Last month I attended a company summit close to NYC and on the way back spent a few days exploring the Big Apple. There was a long list of places to try including Katz’s Deli and NY-style Pizza at Joe’s and Bleecker Street. I also successfully searched for an authentic Italian restaurant in Little Italy and checked out some NY bagel shops. I’ll do a separate post on this later on Instagram and probably an article too. But yes, I definitely wanted to check out the best ramen in New York in the limited time available.
When it came to recommendations, most of my foodie friends pointed me in the direction of Ivan Ramen or Momofuku. Now both of them do have some unique looking ramen. But if I have only one ramen bowl to try, I’d typically opt for the most authentic looking one first. There are several listed in Time Out and other articles focusing on the top NY ramen but Nakamura stood out. Not only for their authentic looking bowls but also because the owner Shigetoshi Nakamura is one of the four ramen gods in Japan. He’s come in first place in Ramen competitions on Japanese TV and won awards for “Ramen of the Year” in Tokyo. I also noted his brother set up the Afuri chain in Japan so this family certainly know their ramen!
Nakamura Location and Interior
Ramen Nakamura is located in the Lower East side near Williamsburg Bridge. You can take the subway to Delancey Street and from there it’s about a five minute walk. It’s likely that you’ll already be in the neighbourhood if you’re a foodie. Ivan Ramen is just down Clinton street around the corner and Katz’s Deli is three blocks north from Delancey Street Station. The area is not glitzy but instead has an urban charm where you can get to see a different side of the city. There are quite a few Japanese restaurants nearby too like Yopparai Ronin which serves BBQ skewers and sake.
When you arrive at Nakamura you may be surprised to find a piece of Japan suddenly appearing in the NYC street. You can see the shop name in Japanese written on the noren curtain cloth by the door. Then you have the neon sign for Ramen and Gyoza above the window. It really does have a bit of the outpost feel about it and when you step inside you are pleasantly greeted by the cosy interior.
The contrast with outside is noticeable. You have an almost cafe like interior with pale turqoise walls, white tiles, and large letters spelling Nakamura above the kitchen area lit up with bulb lights. It’s a snug and warm space with 5 wooden tables and 4 counter stools. By the entrance you’ll see a surfboard above a coat rack and nearby there’s even a house plant. Things you don’t usually see at a ramen restaurant! If you look closely to the right of the kitchen there’s a few cup noodles from Afuri. I forgot to ask if you can buy them or if they are just for display.
What did we order?
As traveling solo, I only ordered one bowl which is Nakamura’s signature Torigara Ramen. This is a delicious Shoyu ramen made with a compelling chicken and fish based broth. You really want to enjoy every spoonful. The soup is clear and light but also rich in taste and full of flavour. I’ve not eaten such a comforting Shoyu bowl packed with umami goodness and levels of depth like this in a while. It’s one reason why I put Nakamura forward for the best ramen in New York.
When it came to the noodles, they were pleasingly thin but not overly so. Each strand was chewy but had the right level of firmness to them. This was my first experience of Sun Noodles and I can say they were top-notch and paired fantastically with the soup.
Then you have the toppings like the grilled organic chicken. It was soft and succulent and definitely a highlight. Meanwhile the Naruto / Kamaboko slice and crunchy Menma bamboo shoots provided a variety of textures, however the crisp fresh spinach was definitely my favourite topping. Finally the Ajitama egg was memorable too as it was cooked to a custard like finish which gently oozed into the bowl. It certaintly was nice to have a change to the dominant Burford Brown or Clarence Court eggs you often see in London.
Does Nakamura have the best ramen in New York?
It’s hard to say any one restaurant is the best especially in a diverse culinary melting pot like NYC. As a tourist what do I know about the best ramen in New York anyway right? Well what I can say having eaten at ramen restaurants across Japan and in the UK is that Nakamura is definitely on par with the top ramen spots worldwide.
On that note, if you’re coming from abroad, you potentially might have trouble scanning the QR code of the order app. This is usually how you order and pay but as I wasn’t able to, the staff passed on a paper menu and a bill later on. If there was one small thing to add here it was that the staff could have waited a little longer before presenting the bill. I felt it came at me literally within a few seconds of me finishing. Still they were polite and perhaps this is me being too sensitive.
Overall, this was a phenomenal experience and I was very satisfied with Ramen Nakamura. It completely lived up to my expectations and would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking for a solid ramen bowl in NY. They have a range of bowls that includes a pork broth ramen, 2 vegan options, plus a classic Tokyo Tsukemen as well as a Steak Mazemen. So there’s something for everyone and that’s still leaving out the chicken curry broth or Shrimp Yuzu wanton bowls. There are also starters like Shishito peppers and Yuzu wings along with mini rice bowls too if you’re peckish or want to branch out.
If you are visiting New York and need any further recommendations, I’ll be posting on IG and writing a follow up article shortly.