Wait, what?! Another ramen entry? Yep, this was my final bowl of ramen in 2012. Last Saturday, John and I watched The Ramen Girl, then braved the chilly weather for this final bowl of deliciousness. We picked a bad day to venture outside. Cold, wet, slushy.
The Ramen Girl was predictable, but quite enjoyable. American girl (Brittany Murphy) goes to Japan to be with her boyfriend who soon breaks up with her. Depressed girl stumbles into a ramenya and falls in love with ramen. (Why didn’t anyone introduce me to ramen during my past breakups?) Girl asks the grumpy chef to teach her to cook ramen even though they don’t understand each other. Girl eventually learns how to cook ramen, grumpy chef becomes less grumpy and names her the successor of his ramenya.
There were English subtitles for both the English and Japanese dialogue, but the subtitles were rarely matched the the English dialogue. There were times when it made no sense at all, and we would randomly start laughing during serious scenes. It certainly added to the entertainment value.
We originally wanted to try the Midtown Menkui Tei. Closed! Unclear if they’re permanently or temporarily closed. Oh well, at least we got to see their bright yellow awning that says “Larmen New York”. Thankfully, Menchanko Tei was about a block away. Menchanko Tei has merged with their Japanese neighbor, Katsuhama, and the menu now carries both katsu and ramen.
The entrance and interior of Menchanko Tei/Katsuhama is very similar to Hide-Chan. I’ve never been to Tokyo (the airport doesn’t count), but it feels like you’ve been transported to a ramen shop in Tokyo. Lovely space. Late lunch with my favorite guy, ramen, katsu and beer. I couldn’t be happier.
John ordered one of the pork katsu dishes ($16), which came with a cabbage salad, miso soup, pickled veggies and rice. The breading was perfect, but the katsu was a little greasy for me.
They also brought out a small mortar and pestle with freshly toasted sesame seeds. It was fun to grind them up and sprinkle over the katsu or soup.
Menchanko Tei specializes in the classic hakata tonkotsu broth. Mmm yes, that wonderful creamy, porky broth. They have several variations: shiro tonkotsu, shoyu tonkotsu, black garlic tonkosu, spicy tonkotsu. I ordered the house special, the Aburi Tonkotsu Shoyu Chashu-Men ($14). The regular tonkotsu shoyu ramen is $11 and comes with classic pork loin charshu. The $3 upgrade includes four pieces of broiled pork belly!
I really enjoyed this blended broth. You get the best of creamy tonkotsu and the distinct flavor of a soy sauce broth. It’s rich, but complemented the rest of the ingredients. I added some sesame seeds to my ramen. A little surprised they didn’t already add some. The noodles were al dente, but softened more in the broth. Tasty bamboo with a bit of a crunch, unlike the sweet, mushy bamboo I recently experienced. The pork belly? Simply sinful. So fatty, but fatty in all the right ways, unlike the pork at a couple places I’ve visited. This pork belly was so juicy and flavorful, but it didn’t overwhelm the palate. A nice balance of ingredients, not too much broth or noodles.
A solid bowl of ramen to mark the end of 2012. Happy new year! In 2013, I will be pursuing vegetarian ramen options. Shocking, I know, considering how much I love porky goodness. Also, I’ve been busy with a fun personal project I like to call the 2012 Ramen Roundup. More on that soon!