Slurp's up! We roamed the city's ramen-yas and tasted our way through dozens and dozens of bowls of toothsome noodles and tender pork bellies in slick, savory broths to narrow it down to ten favorites. And yes, it was really tough. In no particular order, here they are:
① Stamina ramen, Ganso ($14)
Harris Salat's downtown Brooklyn ramen-ya makes a lovely broth with chicken bones, then makes it even lovelier with a float of house-made chile oil. It comes with wood ear mushrooms, seasonal greens, garlic chives and scallions.
② Roasted garlic mazemen, Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop ($13)
The intensity of Ivan Orkin's Gotham West Market mazemen--the thin, frizzy noodles are dressed in a little broth plus mashed roasted garlic, chicken and pork fat--is almost (almost!) too much to bear.
③ Spicy tonkotsu ramen, Jin Ramen ($13)
Shuichi Kotani's springy noodles might steal the show if it weren't for the wonderfully creamy pork-bone broth, spiked with an umami-rich chile-garlic paste, and wobbly chashu.
④ Spicy basic ramen, Minca ($12)
Sure, a lot of great ramen shops have opened since we first fell for Minca, but this tiny LES spot still has its charms, among them the deeply garlicky broth, excellent pork belly with tender fat and totally unfussy counter service.
⑤ Korean ramyun, Hanjan ($16)
Inspired by instant, but infinitely better, Hooni Kim's late-night special involves a rich broth made with fish, chicken and pork bones and stained with chiles, plus excellent noodles coming in from New Jersey.
⑥ Akamaru Modern ramen, Ippudo ($15)
Count on this Japanese chain for some of the most reliably delicious bowls (and longest lines) in the city. The Akamaru's incredibly creamy, fatty tonkotsu broth has a secret: a scoop of deep red miso that slowly melts away.
⑦ Original ramen, Takashi ($16)
Takashi Inoue is a serious beef-offal enthusiast, so it's no surprise that his excellent broth is made from beef bones--simmered for 24 hours with aromatics, sticky with collagen--and topped with fried small intestines and beef belly.
⑧ Tondaku green curry ramen, Bassanova Ramen ($15)
In ramen, as in love and war, everything is fair game. Even this sweet-savory, deeply satisfying bowl featuring halved okra and fried garlic, a pork broth thickened with coconut milk and bright with green curry paste.
⑨ Chicken paitan ramen, Totto Ramen ($9.75)
This little counter in Hell's Kitchen still makes one of the best (and cheapest!) bowls in town: a rich chicken broth, excellent house-made noodles and great toppings including chashu that's torched before your eyes.
⑩ Vegetarian ramen, Chuko ($13)
Seasonal vegetables in a deep bowl of kombu-dashi broth seasoned with miso and garlic-scallion oil, plus a pile of lovely noodles, make this veggie ramen nearly as rich and just as satisfying as its meaty brethren.