Jin Ramen in Harlem: an average bowl

Guest post by Ikai Lan

I love ramen. Ever since declaring Ippudo the Best Of Show in New York City, I’ve been looking for worthy runners up. (So far, #2 in my opinion is the standard ramen at Bassanova, but that’s another story for another time).

Jin Ramen, a hop, skip and a jump away on the uptown 1 train, has been one I’ve been hearing about, both from friends as well as the standard NYC food blogs (as well as some not-so-standard blogs). I decided to check it out.

Rating: ♣♣♣
At best average. Not worth the trek or the $12.

The storefront has friendly exterior decor, and they have a sister restaurant, Kissaten, next door.


When you walk in, you’re greeted with calls of irrasshaimase, though you won’t get a shout from every in the restaurant as you might at Ippudo.

I sat down and ordered the tonkotsu ramen. This is usually the standard I go by when checking out a new ramen place as a baseline. It arrived quickly.


Aesthetically, pretty standard. I took a bite, and … was disappointed. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as great as I had hoped. The bar had been set too high! The broth did not have that fatty richness that I have come accustomed to expecting from a tonkotsu. The noodles had an aroma that exhibited all the complexities of … salt, with a standard fare texture. Just to be sure, I ordered the kaedama (extra noodles), and, while a bit more al dente because the broth had cooled somewhat and could not cook the noodles anymore, tasted the same. The pork was good, but not great, and one of the better parts of the composition, as everything else was average at best. I’m not going to ever turn down a boiled egg in my noodle soup, but it just wasn’t standout, whereas the nitamago at Ippudo always, always give my taste buds a party.

At the end of it, the bill was $15 and change. Not expensive, but, and I’m sure this is my living in New York City breaking my sense of what things should cost, not a good deal. I didn’t break the bank, but I did spend $15 on an average meal when I could have spent that money, time and empty stomach on something truly delicious instead.

Jin Ramen
3183 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
b/t Tiemann Pl & 125th St in Harlem
Neighborhoods: Morningside Heights, Harlem


Ikai Lan is an occasional guest author for The Culture Bite. Though he loves both to eat as well as write, he finds that writing a real post takes a larger block of time than he is generally able to free up. He resides in New York City, though he’s been known to surface here and there on a whim.

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Saiwaii Ramen – San Francisco

Sawaii Ramen Tonkatsu

Rated: ♣♣♣

Ramen joints are anywhere and everywhere these days like here, here, here and here. It’s just one of those comfort foods that you can’t get enough of.  While itching for some ramen one evening, I went with a friend to try Saiwaii Ramen, which took over the old SO’s location on Irving. I was moderately impressed with the restaurant, and would definitely come back if I wanted some quick ramen for dinner.

Unlike the very popular Izakaya Sozai, we were seated almost immediately. They had some interesting ramen choices on their menu like the Spicy Garlic Tonkatsu Ramen and the Special Ramen with Chicken Kara-age AND pigs feet. I decided to be adventurous (kidding) and try the Tonkatsu Ramen. And then I experienced something that I never thought would happen… I had way too many noodles! The ratio of noodles and broth was completely off. Though I was excited at my ginormous portion, I didn’t have enough broth to go with each bite. The ramen had the usual fixings – bamboo shoots, spinach, seaweed, char-siu, and wood ear fungus. The ramen was fairly plain and basic. You can order additional toppings such as pork belly, egg, corn – each at a price. The broth was creamy and flavorful, but I’d say it’s lighter than other ramen places. Noticeably absent from their assortment of condiments was grated garlic. Too bad because I love adding that stuff into my ramen.

I wouldn’t say Saiwaii had the best ramen I’ve ever had. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t amazing either. I think it’s sufficient to settle a ramen craving. The broth is flavorful, noodles are at a good consistency and portions are large. At $7.95 a bowl, I was stuffed without having to order any side dishes. If you’re in the mood for ramen and can’t get into Izakaya Sozai (also on Irving), try this place out.

Saiwaii Ramen
2240 Irving
(between 23rd Ave & 24th Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94122
Neighborhood: Outer Sunset

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Orenchi Ramen – Santa Clara

Rated: ♣♣♣♣♣

I’ve been on a ramen hiatus for a while, but my love for the soupy noodle dish was resuscitated after dining at the famed Orenchi Ramen. I’ve devoured a lot of ramen around the Bay Area (like here, here, here, here, and here), and I must say that Orenchi is pretty high on the list.

Between 4 people, we shared 2 appetizers: the pork belly and fried garlic. The braised pork belly was soooo sinful. Slowly cooked and perfectly tender. My advice: do not cut off the fat. The fat in the pork belly gives it a distinct flavor. It’s more robust, and somewhat nutty. Believe it or not, the fried garlic was BETTER than the pork belly. Orenchi takes the entire bulb and deep fries it in hot oil until the cloves become soft and creamy. They serve the bulb with a side of dipping sauce (almost like a thousand island). When garlic is fried, it looses its spicy garlicky taste. The flavor becomes much more subtle. You don’t even realize how garlicky it really is until you smell yourself the next morning. Gross… but completely worth it! :)

Orenchi Pork Belly

Orenchi Fried Garlic

I ordered Orenchi Ramen with a tonkotsu soup base. Drumroll please! Dudududuudud… it’s delicious! I ordered with less fat and less salt for peace of mind, but the broth was still very thick and rich. They pour in some special black oil to top off the dish. Not sure what it is, maybe toasted sesame oil? The toppings in the ramen are definitely far superior compared to other ramen places. There was a slice of that delicious pork belly again. The best part is the soft boiled egg. Orenchi has perfected the soft boiled egg. All of ours were perfectly runny and gooey in the middle. The thick and creamy yolk was liquid gold. If only I had a bigger stomach to eat more!

Orenchi Tonkotsu Ramen

If I were to rate the ramen restaurants in the Bay Area, it would look something like this:

1. Orenchi (tonkotsu broth) at Orenchi Ramen, Santa Clara
2. Miso Ramen at Ramen Halu, San Jose
3. Karage Ramen at Katana-ya, San Francisco
4. Karage Ramen at Santa Ramen, San Mateo
5. Deluxe Miso Ramen at Himawari, San Mateo
6. Karage Ramen at Halu Ramen, San Francisco
7. Tofu and Vegetable Curry at Muracci’s Japanese Curry and Grill, San Francisco

But, my all time favorite ramen would be the Koterri Ramen (chicken collagen soup base) at Tenkaippin in Honolulu, HI. It’s the most unique ramen experience I’ve ever had (sticks to your ribs kind of ramen) and I can’t wait to go back to Hawaii to eat more.

Orenchi Ramen
3540 Homestead Rd
Santa Clara, CA 95051

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Katana-ya – San Francisco

Katana-Ya Fried Chicken RamenKatana-ya
430 Geary St
(at Mason St)
San Francisco, CA 94102

Rated: ♣♣♣♣

Finally, a great noodle place in downtown! If you ever struggle, like I always do, to find a place to eat while shopping in Union Square. This is the place to go.

The scene:

I’ve heard about the wait. I’ve seen the wait. That’s why I’ve held off eating here for so long. K and I ended up waiting for about 10 minutes. The restaurant is small. It can’t possibly sit any more than 25 people.

The wait staff is friendly and service is quick. This is a great option for a bite before a show at the Curran Theater just across the street. Just make sure you come early to put your name on the wait list.

The food:

They have 3 options for broth – miso, soy and salt. I’ve always been a fan of rich and creamy miso broth and I’m a fan of fried chicken so, K and I both ordered the fried chicken ramen in miso broth. I asked for the “light” miso which I am sure is not very light.

Fried Chicken Ramen w/ Miso broth – The broth was thick, rich and not too salty. The toppings added are seaweed, pickled bamboo shoots and green onions. There is a TON of fresh ramen noodles in each serving. Usually, I could eat a whole bowl, but not this one. I had to give my leftovers to an eager K across the table. The fried chicken was super moist and fatty. Nothing low-fat about this dish at all.

Spicy Roll – While eating our ramen, an ad for their spicy roll was staring at us over our table. We had to try it. The Spicy Roll is made of fresh tuna and an insanely spicy chili paste. This was actually pretty painful to eat as it lived up to its name. Never again.

I’d love to come back to Katana-ya and try a different kind of ramen. The butter corn caught my attention last time. Yum!

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Himawari – San Mateo

202 2nd Ave
San Mateo, CA 94401
(650) 375-1005
Rated: ♣♣♣♣

I was told about this ramen joint from one of my best friends.  He was raving about how this may be his new favorite ramen joint, which surprised me since, prior to this, I barely ever heard a buzz about it.   Being the curious fatso, we quickly wrangled a few of my coworkers to eat here.  There I was, waiting in front of Himawari with the usual two nincompoops I eat with and our CEO.  Not awkward at all, but I was hoping to impress the big man with my knowledge of the area.  All I had was a crack at the Bay Watch restaurant across the street and a mention of the Melting Pot (which his friend owns).  So, just a note to everyone (in case it wasn’t clear), my attempts at being impressive were failures.  Anyways, the wait took about 20 minutes before we were able to get a table for 4 at around noon.

The Food

I ordered the Deluxe Miso Ramen.  It had all the regular fixings like charsiu, bamboo shoots, seaweed, and bean sprouts, but the Deluxe meant it came with Stewed Pork and a soft-boiled egg.  I found the Stewed Pork to not be as flavorful as Santa Ramen, but it also wasn’t as fatty.  The soft-boiled egg was delightful and the middle was still runny.  The broth itself was pretty fatty.  You could see the fat floating around the top, which made for an unappetizing sight.  However, the flavor was awesome since it was so rich.

The Scene

The people that were here for lunch were mostly professionals and families.  People ranged from wearing shorts and t-shirts to full on suits.  The line can get pretty long, since there are only about 10-12 tables for 2-4 people.  I definitely would recommend calling ahead if you bring a large group.

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