Crowds gather early outside Totto Ramen in New York and by the time I took that picture I imagine the wait was an hour or longer. I like ramen as much as the next guy but I wouldn’t wait an hour for it. It’s a big bowl of soup with meat floating in it and noodles. I imagine a large majority of you shrinking back in horror at that sentence: “A big bowl of soup? With meat floating in it? And noodles? That’s like calling the Mona Lisa a bunch of oil paint slathered on a canvas!” Perhaps, but I understand why people line up to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, I don’t understand why people line up for ramen.
Have things always been this way? Or did this start when David Chang (who just won another James Beard award) opened Momofuku Noodle Bar in 2004? I remember going there back when it opened and feeling like I discovered something totally new. As a nice Jewish boy who grew up eating chicken soup, I found pork broth to be more decadent and rich and flavorful (don’t tell grandma). It was a fun thing to eat when the craving struck especially when it was cold outside.
When I moved to L.A. I enjoyed ramen less often, but certainly as a cure-all when I got sick. The potency of the broth does pack a punch though it still loses the Battle Cold Cure to Tom Kha Gai.
Last week, in New York, I joined my friends Kenny and Brendan for dinner at Minca Ramen Factory in New York.
Even at a late hour on a Wednesday night, the place was packed. Looking at my ramen (a simple pork ramen with soy sauce) I can see why people get excited about it:
Lots of variety, sweet salty flavors, the rich thick slices of pork belly. Each bite brings something new. Plus, at $10.50, it’s a real bargain for all that food.
So I guess I see what the big deal is after all. But wait an hour for it? Sorry, ramen, I’m getting a cheeseburger.