House of Haos Ramen Sanshiro Upper East Side NYC New York City Shio Ramen Chashu

New York Ramen Quest 1.0

In the past year or so of New York City life, I’ve made a small pilgrimage around the city to try some of New York’s finest (and most hyped) ramen offerings.  As you’ll see, I’m still missing quite a few notable exceptions (Ganso, Takashi, Chuko, Minca, Yuji, Ramen.Co, and mainstays like Momofuku and Menchanko Tei), but here are my favorites to date, in general order of preference.

Ramen Sanshiro (open late-nite only, 249 E 49th St, near 2nd Ave, Yelp, Google Maps)

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In a ramen landscape overcrowded with rich, tonkotsu-driven broth, Sanshiro’s late-night shio ramen is a tremendous breath of fresh air.  There’s a nostalgic fragrance to the soup (for me at least), intensely satisfying and full of umami, chicken broth that manages to be flavorful without being greasy or reliant on onions.  Running on fumes or adrenaline after a night out, or just getting into the city post-commute, the bowl can conquer a midnight craving without completely destroying your ambulatory capabilities in the way that a heavy dose of pork bone on high heat would.  The noodles are half-way between the angelhair’d twirls of Hakata-style ramen and the thick, springy curls, accompanied by a runny half-egg and a slice of deeply caramelized chashu pork.

Hide-Chan (248 E 52nd St, near 2nd Ave, Yelp, Google Maps, website)

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Like Ippudo, the noodles here are the distinct Hakata-style, thin and hard, much the way I prefer my ramen most of the time.  I didn’t care for the black garlic ramen that I had on my first visit here, but I gave this narrow second-story shop a second chance.  On my next stop, I ordered the Kogashi shoyu katsuo ramen, which was deliciously fishy (katsuo is bonito) and light, almost sweet.  I added a seasoned egg, bamboo shoots, & chipped garlic (these are good, in moderation) to go along with two fatty discs of chashu.  I realize that my top two choices are not tonkotsu-based, but lighter broths are more in my wheelhouse.  Perhaps it has to do with a brainwashing from Chinese noodle soups, which predominantly feature lighter broths, but without getting too Freudian in my self-analysis, I just emphatically enjoy a powerfully flavored soup that doesn’t feel like a gut punch of fat.

Mu Ramen (tbd, Long Island City, Twitter, Menu)

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Lest I forget my manners, nobody puts baby in the corner.  By baby, I mean tonkotsu pork broth ramen, and I don’t know what I mean by corner, but Mu Ramen’s Tonkotsu 2.0 is a pretty tasty version.  The broth is a two-day labor of love, with some ridiculously scientific hodge-podge of pork parts (not to say that the Japanese chains’ versions aren’t).  My broken-record appreciation for a lighter-bodied tonkotsu is a key reason for why I liked Mu so much – I had room enough after a pork belly steamed bun, some shishito peppers (with yuzu salt), and a bowl of Tonkotsu 2.0 to walk back to the deserted L stop, which is not something I could say with a bowl of Akamaru Modern.  The pork jowl makes for a great alternative to traditional chashu, and much preferred (stemming from my early ramen-crazy days in Los Angeles getting fat on Santouka’s special pork) I had a bowl when Mu Ramen was still in pop-up mode in Bricktown Bagels in Long Island City (they are currently prepping a brick-and-mortar location of their own).

Now, there are quite a few other bowls I quite enjoy and have gotten multiple times, since the above places are sometimes a bit hard to reach, especially now that I live in Hell’s Kitchen.  They are: Continue reading

Sultanahmet Koftecisi – Istanbul, Turkey

On the way back to New York, we had a day in Istanbul, so we stopped by Sultanahmet Koftecisi to grab some Turkish meatballs – kofteh.House of Haos Sultanahmet Koftecisi Istanbul Turkey Salad Pretty delicious, with a delicious harissa sauce to add a kick of spice.  Plus a cool drink of Ayran, a savory yogurt drink, to balance out the spice.House of Haos Sultanahmet Koftecisi Istanbul Turkey SausageHouse of Haos Sultanahmet Koftehicisi Istanbul Turkey Sausage 2Sultanahmet Koftecisi Selim Usta
Meshur Sultanahmet Koftecisi, Divan Yolu Cd No:12
34400 Fatih, Turkey
(map)

House of Haos Gandarias Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Txuleta Asada 3

Gandarias Jatetxea – San Sebastian, Spain

There’s not much to be said about Gandarias except that it represents a sublime amalgamation of the best things we found throughout the old town in San Sebastian: a lively crowd shuffling for standing room, immersed in good wine and conversation, endless platters of delectable bites on display at the bar (with more stuff from the hot kitchen on order), fat legs of jamon strewn up from the ceiling, good wine flowing from the bar, boisterous and funny bartenders serving that good wine, some indeterminate music in the background but drowned out by laughter and shouts and wine-fueled lines from men and women romancing each other and friends reveling in being in San Sebastian and old-timers watching these rambunctious visitors over a glass of red or white.

Here, we sampled the goods:

House of Haos Gandarias Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Bar House of Haos Gandarias Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Charcuterie Plate Jamon Salumi ChorizoHouse of Haos Gandarias Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Pintxos House of Haos Gandarias Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Crab Tarts House of Haos Gandarias Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Goat Cheese House of Haos Gandarias Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Txuleta Asada Mushrooms Hongos This is by far the most beautiful thing we ate at Gandarias, and one of the culinary highlights of the entire trip, to be honest.  We’d seen the txuletas being passed back and forth in the bustle and din of Bar Nestor and were definitely craving one, and with a little bit more space at the standing bar in Gandarias, we ordered one.  Good god, look at this.  The char, the perfectly juicy red meat, the roughshod crackling of sea salt.  And the drifting smell of that highway of fat rendering in the kitchen.House of Haos Gandarias Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Txuleta Asada Continue reading

Zeruko – San Sebastian, Spain

Right across the street from Bar Nestor is another lively tapas bar, Zeruko.  Due to some freak accident, definitely not by choice, we chose a few healthier dishes, accompanied (of course) by a glass of txakoli.House of Haos Zeruko Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Txicholi This simple sliced tomato salad with onions, olive oil, salt, and olives.House of Haos Zeruko Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Tomatoes This stuffed pepper (tuna salad), with crouton and chopped onions and balsamico.  This happened to be one of Myra’s favorite dishes of the trip, if only because it was surprisingly delicious, or just what we needed at the moment – a common theme throughout our San Sebastian experience, finding a favorite where least expected.House of Haos Zeruko Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Red Pepper Tuna Onions House of Haos Zeruko Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Red Pepper Tuna StuffedBar Zeruko
Calle Pescaderia, 10
Donostia
Gipuzkoa, Spain
(map)

Bar Nestor – San Sebastian, Spain

We only had time for a quick bite at Bar Nestor, which is one of the smaller spaces in Parte Vieja, famous for its tortilla espanola and its txuleta, a beautifully fat-wrapped bone-in ribeye.  So we got something we could enjoy just as much, a plate of jamon iberico, and another plate of roasted pimientos with sea salt (the Spanish version of one of my favorite Japanese dishes, simple shishito peppers done basically the same way).House of Haos Bar Nestor Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Jamon Iberico Ham House of Haos Bar Nestor Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Jamon Iberico Ham 2 House of Haos Bar Nestor Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain PimientosBar Nestor
Pescaderia Kalea, 11
20003 Donostia-San Sebastián, Guipúzcoa
Gipuzkoa, Spain
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map)

Ganbara – San Sebastian, Spain

Ganbara is a tapas bar upstairs, and downstairs a cozy but bare-bones sitdown dining room serving some of San Sebastian’s most unassumingly delicious seafood.

Each dish is rarely more than a plate of whatever we ordered, minimally prepared, but showcased how unadulterated and fresh the local catch was.  First, this batch of fritters, the gelatinous goodness of some indeterminate fish – this was a teaser courtesy of the restaurant.  Maybe some piece of the belly, or somewhere near a fin or collar.

House of Haos Ganbara St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Fried Fish AioliThese head-on shrimp, seasoned with nothing but rock salt, lightly grilled, the head juices perfectly reduced to a sunrise orange and intensely savory, the flesh light and juicy.

House of Haos Ganbara St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Grilled ShrimpCharcoal-grilled wild turbot.  Don’t mind the mess of flattened fish and crinkled brown skin, the staff takes care of deboning the fish, but the skin is a creamy sheet of umami (to the extent that you can handle the fat). House of Haos Ganbara St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Charcoal-Grilled Wild Turbot

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Tapas in San Sebastian: La Cuchara de San Telmo

It’s hard to believe how La Parte Vieja houses so many superb tapas bars within its narrow confines.  La Cuchara de San Telmo is a tucked away in the last back-street of San Sebastian’s old town, next to the Museo de San Telmo.  The restaurant is essentially an extended bar, with a tiny open hot kitchen next to it – the whole affair is cramped and economical, with busy but kind-faced and jovial bartenders managing the rush on busy nights, stopping to chat a bit in slower moments.  Lively and vivacious and filled with the din of convivial chatter and the unmistakable smoke of delicious things searing on the plancha.  Like foie gras.  Which is naturally one of the first things we ordered.  Beautifully crisped with a scattering of crunchy sea salt and a few streaks of buttery apple sauce.

La Cuchara’s dishes were not as deliberately quirky as A Fuego Negro’s, but there was a demonstrably clear command of its repertoire.  We ordered only hot dishes, and the most decadent ones at that.

House of Haos La Cuchara de San Telmo Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Pan-seared Foie Gras AppleDuck confit, with a wonderfully crisped layer of duck skin atop a layer of fat and tender slow-roasted meat.  I can’t think of many things I like more than duck confit, although that love started in Paris.  This version was more condensed, with intensified flavors, especially with the punch of the wine reduction and the expertly crisped skin that was almost like a thin layer of bacon (duck fat brittle?), and much better crafted to snack alongside a glass of wine than a main course.House of Haos La Cuchara de San Telmo Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Duck Confit AppleAnd so we plowed ahead: grilled octopus with quinoa.  The oblong shape of the tentacle made for an  easy balance between briny, meaty flesh and crispy char, and the earthiness of the lightly crunchy quinoa was a new combination I hadn’t ever seen before.House of Haos La Cuchara de San Telmo Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Octopus QuinoaSepia risotto with cuttlefish and goat cheese, although the grain was more like orzo.  The cuttlefish ink was superb, complex, with a slightly acidic, earthy roundness that carries the salinity of the goat cheese and slippery crunch of the cuttlefish to completeness.  Richly satisfying.House of Haos La Cuchara de San Telmo Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Risotto Sepia Cuttlefish Goat Cheese Continue reading

House of Haos A Fuego Negro Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Jamon de Euskal txerri Basque Pig

Tapas in San Sebastian: A Fuego Negro

After Paris, we headed to San Sebastian in Spain’s Basque region, locally known as Donostia.  This seaside town is a summertime haven, and in 2011 I visited just after the high season, and immediately fell in love with the surroundings.  That was a very hurried stay, with barely two days in the area, but I managed to visit both Mugaritz and Arzak.  The stupendous arc of the boardwalk around La Concha, the main beach that circles shell-like west to east towards La Parte Vieja (Old Town).  Where last time I barely spent any time in this mysteriously vibrant and cozy corner of the city, which houses some of the world’s best tapas bars.  This visit, I spent my time exclusively here.

The first place we stopped in was the boldly inventive A Fuego Negro, a visually rambunctious bar serving irreverent dishes, whose names are scrawled across a menu board behind the bar in their Basque spellings – lots of x’s and k’s.

A café con leche.House of Haos A Fuego Negro Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Cafe Con Leche Makcobe burger with “txips” – a mini wagyu burger with ketchup-infused sesame bun, fried banana chips.  Intensely beefy, lightly ketchup-y.House of Haos A Fuego Negro Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Makobe Burger Txips House of Haos A Fuego Negro Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Makobe BurgerKit de pikoteo: tuna, piparras (Basque peppers), and thinly-sliced onions.  This was Myra’s favorite here (we ordered it twice) – everything was immensely bright in their freshness, the tuna flaky and meaty, the peppers and onions adding unique undertones of acidity and heat.House of Haos A Fuego Negro Tapas St Sebastian Basque Country Spain Bonito Peppers Onions
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