Sunday, April 8, 2012

Jin Ramen, Harlem, Near Columbia University

There is a new Ramen place, Jin Ramen, on 125th and Broadway.  It caters largely to a Columbia University crowd and serves four kinds of Ramen—Shio, Miso, Shoyu, and Tonkotsu, the latter one in a spicy and non-spicy version.  Ramen places in the US are sort of like the way McDonalds are in India.  A popular fast food concept that has been moved to a new geography and upscaled to offer more of a “dining experience”.  Most Ramen-Yas in Japan are places where the food is served at a feverish pace, the sitting counters are tight and customer turnout is rapid.  Food orders are taken at the counter and no one lingers at the table beyond the time it takes to slurp down a bowl of noodles and broth.  On the other hand, Jin Ramen, like other places in New York, is a sit-in establishment where the waitress will take your order. 

I had the Tonkotsu Ramen, the richest of the Ramens, where the soup is boiled with pork bones and cartilege for hours, the end result a rich and heavy broth laden with fat globules.  Immersed in this broth are slices of pork belly and Ramen noodles—the outcome a thick and satisfying meal  with so much fat that at the end, you will not need any chap stick for hours (if it is winter).   My son had the Shio Ramen.  Not to be confused with the more commonly available soy based Shoyu Ramen, Shio has a light, yellowish broth that is made with chicken and some pork.  Tonkotsu lacks the Shio’s delicate flavors, but brings with it more of the straight line acceleration of a big-engined muscle car.
Jin was crowded even on a late Sunday evening, and peak times during weekends require a longish wait.  The sitting space is small and the cooking area, on display beyond the counters, is a hotbed of activity with steam peeling off of bubbling broths, colanders of noodles scooped out of cauldrons two at a time, and things getting cooked on large flames on large cooktops.  Jin serves straight upfront Ramen without a lot of variants, as you will find in Menchenko Tei, for instance.  While I am not a Ramen expert by any stretch, the food felt as good as I have had in Japan.

Jin Ramen on Urbanspoon

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