Last year, in the food publication Lucky Peach, trendsetting restaurateur David Chang declared that ramen is dead. He did it in the way an uber-hipster might abandon an obscure band that goes mainstream.
Sure, the restaurant-obsessed may pay attention to a declaration from the founder of a place that kicked off Americans’ craving for ramen, New York’s Momofuku Noodle Bar.
But plenty of people remain blissfully unaware of what he said — or who he is.
Take Atsushi Nakagawa, who, with his wife, Francesca, opened Slurp Ramen in Port Jefferson. In 2007, Nakagawa moved from Kyoto, Japan with his wife to her native Port Jefferson. They cobbled together enough money and a kitchen staff and, in March, they opened Slurp in a space that’s starkly minimalist, with nothing (yet) on white walls and signage that looks like it was printed at Kinko’s.
Nakagawa may not be reinventing the wheel when it comes to sourcing ingredients and how he goes about making ramen. Who cares? Despite the lack of décor, Slurp Ramen feels special in that Nakagawa is bringing the rituals of ramen from his homeland to his new place of business.
It starts in the name, a command to abandon the ladle-shaped spoon and eat soup like a native. Slurping may be rude in Western cultures, but at the Japanese table, it’s good manners if you’re enjoying a dish such as the Slurp classic.
The signature ramen has a tonkotsu base, a milky-white pork broth that’s an elixir of marrow, fat and proteins. It earns flavor with an extra long simmer. Layered with chashu pork — thin-sliced, marinated pork belly — atop noodles, the classic is garnished with a soft-boiled egg, fresh ginger and scallions.
For a less rich broth, there’s the Slurp Smooth, a shoyu-based soy sauce and chicken-based broth, with pork belly swapped for Japanese fried chicken. Among the four broths, there’s a miso-based vegan option, too.
Still hungry after you’ve finished your initial bowl? Ask for a kaédama — the Japanese order for an extra helping of noodles — which are sourced from Ippudo, the iconic Japan-based ramen restaurant with two locations in Manhattan and outposts around the world.
You can always get pork bun, a $3.50 treat with marinated pork belly, lettuce and Japanese mayo, stuffed into a bun that looks like the mouth of a Muppet.
Other dishes satisfy of-the-moment cravings for food in bowls, such as the mildly sweet gyudon beef rice bowl with caramelized onions and ginger over white rice.
The Hawaiian barbecue bowl is a cultural hybrid, with ground pork, pineapple-based barbecue sauce, Japanese mayo, sriracha and scallions. With so many sauces, it’s fit for a late-night binge.
Among salad choices, the tofu appeals to more restrained tastes, incredibly silky tofu squares atop cold ramen noodles, greens, cucumbers and tomatoes. I liked it with the ginger dressing, one of four options, but aside from the tofu, it’s a little bland. For another salad order, take away tofu and add avocado if you’re on the avocado-on-everything bandwagon.
Why visit Slurp Ramen, especially if it’s not in your neighborhood? Start with a killer water view, pair it with fun to eat food, add the owners’ earnestness — that defies the jaded appetites of celebrity chefdom — and you’ve got a fine recipe for a soulful bowl of noodles.