There’s not much more quick and satisfying in cold weather than a warm bowl of ramen. Thank goodness for David Chang and his Momofuku chain starting the long-overdue ramen craze in New York, otherwise I’m not sure how I’d survive an East Coast winter!
The styles of ramen across Japan are as diverse as the different types of BBQ in America. Misoya is most well known for its Hokkaido style kome miso ramen. Hokkaido is the northernmost main island of Japan, where American military personnel played a huge role in shaping the local cuisine.
Unlike the tonkotsu or pork bone-based ramen served in southern cities like Kyoto or Osaka, Hokkaido ramen uses a milder broth based off chicken and pork bones supplemented with ingredients that many would find surprising. Canned corn? Whole sticks of butter? Doesn’t sound Japanese at all to me! That’s cause all of these were rations from the American troops that the locals decided to combine in their ramen. The result is a rich and hearty noodle bowl that’s bound to warm up anyone during the coldest of winters.
Aside from differences in broth composition, there are three main types of ramen based on their primary seasoning: shoyu (soy sauce), shio (sea salt), and miso (fermented rice or soybeans). The type most common in Hokkaido is miso ramen, which is then distinguished by the type of miso used. Different miso varieties are made by fermenting various grains (e.g. rice, soybeans, barley, wheat, or mixed) and for different lengths of time, changing their colour intensity and saltiness. This is getting complicated fast!
Misoya has a very simple menu, with 3 main types of ramen (kome miso, mame miso, and shiro miso) to go with a few side dishes and drinks. While there were a few nitpicks here and there, overall the ramen here was very satisfying!
That being said, I only tried their kome miso (Hokkaido-style) ramen. There’s a big enough difference between the types that a restaurant good at making one may not be so great at making other types. Overall I’d say Misoya ranks solidly near the top of the ramen hierarchy in New York, although even the so-called “best” places like Ippudo still have some ways to go before their ramen is truly memorable.
(Update: I’ve now tried Totto Ramen and personally I found their chicken paitan broth ramen to be the most enjoyable one I’ve had in NYC, although that is influenced by personal preference for style of ramen broth.)
Things Roger Ate (and slurped up) like a Pig
Chashu Kome Miso Ramen – 4/6 (Very Good), $13
- Ramen with kome miso (red) and chicken/pork bone broth, topped with corn, green onions, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, minced pork, soft-boiled egg, potato wedges, and 3 slices of chashu (pork cheek)
The broth had a moderate taste of pork and chicken bones that was not as rich as a tonkotsu (pork bone) broth but was sufficient for the ramen here. The star of the broth was the kome miso though. Its red hue indicates that it was made from steamed soybeans, with a stronger degree of fermentation than typical store-bought misos. Despite the colour, the miso was not as strong in saltiness and in umami flavour as I expected.
Butter was also present in the broth, adding some missing richness (and fattiness) although I felt like a bit more could have been used. That being said, I’ve seen some reviews saying this was saltier and richer than they would like, so maybe I’m just the exception!
The noodles were of the curly and thick yellow variety similar to those in instant noodles. They were ever so slightly undercooked compared to al dente, which is actually the authentic way in Hokkaido. I preferred this because it gave the dish a nice chew to stand up to the richness of the broth.
The toppings were generally solid and representative of this style of ramen. The sweetness and texture of the corn in particular fit in really well with the ramen. The ground pork added a nice hint of spice to the soup. I found it weird to have potato wedges in the ramen (maybe another American influence?); these tasted okay and didn’t add much to the dish as a whole. The soft-boiled egg was underwhelming as the yolk was overcooked and no longer runny.
Finally, the chashu or pork cheek here was really good. The meat of the slices was very tender and full of flavour, although it had not been braised enough to marbleize the thin fat layer between the skin and the meat. The grilled skin was the best part, as the smoky aroma from the grill was nice and strong.
Definitely worth the trip for some fast and casual ramen! Misoya does well to focus its efforts on making one type of ramen really good. If you’re looking for rich tonkotsu ramen bowls, this might not be the place, but for Hokkaido-style ramen it’s really enjoyable!
Date visited: Oct. 21, 2012
Price range: $10-20