Sweater weather is noodle-slurping season — and with ramen shops popping up across the borough, Japan’s comfort food is the perfect cure for the cold.
And those looking to shake things up with some truly untraditional takes on the stuff that kept them full in college need look no further than Brooklyn, where bold and bizarre takes on the tried-and-true noodle soup are the borough standard.
In a sea of worthy choices, here are our five absolute favorite places to shovel unique varieties of ramen into our mouths.
Break out the nice chopsticks:
One of the biggest surprises of the summer was that a consistently great ramen noodle joint should open in Williamsburg’s Northside. Enter Yebisu Ramen, a Sapporo–syle ramen joint that features “nama-men,” a ramen soup made with home-made, extremely fresh unheated noodles that are fermented for forty-eight hours rather than boiled. The result locks a wonderfully uncanny flavor into them that’s unparalleled by anything else in the city. Particularly good is the Yebisu house ramen, which features seafood broth, prawns, snow crabs, mussels, scallops, scallions, and seaweed.
[126 N Sixth St. between Berry Street and Bedford Avenue, (718) 782–1444].
Vegetarians who miss the stuff that used to warm them up during less discerning days can find help quelling the hunger at Zuzu Ramen, which holds the honor of the best vegetarian ramen in the city. Rather than relying on cooking pork bones down for days at a time to flavor their broth, the garlic soy ramen features roasted garlic, bok choy, a slow-cooked egg, and a veggie broth flavored with soy sauce and seasonal vegetables.
[173 Fourth Ave. at Degraw street, (718) 398-9898].
All that slurping — slurping being the only way to eat ramen — can get a little heavy on the stomach and a little intense on the tongue. Though Chuko’s ramen may not be extraordinarily unique in terms of its ingredients and execution, it’s hard to overlook the other fixings that come with the meal. For a balanced meal, ramen-lovers can pair the standard pork bone, scallion, egg, and mustard green ramen with an extraordinarily unique take on a kale salad tossed with sweet potato, raisins, and miso. Moving back and forth between the freshness and lightness of the salad and the intense, rich flavor profile of the ramen will give loud ramen eaters an experience they can sigh about.
[552 Vanderbilt Ave. at Dean Street, (718) 576–6701]
This new Carroll Gardens joint has been garnering a lot of attention since it opened up earlier this year, and for very good reason. Of all the ramen on this list, theirs boasts the clearest, most enviable hypothesis for what it means to open up a noodle joint in Brooklyn.
Their “deli ramen” marries nostalgia and cerebral experimentalism so perfectly it’s obvious that the chefs are on to something special. It’s a chicken broth-based soup served with celery, matzo balls, locally-sourced smoked meats, and a poached egg. It won’t taste like any other ramen (maybe a high-end take on the stuff that came in packets), but it will evoke every single nourishing comfort food from grandma.
[271 Smith St. between Degraw and Sackett streets, (718) 643–0781]
Hail to the absolute, undisputed king of Brooklyn’s off-beat ramen. Yuji Haraguchi is a modest man who is always excited to see customers stop by his Smorgasburg noodle stand. Since Yuji Ramen slinked away from its slightly-more-permanent pop-up spot in Kinfolk Studios, customers have been forced to brave the weekend commute to Williamsburg on Saturday and DUMBO on Sunday to try his mazemen (broth-free) takes on the classic fare.
But there’s nothing classic about Yuji. His ramens have run the gamut from bacon and egg or smoked salmon to summer crab with dash gelee. Yuji Haraguchi is the umami daddy, and his ramen will be unlike anything you’ve ever had in your entire life. The best part of that? The impeccably textured noodles and perfectly executed flavors also happens to come together transcendently. Adventurous eaters must try the squid and tomato paste mazemen, tossed at the last second with squid ink, Japanese seven-spice powder, and toasted garlic chips.
(East River State Park, Kent Avenue, between N. Sixth and N. Seventh streets) Saturdays.
What’s your favorite? Cast a vote, and let us know in the comments if we missed a place.
Who serves the most creative ramen dish in Brooklyn?