Despite the recent ramen craze and handful of new entrants, Rai Rai Ken always holds a special spot in my heart. It was almost 10 years ago when I moved to New York, where I lived within my confined routine between home and the office. It wasn’t until a friend brought me to Rai Rai Ken one day for ramen did I realize all that I’ve been missing. Blinders removed, it gradually lead to the creation of this website about 4 years down the road.
Which is quite surprising how I never reviewed this humble ramen shop. The humble mom-and-pop appearance was deceiving, as behind the scenes Rai Rai Ken was part of T.I.C. Group, a wildly successful restaurant group started by Bon Yagi. If you enjoy Japanese food in New York, there’s a very good chance you’ve been to one of his restaurants.
The humble appearance I mentioned though is no more. Rai Rai Ken went through a renovation in 2012 and is now a spacious restaurant with tables. No longer will you eat with the fear that the person walking behind you towards the restroom between the noodle bar and the wall of hung coats might accidentally push your face into the hot bowl of soup.
The quality of the ramen remains consistent. The simple shio ramen is exactly as I remember it – light in appearance and flavorful. The broth doesn’t blow you away like Ippudo Midtown or Hide-Chan, but it more than makes up for that with beautifully cooked noodles that delivers in texture and an egg infused flavor.
These folks are also know for their more complex, heavy ramen like the Mapo (think Mapo Tofu, a spicy tofu Chinese dish) or the Miso. Where most ramen shops create miso ramen simply by swapping out the salt or soy sauce for miso, the miso ramen at Rai Rai Ken is an entirely different creation. It’s a soup that’s heavy on dried garlic, and instead of pork you are given shredded chicken. I know many people who adore this bowl, but those who’ve read my other ramen articles know I’m for the simpler flavors.
The new Rai Rai Ken still delivers on a quality meal, cash only. I do miss the charm of the original, which really resembles a Tokyo eating experience. That said, the new one is a lot easier to get into, and we’ll be thankful for the larger space when winter arrives.
What does this rating mean?
Rai Rai Ken
216 E 10th St
New York, NY 10003