Ramen has been simmering on Long Island for years, but now it has reached a boil with three new shops (MB Ramen in Huntington, Teinei Ya Ramen in Great Neck and 8 Ramen in Rockville Centre) opening in the past 12 months.
These are not the ramen noodles that got you through college: The noodles are fresh and pliable, not molded into a brick. And the broth isn’t made by emptying the contents of a foil packet into boiling water. It’s a long-simmered affair that may be based on pork bones (tonkotsu ramen), soy sauce (shoyu ramen), fermented bean paste (miso ramen) or some other combination of the chef’s devising.
Ramen is as central to Japanese culinary identity as burgers are to American. Its roots go back to the 19th century, when Chinese restaurants in Japan began serving “lamien” noodles that the Japanese pronounced “ramen.” In 1958, instant ramen was invented by Momofuku Ando and, over the next few decades, it spread to virtually every corner of the Earth.
In 2004, David Chang opened Momofuku Noodle Bar in Manhattan’s East Village. Chang honored Momofuku Ando with the name, but the ramen he made there was worlds away from instant. Momofuku kicked off a New York ramen boom that has yet to subside. In 2015, Long Island’s first dedicated ramen shop, Momi, opened in East Hampton. It closed two years later but was followed by Slurp in Port Jefferson (2016) and Kyoto in Bethpage (2017).
Virtually all Japanese (and many Asian fusion and Chinese) restaurants have a couple of bowls of ramen on the menu. Here are eight places that are raising the ramen bar.
MB Ramen (335 New York Ave., Huntington): When founding chef Marc Bynum departed shortly after MB Ramen opened last March, the initials served equally well to represent the restaurant’s owners, the “Machado Brothers,” Jason and Eric. The menu offers such traditional noodles as shoyu and tonkotsu (here, called MB ramen), a Chinese-inflected tan tan (with spicy sesame broth and fried chicken) and the thoroughly out-there “grilled cheese” bowl whose noodles bathe in a roasted tomato broth with smoked Gouda and garlic croutons. There are a few tables, but the best seats are at the counter, where you can see the chefs in action. Ramen ranges from $13 to $15. More info: 631-923-3176, mbramenshop.com
8 Ramen (17 S. Park Ave., Rockville Centre): Long Island’s newest ramenerie is a jewel box containing a handful of bleached-wood communal tables, open shelving for knickknacks and lots of greenery suspended from the walls and ceiling. The menu includes nine noodle dishes, including classic shoyu ramen, miso ramen and tonkotsu ramen (all $12), along with some less familiar (and significantly pricier) items such as dipping ramen (the noodles are served nude with a miso dipping sauce), a Thai-tinged tom yam lobster ramen (with a whole, shell-on lobster) and ramen by the sea (with snow crab, shrimp, scallops, mussels and squid). More info: 516-632-8288, 8-ramen.business.site
Ramen Kyoto (621 Hicksville Rd., Bethpage): This bustling little eatery does a brisk takeout business, packing the broth separate from the noodles so they don’t get soggy. But if you eat in the bare-bones 20-seat dining room, your food will be piping hot, and you’ll have a view of the kitchen. Go for the spicy ramen, whose pork-chicken broth evinces a chili-pepper kick, with an assist from the forceful Korean pickle, kimchee. Also on board: braised pork belly, bean sprouts, kikurage (wood-ear) mushrooms and marinated soft-cooked egg. Everything comes together and clings agreeably to the firm, slightly wavy noodles. Also recommended: tan tan noodles, whose noodles bathe in a funky-spicy miso-enhanced chicken broth and are topped with minced chicken or pork. No ramen is more than $13. More info: 516-513-1881, ramenkyoto.com
Teinei Ya Ramen
Teinei Ya Ramen (5 S. Middle Neck Rd., Great Neck): The offshoot of a 5-year-old Japanese restaurant in Little Neck, this chic little eatery focuses almost entirely on ramen. The menu helpfully rates each ramen bowl on a five-point richness scale. With its creamy pork-and-chicken broth, Yokohama-style ramen scores a four out of five. Tonkotsu ramen, made with a clear-ish pork broth, scores a two and a half. Vegetarian “tempula” ramen trails at one. There is also spicy ramen, dan dan sesame ramen and ramen with edamame falafel, as well as tomato-beef stew and Chinese zha jiang, nude noodles topped with a sauce of minced pork and fermented soybean paste. Prices range from $11 to $13. More info: 516-472-0672
Sherry Blossom (78 W. Park St., Long Beach): Sherry Zheng’s friendly Long Beach eatery keeps things trendy with its menu of poke and sushi burritos, but the four ramen bowls (all $13.95) are not mere afterthoughts. The three meat preparations each highlight a different main ingredient: chashu pork (Japanese-style pork belly), seafood (shrimp, kani and fish cakes), grilled chicken. The vegetable ramen contains shiitake mushrooms and perfectly cooked asparagus and broccoli, and can be ordered with pork or vegetable broth. Traditional wheat, kale-wheat or rice noodles are available with any order. More info: 516-889-1200, sherryblossom.net
Slurp Ramen (109 W. Broadway, Port Jefferson): No need to nibble your noodles quietly inside this busy ramen shop — noisy slurping signals enjoyment, both in Japan and here. Owners Francesca Nakagawa and her husband, chef Atsushi Nakagawa, met as students in Kyoto before eventually moving back to her native Long Island. In 2016, they opened this cozy, no-frills spot with a killer view of Port Jefferson Harbor and a milky-white signature tonkotsu ramen layered with flaps of sliced pork belly, soft-boiled egg, red ginger and scallions. The “slurp smooth” pairs a chicken-based shoyu broth with crunchy Japanese-style fried chicken. A board over the ordering counter lists modular add-ons, from corn to marinated ground pork. Nakagawa sources noodles from New York City’s Ipuddo, and his four broths include a miso-based option for vegans. More info: 631-509-1166, slurpusa.com
Stirling Sake (477 Main St., Greenport): Chef-owner Yuki Mori was a sake sommelier in New York City before he headed to the North Fork to open Stirling Sake, a bright, modern spot where he and sushi chef Akio Kon plate both hot and cold Japanese dishes, from super-fresh raw fish to gyoza. Ramen bowls, in particular, are on point. For tonkotsu ramen, Mori braises pork collar from Cutchogue’s 8 Hands Farms and arranges it in a rich, kotteri-style broth with wavy noodles, scallions, minced red ginger and red-ear mushrooms, plus a custardy soft-boiled egg. Mori’s kimchi ramen features a spicy dashi broth with house kimchi, egg, shiitake mushrooms and wakame; and a duck ramen has salty yuzu broth and local duck breast from Crescent Duck farm. More info: 631-477-6782, stirlingsake.com
360 Taiko Sushi
360 Taiko Sushi (47 S. Ocean Ave., Patchogue): The enormous, exuberantly styled 360 Taiko has an encyclopedic roster of sushi rolls and Japanese-style appetizers, but nestled among them are three ramen bowls: a robust pork-chicken tonkotsu broth, darker shoyu broth or miso broths filled with noodles and vegetables, plus sliced pork belly and soft-boiled egg. For years, these were offered only at lunchtime, but have proved so popular that two more versions recently debuted: At lunchtime, a shoyu-truffle bowl with a splash of truffle oil, and during dinner, a $25 tonkotsu-based “Taiko ramen” with noodles, soft-boiled egg, fish cakes, corn, seaweed and root vegetables. More info: 631-207-6888, 360taiko.com