When I left Japan in 2011, I worried about finding authentic Japanese ramen noodles in the states. Hot, steaming bowls of curly noodles twirled around soft boiled eggs, bamboo shoots and seaweed bathing in a salty broth had become a staple in my penny-pinching diet. However, when I returned to New York, my fear dissipated when I remembered New York City was home to everyone and every flavor and that finding ramen may be a challenge, but a challenge I could succeed in. To my amazement and utter delight, I found a tiny spot not too far from where I live. Ramen Takumi stood small, yet proud with its flags over the door and knickknacks in the window.
Once inside, I realized I just might have found what I had been looking for. Friendly and quick staff ushered us in to sit at a small wooden table. Steam rose from the open kitchen in the back. Patrons hunched over massive bowls, shoveling mounds of noodles into their mouths, though more quietly than Japanese ramen custom. We are in America, after all.
The real joy came with the menu. Dozens of delicious ramen varieties sang off the page, even tsukemen ramen, which is cold ramen dunked into a bowl of hot broth before eating.
From salted edamame, crispy gyoza, and plump, tender shumai dumplings to octopus salad marinated in wasabi, a dish they can definitely boast of, it is hard to decide where to begin! I recommend the vegetable gyoza for your first time, due to their pretty, compact moon shape and crispy exterior.
Contrary to the typical pork flavored broth found in ramen, Ramen Takumi offers vegetarian broth like shio, salt flavored, and soy sauce flavored broth that is divine; silky with just enough salt to satisfy. The Miso ramen is one of my favorites, with a soy bean paste flavored broth, cabbage, seaweed, corn, bean sprouts and two slices of thin pork, cut with just the right amount of fat to give each bite a richer flavor. For a little more heat, try the Tan Tan Men, spicy soybean paste broth with sesame power and chopped chicken. From Curry Ramen to 14 different tsukemen varieties, this menu is endless in its options; a ramen for everyone. Though there are plenty of strictly vegetarian varieties, choose any ramen you like and simply ask for no meat.
As you can imagine, after my first encounter with this $11 dollar bowl of ramen, I've returned time and time again. Sometimes, if I close my eyes over that steaming bowl of goodness and take a slurpy sip, I let my imagination get the best of me and Ramen Takumi may as well be in Shibuya.