Chef Yuji Haraguchi’s Picks
Chef Yuji Haraguchi’s ramen is literally of its own kind. Rooted on the Japanese no-waste philosophy (mottainai), he uses the entirety of all of his fish at his restaurants (which now include Yuji Ramen, Lorimer, Okonomi, Osakana and Okozushi), saving the flavorful bones to create a rich, fish-based stock he calls “tunakotsu.” His fish ramen has since captured the hearts of New Yorkers and travelers alike, as well as the interest of the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum in Kanagawa, Japan, where his specialty ramen was featured. For Chef Haraguchi, his ramen picks reflect his own pursuit of innovating on the well-loved to create something new.
New York, New York
Chef Shigetoshi Nakamura was a ramen star before he even arrived in the U.S. After feeling out the New York scene at the always-popular Ramen Lab (a ramen shop in the Lower East Side with rotating chefs, hosted by noodle giant Sun Noodle), he opened Nakamura with his signature torigara ramen (a clear chicken broth seasoned with soy). Chef Nakamura’s work has resonated so deeply with Chef Haraguchi that he says it was “Nakamura-san’s torigara ramen [that] inspired me to change my career to be a ramen chef.”
Otaku owner Sarah Gavigan is a Los Angeles native whose pursuit of great ramen in her new home of Nashville, TN is, as Chef Haraguchi calls it, “a true example of American ramen created with passion.” (It was also the city’s first ramen-specific shop.) The menu boasts their signature “Tennessee Tonkotsu” with soft pork confit, a clear chicken shoyu, a pork-based spicy miso, and a vegetarian “Tantanmen” (the Japanese version of spicy Sichuan Dan Dan noodles).
Chef Mutsuko Soma’s Picks
Chef Mutsuko Soma of Kamonegi, a specialty soba shop in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, has been serving up her handmade noodles since 2017 in three styles: nanban (in hot broth), seiro (accompanied with hot broth) and bukkake (in cold broth). The fervor for her work has spread quickly beyond the Emerald City, with Chef Soma being named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs.
Chef Soma describes Suika as an izakaya (Japanese-style gastropub) with a decidedly different ethos than the typical “slurp-and-go” mentality of many ramen shops. “I don’t go out very often, so when I do have the chance…I want to enjoy and take my time,” she tells me. Here, she orders a mix of ramen (they have two, the “Hellz” ramen – a spicy oxtail-based shoyu – and an oxtail-based miso) plus appetizers and drinks for a relaxing night out. Guests also rave about their mix of classic and adventurous, from Hamachi kama (yellow cheek) to “Ma-Po” rice cakes and uni shooters.
Seattle, Washington; Vancouver; Brooklyn, New York
Ramen Danbo specializes in Kyushu-style thin noodles that are crafted inhouse and served with their signature pork-based tonkotsu. Hailing from Chikushino (on the southern island of Kyushu), the Japanese chain first opened in Vancounver, B.C. before entering the U.S. market. Chef Soma praises it for being “the closest to authentic ramen outside Japan” and the customizability: diners can choose the noodle size and softness, plus the broth and umami levels.
Locations throughout southern California; Edgewater, New Jersey; Chicago, Illinois; Seattle, Washington; Honolulu, Hawaii; Boston, Massachusetts; Dallas, Texas
Santouka may try to stay hidden inside a Mitsuwa Marketplace (a Japanese grocery store), but the lines give it away. At any of their locations you’ll see a queue of eager diners waiting for their silky tonkotsu that simmers for over 30 hours. If you can, upgrade to “Tokusen Toriniku Ramen” for a side of buttery-soft sliced pork cheeks to supplement your noodles. The brand hails from Hokkaido, Japan and its massive overseas presence only pales in comparison to its undeniable consistency wherever it goes. Santouka was recommended by Chefs Kashida and Haraguchi, as well as Chef Soma.