In Westchester's Recent Ramen Craze, Which New Spot Is Best?

Noodle joints are popping up all over the county, here’s a comparison of three new ramen locations in the county.

When David Chang opened New York City’s momofuku noodle bar, ramen, a food that had been undervalued as a cheap, dorm-room staple, reached cult status. Then, in January, Chang published an article, “The State of Ramen,” in his indie food magazine, Lucky Peach, in which he boldly declared “Ramen is dead.” While it may be dead in Manhattan (though probably not), its popularity is trending in Westchester, where there’s currently a proliferation of new restaurants serving steaming bowls of broth and noodles. 

Tucked into a strip mall on Central Avenue in Hartsdale, one could easily overlook Kishuya’s hole-in-the-wall exterior. Inside, the restaurant is inviting, with clean lines and extra seats to be found at the long bar beneath a window into the kitchen. To start, I’d skip the gyoza and opt for the pork bao, filled with luscious, fatty slices of pork and sweet-but-savory brown sauce, which got raves from my fellow diners. But it’s the ramen that’s the real star of the show. The tonkotsu, made with a traditional pork-bone broth, is deeply flavorful with perfectly cooked noodles. I only wish the tonkotsu’s chasu pork had been as juicy as it was in the bao. Here, super-thin slices seemed to overcook in the hot liquid. The best of the bowls on the menu are the miso and spicy Tantanmen. Miso adds deep umami flavor to chicken katsuo dashi broth, deriving bright contrast from lots of fresh vegetables. But my favorite is the Tantanmen ramen served with ground pork—its spiciness, which seems to build with each bite, is a perfect foil to a rich blend of tonkotsu broth and soy seasoning. Our waitress, who was attentive without being obtrusive, thoughtfully brought extra water with my Tantanmen, though next time I think I’ll wash it down with a Ginga Kogen Weizen, a German-style beer brewed in Japan.

Pork bao at Kishuya makes for a solid starter 

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At Mokomiya, in the shadow of the courthouse in White Plains, we were welcomed into the no-frills interior with a cheery Japanese greeting. A map of Japan in red, white, and black set the stage, while Japanese music played in the background. The ramen was, unfortunately, less enticing unless you knew what to order. Tonkotsu ramen, like all Mokomiya’s ramens, was beautifully presented, but the pale broth reflected its weak flavor. While the chasu pork was the best of all three restaurants, the noodles were inconsistent, sometimes right, but more often than not, a bit floury. I had hoped that a spicy version would fare better, but sesame seeds blended into the broth gave it an off-putting chalky texture that coated everything in the bowl. If you are going to go, definitely start with some of the appetizers. The kara age, with its tender chunks of fried, dark-meat chicken, was light and crispy, and fried Brussels sprouts with a nutty sesame seed paste, were a pleasant surprise. Hopefully, Mokomiya will keep the pork bao, which, our waiter told us on our previous visit, was a new dish they were making for the very first time. It boasted juicy slices of their chasu pork with a sweet sauce. For ramen, stick with the shoyu—the one standout with its rich, homey chicken broth. The vegetable ramen also packed big mushroom flavor but was plagued by the same floury noodles. No matter what you order, choose your seating wisely. On one visit, I sat under one of the giant ceiling fans, which turned the top layer of my ramen cold within minutes. 

New Rochelle’s Roc-N-Ramen isn’t your typical ramen joint. Sure, you’ll find classic flavors like tonkotsu, shoyu, and miso on the menu, but where the restaurant really succeeds is with a selection of unique fusion flavors (spicy jerk chicken or tangy barbecue-chicken flavors). That doesn’t mean you’d go wrong with a generously sized bowl of springy noodles swimming in a cloudy tonkotsu broth imbued with deep, roasted pork flavor or in a simple shoyu broth. But it’s worth going out of your way for the restaurant’s much-hyped oxtail ramen. I called every day for a week before it recurred as a special on a Saturday night. I arrived at 6 pm; the restaurant was already full, and I snagged a drafty seat—one of the last—by the door. The oxtail ramen arrived in a mix of rich tonkotsu and fragrant curry broth, the whole bowl enriched with chunks of tender oxtail, which gave the broth an unctuous quality that coated each noodle. It boasted a perfect medley of flavors and textures with the addition of sweet, crisp-tender corn and sliced scallions. The décor at Roc-N-Ramen is kitschy at best, and on a busy night, the whole room can smell like the fryer, but it doesn’t seem to bother customers. Tables and bars have hotel bells asking diners to ring if they’re happy with their food, and on a busy Saturday night, they rang a lot. After the oxtail ramen, I was ringing mine, too. 

Kishuya
163 S Central Ave, Hartsdale
(914) 949-0600
www.kishuya.com

Food: 3/4 
Atmosphere: 2.5/4
Service: 2.5/4
Cost: 2/4

Mokomiya
51 Court St, White Plains
(914) 949-3712
www.mokomiya.com

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Food: 2/4
Atmosphere: 1.5/4
Service: 2/4
Cost: 2/4

Roc-N-Ramen
19 Anderson St, New Rochelle
(914) 365-1166
www.rocnramen914.com

Food: 3/4
Atmosphere: 1.5/4
Service: 2.5/4
Cost: 2/4

 

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