Hinata Ramen is Worth the Splurge
It’s fair to say that Midtown is currently in the midst of a ramen bubble that shows no signs of slowing down. Only a few years ago, Ippudo’s opening was a huge deal, we ate at Totto ramen a bit too often, and heck, we even had a celebrity ramen reviewer. Nowadays, the opening of a ramen shop still elicits a reaction, but with the enthusiasm curtailed to a bare simmer.
But we still got excited when we heard about Hinata (159 E 55th St between Lexington and 3rd ave), because they seem to have Totto ramen directly in their cross hairs. The similarities on the menu are striking – both serve a paitan ramen that gets its legs from chickens, a vegetarian ramen, pork buns and the like. And both are cash only, although Hinata’s prices are generally $2-3 higher than Totto’s equivalent.
The kara ramen ($13.50) did an apt job at mimicry – the velvety broth is slick with dissolved collagen and fat, and coats your tongue with a rich chicken essence. The char siu pork belly was just as opulent and meltingly tender as its crosstown rival. The noodles (you can choose between straight or wavy), had an ever-so-slight firmness and bounce, before submitting to each slurp.
But there are differences to be sure as well, some welcome, and some less so. The broth seemed to look towards the sea to up the umami ante, as I picked up headier notes of kombu and shrimp. And was the sesame oil that I tasted? And there were flaws, less so with the design than the actual execution – the broth hadn’t been strained and left startling chips of raw garlic and nearly inedible remnants of dried shrimp at the bottom of the bowl.
Personally I think it would be impossible to reach a point of ramen saturation in Midtown. Instead, I love having more options at hand, and enjoy seeing a ramen war start to unfold. In the showdown between Totto and Hinata, no matter which side you pick, you’re bound to get a good bowl of ramen.
The + (What somebody who likes this would say)
- This is closer to my hood than Totto, and the food is very similar
- I like having options, such as wavy vs straight noodles
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- It’s more expensive than Totto and cash only!
- I wish the broth was as clean as Totto’s
Hinata Ramen, 159 E 55th St (Between Lexington and 3rd Avenue); (212) 355-2974; Cash Only