6 Ways to Spot a Fake Ramen Joint
Ramen's unquestionably the noodle of the moment, so it's only natural that there'd be a flood of new, phony shops with which broth connoisseurs have a serious bone to pick. We interviewed one of the world's foremost ramen obsessives, Jordy Trachtenberg of the Temple of Ramentology, on which red flags to look for when deciding where to slurp. If you see any of these signs at your local ramen-ya, you might want to go elsewhere.
They don't have gyoza on the menu
"All ramen places should sell gyoza dumplings, it's just part of the experience. If they don't have them, that's red flag number one."
They shouldn't let you order it to-go
"By no means should anybody be giving you ramen to-go, delivery, or leftovers. That's an instant disqualification -- the noodle never has a chance. You have somewhere between nine and 13 minutes to get the noodles in your body, or else they expand and lose that alkaline life force of springiness; [after that] they'll start to become mealy and ruined."
You should be able to see the chef
"Most ramen-yas are open kitchens, so you can see the chef cooking your ramen. If I can't see that, that's another red flag. There's a cool place called Ramen Misoya, which is interesting because it serves regional miso. But the weird thing is that the place is so tiny they're cooking underground, so they've actually put a camera down there, and there's a TV monitor so you can see them cooking."
Their ramen menu is enormous
"If they have 100 kinds, get the f**k out. Four to 10, okay, but if you do 50 types it's hard to take a place seriously."
They should serve four essential broths
"The baseline is four different broths. Shio, shoyu, miso, and tonkotsu. They're all a little different, but to me they're the four staples. If I don't see a shio and shoyu, then it's like going to a place that only serves white pizza. Even if they're doing something experimental, it should probably be based in one of those broths."
The ramen should be the star
"Ramen-yas sell mainly ramen. If they're selling French fries, egg rolls, and a bunch of sushi, plus ramen, odds are it's not good ramen. It should be the focal point of the menu."
Dan Gentile is a staff writer on Thrillist's National Food and Drink team. He recently visited a very fake ramen-ya in Mexico City, but thankfully there were plenty of al pastor places nearby for dessert. Follow him to both legit ramen and tacos at @Dannosphere.