Marcus and I met up with my close friend/roommate from college, Debra, this past Sunday for some ramen. It's a little tradition that Debra and I have for when we meet up in the city -- every time we do, it's always for noodles (ramen, soba, and the like). We've already hit up Ramen Setagaya, Momofuku Noodle Bar, Ippudo, Soba-ya, and Totto Ramen thus far, so I thought Ramen Misoya would be an interesting addition to our "slurped and conquered" list.
I first came across Ramen Misoya on Bionic Bites, and from the photos I saw, it definitely looked worth the trip. What makes Misoya so different from other noodle joints in the city is its primary focus as a noodle shop is on the unexpected ingredient, i.e., miso (explaining the shop's name). Miso has high nutritional value as it has enzymes, protein, and vitamins that help benefit one's diet. Ultimately, miso is created mixing steamed soybeans, rice, wheat, and other ingredients with salt and malted rice and then leaving it to ferment. As such, Misoya has chosen to specialize in three types of miso: kome, shiro, and mame.
Inside Ramen Misoya's small space in the East Village.
Marcus and I decided to each try the mame miso ramen with homemade cha-shu (pork), fried breaded shrimp, and some Japanese accoutrement (i.e., a variety of bean sprouts, ground pork, cabbage, scallions, and bamboo shoots). Mame miso is made from soy beans and is dark in color. Among the shop's three varieties, it has sweetest and richest texture. I really liked the ramen and veggies -- it was bouncy, flavorful, and cooked to the ideal consistency. While the breaded shrimp was so-so (I prefer shrimp for ramen to be tempura-style), the homemade cha-shu was definitely the best part of the dish, as they were thick slabs of fatty, tender meat, graciously charred along its circumference. The three pieces they give you ration well with the rest of the ramen's ingredients. So as a ratio eater, it was perfect, barely leaving anything left in my bowl except the miso soup base, which brings me to my next point. I wasn't crazy impressed or blown away by the mame miso soup base at all. It seemed pretty standard to me, if not a little better than average ramen noodle soups. Ippudo, Totto Ramen, and Santouka undoubtedly trumps Ramen Misoya in that regard, which is quite surprising, considering the shop prides itself on its miso.
Debra went with the kome miso ramen with homemade cha-shu, ground pork, corn, bamboo shoots, and scallions. Kome miso is made from rice, which is the standard miso, intent on yielding an intense flavor with a rich aroma. This is supposedly the saltiest of all the misos, but shockingly, Debra didn't feel like it was the slightest bit salty -- it was kind of on the blander side. Debra, like Marcus and me, enjoyed the cha-shu the most, while everything else was pretty mediocre, including the kome miso soup base, too.
Findings: All in all, Ramen Misoya was just okay, though the only real selling point for us was the homemade cha-shu -- not even the shop's presumed "signature" ingredient, miso. The portions (especially of noodles and accompanying meat/veggies) are much more favorable for a price slightly less than Ippudo's prices. So don't expect to be blown away by this little shop the way you may be with Totto Ramen or Ippudo -- just think of it as a place to avoid long waits for satisfying a ramen fix and to have some kick-ass cha-shu with it.
Price point: $13.80-14.50 for each bowl of miso ramen.
--April 15, 2012
129 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10003