As a young student in Japan over 20 years ago, Mimi Chi fell in love with the frame at counters throughout Tokyo, each with its own style. “It’s everywhere, and they do it all differently,” said Chi, who lives in Port Washington.
Tokyo alone reportedly has 10,000 ramen shops, and Japanese cities and regions each have their own styles, from the miso-rich broth in Sapporo to the seafood-based ramen, milky pork (tonkotsu) ramen, and noodles ranging from thin to wide, flat to wavy. On Long Island, until very recently, there were barely a handful of ramen sites, but the last 18 months have seen an exponential leap – including the Ikedo Ramen, which Chi opened about a year ago in Port Washington. It was a long-realized dream, but won hard during a pandemic that was hit by labor shortages and erratic supply issues. “I had a huge passion for ramen, but did not think about how hard it would be,” said Chi, who is also a real estate portfolio manager and mother. “The challenges are incredible, especially under COVID. But I said, ‘Okay, I have to make this work, no matter what the problems or challenges it is.'”
Ikedo is a cute, enveloping place with a mural-covered dining room in front, covered terrace and a rugged style, forged by chef Jason Lin. He lived in Japan for a decade before working in New York City’s ramen scene, and his complex broth ranges from rich tonkotsu to a bonito-based seafood broth to a miso ramen flavored with the kitchen’s own fermented soybeans. Ikedo uses four different kinds of fresh sun noodles, Chi said; chili oil and house sauces are added to the hot broth for extra smoldering and richness.
The Slurp Ramen in Port Jefferson, opened by Atsushi and Francesca Nakagawa in 2016, opened the ramen locks on Long Island. Over the last few years, a stream became a stream: MB Ramen in Huntington, 8Ramen in Rockville Center, Teinei Ya in Syosset, Ichi Sushi & Ramen in East Setauket opened all, among others. There are now at least two dozen ramen places — on Long Island, each distinguished by long-bathed broth — from opaque, almost sumptuous tonkotsu broth made with pork bones to lighter shio or “salt” broth and shoyu or soy, broth, and miso broth flavored with fermented soybean – as well as composition. Dip the ramen and lobster ramen and dry the ramen; there is fried ramen and vegan ramen. On top is usually a custard, marinated soft-boiled egg, but garnish can also include corn, scallion, bamboo shoots, fermented mushrooms, edamame, slices of chili or black garlic oil and the sweet pink and white spiral fish cake called narutomaki. Basically, while bowls with the ramen might share a similar foundation, the adventure of eating it lies in the details.
Here are a few standouts among Long Island’s latest wave of ramen stores.
eShin Noodle Bar (1113 Rte. 25a, Stony Brook): This cute, minimalist place opened in August and is the domain of Momofuku Noodle alukok Kai Wang, whose complex, sometimes delicate ramen draws on ingredients that are ingredients made and gathered in an open kitchen. . Broth begins with several kinds of bones (or kombu) and shifts seasonally from a light, light tonkotsu broth filled with corn-fed, confit chashu to pork to a 10-hour beef broth aged with Wagyu breast; a spicy “dry” vegan ramen is based on tomato dashi, and there is also pork-bonito-based tsukemen or dipping ramen that marries hot broth and cold noodles, plus various vegetables and a yuzu soy foam. The small plates, such as raw amber (similar to hamachi) with hot brown-butter vinegar, are showstoppers. Ramen bowls start at $ 14. More info: 631-675-6333. eshinrestaurants.com
Kiko Ramen (361 Nassau Blvd. South, Garden City): This is the western cousin of the Iron Ramen in Stony Brook, and chef Leo Li’s ramen bowls rely on seared pork, chicken, and vegetarian broth for the standard berries (shoyu, miso, tonkotsu). There’s also spicy tan-tan ramen-influenced by Chinese dan-dan noodles and vegan and seafood ramen, starting at $ 12, served at about a dozen tables. More info: 516-307-9211, kikoramen.com
Ikedo Ramen (1113 Rte. 25a, Port Washington): A vibrant dining room and a windy courtyard are the scene of chef Jason Lin, a longtime ramen veteran, and his sturdy, artful bowls of noodles, 14 in all, from the smoldering, spicy tonkotsu ramen with house black-garlic oil for kimchi ramen and broth-free, fried ramen. Beer, wine and sake are at hand, as are plenty of rice bowls and small plates, such as a cold tofu salad topped with chili sauce or donburi topped with everything from katsu chicken to chashu. The frame starts at $ 13.95. More info: 631-675-6333. ikedoramen.com
Say Ramen (244 Route 25a, East Setauket): The signature ramen in this dimly lit, wall-painted area is a sturdy, salty tomato ramen with beef flaps, finely shredded cabbage and cilantro — like eating the pasta version of the ramen — but there are also six kinds chicken-based ramen, including one with a milky paitan broth. Izakaya-like snacks include kara-age (fried chicken) and gyoza. Bowls start at $ 12. More info: 631-675-0808. seiramen.com
AND Ramen (14a Railroad Avenue, Babylon): OG’s soy-free, health-conscious spin on the ramen was dreamed of by brothers Salvatore and Frank Bono, and these gracefully composed bowls are presented in a small, modern dining room with wooden benches, a window sill and a concise menu. A citrusy yuzu chicken broth supports the $ 17 classic ramen, while a “faux soy” shoyu broth is made with coconut amino acids. There are also gluten-free noodles and a handful of well-chosen beers and sake. More info: 631-620-3680; ogramen.com