Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Good Ramen in Westchester


(914) 592-2220

1 E Main St, Elmsford, NY 10523

I fell in love with Ramen noodles twice. The first time was as a graduate student, when Ramen meant the cheap, boiled instant noodles that I bought in packs from the 32nd Street market in L.A. circa the mid-eighties. The second time was last year, during trips to Japan, exposed to the real Ramen noodles in noodles shops in and around Tokyo. It is the latter kind that has captivated me the past year, and the subject of this note (though by no means am I any kind of expert on this subject).

Ramen noodles lead a dual existence of snobbish discrimination and hearty fare. Available in dinky, around the corner noodle shops in Japan, they are frequented mostly by men looking for a no-nonsense meal. Food (and beer) is ordered by paying into a machine and then handing the cook the printed receipt. You then pick up the steaming bowl of noodles at the cook's counter, and sit down at communal, bar-like tables. The room is punctuated by slurping sounds, you drink your water from little faucets attached tableside and, when you are done, you vacate to the next guy who might be waiting, particularly during peak lunch hours. People swear by their Ramen--“it is not easy to make good Ramen”, many a Japanese friend has told me. Besides the freshness of the curly noodles, the magic lies in the ingredients in the soup, and recipes that are often held as tightly kept secrets. This only adds a dose of mystique to the hot, wholesome, feeling in the mouth, and over the weekends families will often hunt around the web looking for, and then heading towards, the place that makes good Ramen.

A Ramen fan has many places to go to in New York City. There is the upscale Momofuku Noodle Bar (named after Momofuku Ando, inventor of instant noodles in 1958?), that I have never been to, scared off by worries about long wait times. Then there is Menchanko Tei, at two locations in Manhattan, where I have never been disappointed. But these, and a host of other places, are an hour’s drive from where I stay, and I was looking for a location that would be as simple to get to, as the wholesome nature of the dish itself. So it was that I came upon Ichi Riki, at the corner of Rt. 9A and 119, in Tarrytown, NY. Ichi Riki is not a specialized noodle shop, it is a regular Japanese restaurant in America with a sushi bar and the usual assortment of Japanese dishes. But it has three Ramen dishes on the menu (referred to as “Larmen”), and those are the only ones that I have had eyes for—Shoyu, Miso, and Gomoku. Shoyu Ramen, made at Ichi Riki with plenty of soy sauce, slices of pork, vegetables, and half of a hard boiled egg, is one of the older types of soy based Ramen. Miso Ramen--true to its name--is miso based, and came out of Hokkaido. Ramen noodles themselves are said to have originated in China--note the similarity with Lo Mein--and popularized in Japan after the second world war. The Ramen at Ichi-Riki is exactly what I expect—a quick, tasteful, light, noodle meal in the afternoons when I can get in and out within a half hour. Wash it down with a beer if you can. The dish will not propel you to ecstacy, but it will not kill you either. The choices and the complexity are short of what you might expect at the Manhattan places, but there is a consistent taste to the food for the times that you need comfort in familiarity. And it is the only place in Westchester—so far—that has a Ramen dish in its everyday menu.


  1. Ichi Riki has a sister restaurant in Nyack, NY, same name. And DO NOT MISS Momufuku in NYC, even if you go just for the BBQ pork buns. Oh. My. God.

  2. My first Ramen bowl was ca. 4 a.m. in the common room of my dorm in high school - and remained a staple of every all-nighter. That MSG-flavor still makes me happy. I like them very undercooked, being the texture eater that I am.