It’s been too long since I last wrote a restaurant review and I want to apologize for such a long hiatus. Now that the semester has officially ended, leaving me with this much overdue free time, I’ll be posting more frequently.
Shortly before the semester ended, I dragged my boyfriend out to the city to get a healthy fix of Japanese ramen noodles that I have been dying to try. Unlike the affordable and easy-to-make instant noodles that college students like myself indulge in, Japanese ramen offers so much more than the bare-minimum satisfaction of instant noodles. My boyfriend, Phil, and I entered Rai Rai Ken, a cozy Japanese ramen restaurant located on 10th street between 1st and 2nd Avenue. Upon entering, there is a small open kitchen where you can see the process of you food being prepared. Although we arrived right during the peak of dinner time, we were seated immediately and were greeted by a busy but friendly waitress.
Phil and I decided to begin our dinner with a small appetizer. After considering the various items on the appetizer section of the menu, we ordered chashu: sliced pork with scallions. Our appetizer arrived shortly after ordering, which we were very impressed by the quickness of the service. Seasoned with vinegar and pepper flakes, chashu was tangy but a bit too salty for my personal preference. The pork had a crispy layer that outlined the tender meat and the scallions that topped the pork was a good balance to a dish that could have easily been overpowered with the taste of the pork alone.
After our appetizer came our main entrees. Phil had ordered the shoyu wonton ramen and I decided on the mison ramen. To begin with the shoyu wonton ramen, the noodles came in a clear broth with Japanese seaweed, soft-boiled egg, and thick-cut noodles. Shoyu is a type of soy sauce made from fermented soya beans and using this broth for the ramen gave it the ultimate depth in terms of flavor as if . The noodles were chewy and carried the deep, refreshing flavor of the soup. All in all, the shoyu wonton ramen had a clean taste, but if you’re looking for more of a flavorful ramen, this is not the best choice from Rai Rai Ken.
I had gotten the miso ramen, which I heard was one of the most popular ramens from Rai Rai Ken. The miso ramen came in a thicker broth than the shoyu wonton ramen with thicker noodles. Topped with garlic and bean sprouts, the miso ramen had a strong garlic flavor that I, as a typical Asian, enjoyed very much. For those of you who do not like strong flavors or especially the taste of garlic that lingers in your mouth, this would not be a wise choice of ramen. As a soy bean based soup, the miso ramen was extremely rich in flavor that displayed a different type of depth than the shoyu wonton ramen had. The miso ramen was also hearty in toppings, such as the already mentioned garlic, bean sprouts, chicken, cabbage, and scallion.
Our experience at Rai Rai Ken was an enjoyable one, where we were able to indulge in authentic Japanese ramen at an affordable price. Rai Rai Ken prides itself in being free of MSG, as many restaurants today rely on this food additive for better flavoring. A special that caught my eyes was the happy hour, which goes from 4PM-8PM from Mondays through Friadays and also from 10PM until closing on Saturdays. The happy hour special offers one free Sapporo draft beer when you order a gyoza as an appetizer. Rai Rai Ken also has seasonal special items which I greatly anticipate in trying out. As a cheap and quick place for such authentic Japanese ramen, Rai Rai Ken is definitely a place to return to on days when my ramen cravings call out to me.