Lunch’er Michael Reports: Ronin’s Ramen

Last week Clay reported that Negi Ya, which was once Washoku Cafe, is now Ronin.  Lunch’er Michael checked in today with this report…

_MG_2398I work on West 37th near 7th, which is pretty much what ML considers “out of bounds” (to which I take umbrage, given the delicious gems near me, but that’s another story) but the reality is that we do indeed lack several delicious fixtures. (Editor’s Note: 37th and 7th is totally in bounds! Our boundaries are usually 8th Ave. to the West and 32nd to the South.) Ramen being one of them – Totto and Hidechan are out of range for my closely monitored 1-hour lunch break.

As such, getting word of Ronin the other day (on 37th btw. Mad+5th) was like sunshine breaking through rain clouds. Don’t get me wrong, I’m surrounded by wonderful Chinese noodle soup opportunities, but it’s not ramen. I used to work downtown near Men Kui Tei, which is as good as it gets outside of Mitsuwa over in Edgewater, so I’ve been craving it ever since I started working in midtown.

I made my way to Ronin and ordered the tonkatsu ramen – it has it good points and its bad points.

I loved the noodles themselves. They were just on the chewy side of al dente, and to me that’s the way they should always be. I’ve only seen notes on asking your server for preferred firmness at Men Kui Tei and Ippudo, but I didn’t bother trying here.

They were on the whiter side of noodles, so they may not be using egg noodles for the ramen at all. To me this is fine and dandy, but many purists would probably say that ramen HAS to be curly. I’ve avoided talking about everything but the noodles for good reason… they’re not fully all there yet. The broth was flavorful, but it didn’t have the richness of tonkatsu ramen I’ve had elsewhere – usually the good broths are very cloudy and dense. This was dark and had a strong soy sauce flavor, almost like they just put some pork into shoyu ramen broth.

I am not a fan of runny eggs, especially not in my ramen. Personally, I was crestfallen when I saw the egg, expecting (to me) a disgusting runny yolky mess that I’d just take out as cautiously as possible – happily, it was mostly cooked through and actually delicious. The yolk was actually moderately fluffy. I’d eat more eggs if they were like that.

The bamboo shoots were out of a can, like most bamboo shoots in ramen, but these were sweet. SWEET. Like biting into it, there was a distinct sugary taste. Also, they put on shredded pickled ginger. Well… I wanted to like it, but whenever I had some of the ginger, it quickly overpowered the broth. The bean sprouts and scallions were thrown into the soup too soon. Those should go in just seconds before it goes out – both were partially cooked and had lost their crispness and flavor.

The pork was forgettable. It was way too lean, definitely not up to par with the ramen at Mitsuwa and VERY definitely not up to the standards of Menkui-tei. I’d go back again if I needed ramen, but only if I honestly ask myself “is this craving something that could be answered by Chinese noodle soup?” Especially when those are closer to my office and cheaper – the bill came to $11.50 before tip. I’m not sure if I’d go back unless someone told me the pork was fattier, broth was richer, and the ingredients of slightly better quality.

The +

  • Actual ramen in the 30s that isn’t from a generic deli
  • Perfectly done noodles

The –

  • Broth could really be better
  • Pork is leaner than it ought to be
  • Expensive for basic ramen
  • Pickled ginger?

I hope this helps… I’m going to give these guys a try again in a few months for my ramen fix, but in the meantime, I’d love it if someone opened a ramen joint in the 30s to compete with them.

Washoku Cafe, 9 E. 37th St (btw. Mad+5th), 212-686-2233


  • Do they still have the spicy miso ramen? That was always my favorite.

    • Indeed they do – they had it on the menu but I tend to be a shio ramen/tonkatsu ramen kind of guy. Maybe when it gets colder again (or if I really desire the ramen fix) I’ll take a shot at the miso.

      The rest of the menu looks pretty good. I do have high hopes, though – a lot of the patrons were Japanese, conversing in Japanese with the manager who in turn was shouting in Japanese in the kitchen. Here’s hoping they can really beef up the strength of the broth, or at least nix the ginger. It’d be perfect in a stronger broth but it really is out of place here.

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    Purists would NOT say that ramen has to be curly. The straight white and curly yellow are both authentic types of ramen noodle. Personally, I much prefer the yellow kind.

    I think I once had ramen from Washoku and it was only so-so. I wonder if they’ve really changed it.

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    I do agree on one thing: if you work west of 7th and south of 40th, this blog doesn’t really cover anything interesting in your area. Partly because there just isn’t much interesting in that area. But partly because 90-95% of the posts here deal with stuff happening way too far away.

    Tho if you work east of 7th, and at 37th, you really can’t complain!

    • They cover it… it’s just that it’s few and far between. I do give ML credit for covering the new Caribbean truck on 37th. I only noticed it one day before it came up. I don’t think anyone mentioned the return of El Guyaquileno.

      I think most of it is the fault of the major food trucks simply not caring about this area. To my knowledge, Korilla has been in the 30s twice since November – I was there both times. I have yet to see Wafels and Dinges, and only Comme Ci Comme Ca is a regular in the 30s out of the roving trucks. We might get Cupcake Stop but that’s it.

      I blame the tourists, but c’mon guys, give ML something to cover.

    • Well, keep in mind that none of the NYC contributors is doing this as their full time job – this is a sideline. As such, they are probably each limited for the most part covering the area in and around where they work. I would bet if Zach adds a contributor whose day job is in this area, you’d see more coverage.

      and that segways nicely to…..are either of you two up for it?

      • I think most of the places I go for lunch have already been MLed, but I can see nothing stopping me from keeping my ears to the ground.

        If nothing else it’d be worth getting up out of the office when I bring in lunch and walkabouting a little to see if anything’s coming up. Hell, Roastown Coffee just had their grand opening yesterday. If nothing else, someone’s gotta either take one for the team and confirm that it’s Generic Deli 2011 Edition or if it’s something unique. Can I qualify it as Midtown Breakfast?

  • Broth looks too clear. Needs MO’ fat.

    And nothing wrong with pickled ginger in ramen. Unless that is all you taste.

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