When I first started writing about Japanese ramen in New York, there wasn't a lot of choice. Real Japanese ramen was one of the final frontiers in authentic ethnic cuisine in New York, and Minca was basically it (and I feel a little bad about my harsh review of them now).
Today, ramen's everywhere in New York. For a while I was actually keeping up and basically reviewing all the major ramen shops - nowadays, that's pretty much impossible. Sorry about that, but you're on your own if you find something I haven't reviewed here. (I never did review Setagaya, but here's a quick one: it's all right; nothing special, but not bad). It's like playing whack-a-mole trying to visit all these new ramen restaurants popping up all over the place.
The good news is that this has caused everyone to really up their game - you just can't get away with mediocre ramen anymore and expect people to like it. People are hopefully becoming a little more sophisticated and there is definitely more competition. And the quality has gotten steadily better over the years as a result.
This week my wife and I happened on Misoya, a new ramen shop that apparently also has a shop in California (or so their t-shirts say). They've been open for one month. They do not have their own web site or I would link to them.
129 Second Ave
Manhattan, NY 10003
The verdict: good!
As its name implies, Misoya specializes in (as in only serves) miso ramen. This is a common thing in Japan; many ramen shops serve specific types of ramen. If you want something other than miso ramen, go somewhere else. I see this as the maturing of the New York ramen scene (is there a "ramen scene"??) - there are now enough ramen shops that we're starting to see specialization. This is a good thing, because these specialty restaurants do their one thing really well, and there are plenty of ramen shops, so why do they all need to do the same thing?
I'm personally not a huge fan of miso in general so I was a little nervous, but first of all, just look at that bowl above! It's a beautiful bowl of ramen. The ingredients in the ramen I picked are a little different than what I'm used to, but they were very good, and you can always get more "traditional" ingredients. I picked the one the waiter said was the most popular, sort of their house ramen. They serve three different broths and then have several mixes of ingredients; I chose the standard broth, though you can get it heavier or lighter as well.
In the standard broth, the miso is not overpowering and you can still clearly taste pork marrow. It's a rich and flavorful broth - very nice. The noodles themselves were fabulous, just the right thickness and texture, and the pork! The pork was some of the best I've had in New York, almost rivaling Yo! Tekoya in Tokyo. Melt in your mouth kind of stuff. There is a lot of food in that bowl - I could not finish it, whereas I can finish the ramen at Rai Rai Ken and other ramen shops. And it was not for lack of trying.
Misoya is a sit-down table restaurant, unlike Rai Rai Ken and pretty much any real ramen shop in Japan. This actually drives me crazy about Rai Rai Ken these days - despite having some of the best ramen in the city, it's impossible to get a seat there because New Yorkers generally don't understand how to eat ramen at a place like that. You eat fast and go. You don't talk. You slurp, you eat, you pay, you leave. It's Japanese fast food. Rai Rai Ken has become so popular that there are always people waiting outside because it's just a small counter shop and people sit there talking for 30 minutes after eating. Well, Misoya's nod to American culture is that it's set up like a regular restaurant, and there is no rush. So, take that for better or worse, though I imagine most New Yorkers will take it for better.
Sorry for not posting a pic of the storefront - we forgot to take one. Maybe I'll update this post someday. But it's easy to find with the address.
Even if you're not big on miso, give Misoya a chance. They really make a tasty bowl of ramen.