There’s no better way to introduce a blog about cheap eats than with a celebration of ramen, the foundation of any proper poor-college student diet! And so, my first venture into culinary criticism takes me and my buddy to Terakawa Ramen, a small noodle bar on 57th street and 9th avenue, just two blocks away from the Union Square subway stop.
We, of course, refused to use this subway stop, convinced that the $4.50 it would cost for the round trip would be better spent on more noodles. It turns out we were right, too, because these noodles were pretty good.
After skimming the short menu, which included various meat-over-rice dishes, gyoza, about six flavors of ramen, and ‘Tokyo Fried Chicken’ (which I’m getting next time), I ordered a $9.00 bowl of Terakawa Ramen, as seemed most appropriate. This dish, the restaurant’s implicit, perpetual special, is described accurately on the menu as “pork bone based noodle soup and bamboo shoot, red ginger roast pork, boiled egg, scallion, kikurage.” While the toppings made for a pretty presentation, the real star was the rich, thick, almost creamy broth, which overpowered the other flavors somewhat. Surprisingly though, the noodles failed to absorb much of this flavor and, when eaten on without any other ingredients, lacked appeal. However, my experience was dramatically improved when I happened upon this eating strategy, which I now recommend: use the soup spoon to ladle out some broth, use the chopsticks to put noodles and other toppings in said spoon, then eat! Problem solved. The pork was tender and tasty, while the hard boiled egg had a pleasantly complex, almost sweet flavor, but neither was much of a factor in the dish as a whole. This is because the portions of these protein elements were small, as is usually the case; I ate the two thin slices and half-egg right away, almost as an appetizer. Ordering an extra 2 pieces of pork for $2.00 might have helped, but I opted to spend that money, or $1.50 of it, on an extra portion of noodles. (In the photo, you can see these to the right of my bowl).
These extra noodles made my night and make Terakawa Ramen stand apart from its comparably priced competitors. While the option to pay for extra ramen is not itself a novelty, the massiveness of this extra portion is surely unprecedented. With the leftover broth from my first bowl, I used these extra noodles to get two bowls for a little more than the price of one. My friend and I, had we been less ravenously hungry, might have shared a single bowl, but we wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing so after taking up two of the eleven seats in this tiny restaurant.
Terakawa Ramen looks and feels more like a bar than a restaurant; its eleven seats wrap around a u-shaped, wooden counter top, behind which stands the single waitress. This friendly waitress took our orders quickly, topped off our water promptly (which we needed, considering the richness of the broth,) and had us in and out within 30 minutes. Still, I wouldn’t suggest bringing a group of more than three people here unless you really don’t mind a wait. Otherwise, if you’re hungry for thick brothiness or looking to carboload for a marathon without breaking the bank, Terakawa Ramen is your place!