[X] Ippudo (both the East Village and Westside locations)
[X] Totto Ramen
I’ve eaten at these great ramen spots. Most of them being in NYC, and Mitsuwa (the greatest Asian shopping center of all) being in NJ. Anyone who’s serious about ramen, can talk their head off about Ippudo, Totto Ramen, momofuku noodle bar, Ivan Ramen and their experiences there (ZOMG did you have the Akamaru Modern ramen?, The pork buns are to die for,…but like what about all the MSG? DID YOU SEE DAVID CHANG???).
But, what about the smaller ramen shops scattered about the city and the outlying areas?
This is where Minca comes in.
Coming from NJ, it took me a bit to get there as it sits in Alphabet City (Sorry, when is the Second Ave line going to be complete? Seriously…). It is a small place and squeezing into the shop to speak to the hostess involved sidling up to the wall so that other customers and servers can squeeze by. But the interior was cheery and inviting and everyone looked like their stomachs were being satiated by the aroma of ramen broth and from the actual ramen itself.
Minca is actually a poppin spot. Expect to wait a bit outside. I got there around 8 PM and the wait time for three people was around half an hour. Once you sit down, you feel like life can begin now. The menu is pretty extensive for a ramen shop. It’s organized by broth type, the choices being: pork, pork and chicken (50/50), chicken, miso, spicy, and vegetable (I gotchu observing Muslim, Jewish, and vegetarian friends). Then there are variations within each broth type such as salt, soy, and roasted garlic. You can choose which meat you would like in your ramen, if at all, (pork, chicken, as well as brown tofu) as well as the type of noodle (thick, thin, wavy noodle, whole wheat, or bean noodle). Then you have your toppings which come with every bowl (hard boiled egg, bamboo shoot, and a piece of seaweed on the side of the bowl that sticks up so elegantly), if you don’t want one of any of these toppings, speak up. If you’re looking for a bigger bowl, try the Specials which add extra Charshu meat into your soup or Experimental Ramen which adds pan-friend ramen or tomato ramen into the mix. The Specials are typically much more in price than the regular ramen I’ve described above. Additionally, there are some appetizers you can order such as pan-fried dumplings, salads, and kimchi.
In true Japanese style, Japanese beers and sake are listed on the menu as well as other wines and even soda.
- Minca Sio: Half Pork and Half Chicken broth with roasted garlic and salt flavor with thick noodles and pork ($11.50)
- Wahoo Sio: Chicken broth with salt flavor and sliced pork with thick noodles ($11.50)
- Charshu Ramen: Ramen noodle soup with extra pork slices ($18.00)
- Homemade Pork Gyoza ($5.50)
- Homemade Shrimp Gyoza ($6.50)
- Asahi Black Beer ($6.75)
- Sake Shochikubai ($6.50)
The gyoza came out within ten minutes. They were perfectly lined up and stuck to each other with beautiful fried marks of black and brown on their skin. We tried the shrimp ones first. The wonton skin was crimped around the shrimp and the tails were not removed but rather sticking out of the dumpling. First bite with the vinegar soy sauce had a little bite because of the vinegar, but other than that it tasted savory, almost like a soup dumpling but without the soup. It was perfectly moist, the skin of the dumpling reminded me of a Cantonese dim sum dumpling but with a crunch because of the charred bottom. The pork tasted much of the same but with bits of scallion inserted here and there. Both types of dumplings were carefully crafted and not taken out of a bag that was frozen and dumped in a wok to sauté. Towards the tail end of us finishing the dumplings, our bowls of ramen all came out at the same time.
The Minca Sio’s first sip of broth was smooth and true to description as I could taste the garlic within the broth. The broth wasn’t too salty as compared to other ramen noodle soups where you taste that the MSG is prevalent. The thick noodles were straight, thick noodles that filled up the bowl and were slick with the broth. The best part of the soup was that the pork slices were extremely tender and tasted buttery. You could puncture the meat itself (not the fat) with a chopstick and the chopstick glided through without any problem. I prefer my egg to be soft boiled but the hard boiled egg wasn’t a bad option.
The Wahoo Sio was good but in Mark’s opinion could have used more salt and more noodles. It tasted much like the Minca Sio and was not that much different, just that the broth was 100% chicken broth instead of the half pork and half chicken broth.
The Charshu Ramen on the other hand came with extra pork meat and our friend chose the thin noodles instead.
We all thought that the noodle was cooked well and wasn’t too soggy, nor was it like biting into super al dente pasta. The broth wasn’t heavy, as some ramen broths can be. My stomach didn’t feel sickly full or bloated and I had room for a little dessert afterwards (or a drink….or three actually). Mark finished his whole bowl when we all agreed that usually this situation is unlikely for all three of us.
The beer and the sake was perfect to wash the dumplings and ramen down. Asahi is always a good choice, and this Asahi was the black version, not the dry. With the black version, a stoutthat pairs well with the buttery pork eaten. Since the ramen wasn’t heavy, the beer was a good choice to pick to balance the meal out. The sake on the other hand was a little bit warmer but not room temperature, dry, not sweet. The liquor was clear as well and not cloudy, as some sake can be.
We have introduced a new rating as part of our rating system (Don’t Waste Your Time, Good, Good Good, Really Good, and Really Fucking Good) with Good Good being the new rating since something needs to go in between Good and Really Good. We give Minca a dual rating of Really Good and Good Good. I give a rating of Really Good as for those of you who know me, soup is my thing. I live, eat, and breathe soup and can have it in any season. Minca had a lasting impression on me, and I keep thinking of my bowl of ramen. Mark is not a soup person and so the ramen didn’t phase him as much as it did for me. So, we give Minca a dual rating of Really Good and Good Good!
Fun Fact #1: Act like your parents and bring cash. Minca is Cash Only so have some on you.
Fun Fact #2: Minca has about 4-5 seating spots at the ramen bar where you can see the chefs cooking right in front of you. We were seated at a table but the whole entire wait time, I was hoping we would be seated at the bar.
Fun Fact #3: Minca’s sister location is Kambi Ramen House in the East Village, so if your wait time is for more than you like at Minca, check out Kambi. I heard it’s a bigger space and less wait time.