential art piece. Just watch the chef’s arm flick when he’s getting the noodles out of the hot water. It’s literally art.

If you find yourself wanting more ramen exploration, here are some other “honorable mentions” from my fellow foodie buddies:

Hide-chan Ramen

Meijin Ramen

Ivan Ramen

Bassanova Ramen

Chuko Ramen