Ramen Jinya: What's bigger than a cantaloupe and tastes like heaven?
For most of you readers out there this won't apply, but if you have only had the kind of ramen which costs a quarter and takes three minutes to make, you are denying yourself an incredible pleasure. The difference between a well-made, authentic ramen and the cheap kind is the same order of magnitude as the difference between seeing a photo of the grand canyon, and standing five feet from the canyon's edge. I don't understand the ludicrous wait times at Daikokuya, because Ramen Jinya is every bit as good.
The menu is naturally heavy on the ramen, with several varieties to choose from all priced between eight and eleven dollars. In not-ramen territory, there's a curry rice which is wonderful and subtle in its spiciness which sort of sneaks in every bite, but really is a distraction from the main event. The bowls for the ramen are massive: you could comfortably float a cantaloupe in them. Completely unaided, I doubt most will be able to finish a bowl, and I like to reserve my stomach space for the most delicious parts of my meal.
Though the ramen should get first dibs on your stomach, starting with the gyoza is an excellent choice. One order will get you eight of these two-bite morsels, and though you may be tempted to eat them all before your entrees arrive, patience is a virtue here. The soft and ever-so-slightly oily wrapper conceals a juicy pork and spring onion mince. The dipping sauce is a must-have. Three ingredients (chili oil, vinegar and soy sauce) come together and add real zinginess to each bite. Astonishingly, this little sauce transforms the gyoza into something refreshing.
The spicy tonkotsu, even at just the “mild” level of spiciness is remarkable. The broth – having had all day to lazily unlock every last bit of flavor – is rich and the chunks of pork in your bowl are melt-in-your-mouth tender. But this is half the story. As you slurp, the pork fat will slowly render down into the hot broth. Each spoonful just gets richer and richer. And if you feel yourself falling into that food coma, a quick bite of the gyoza with that zingy sauce will pick you up out of it.
The tan tan men is an interesting counterpoint to the ramen. This is a soupless ramen: a bowl of noodles lightly coated in a sauce that reminded me of a satay, with well-spiced pork bits on the top, and just a few pieces of baby bok choy and red pepper for color. It's spicy in a way that flirts with the limit of comfort, but still keeps you wanting that next bite. In spite of all my praise, this was my least favorite dish, but only because the noodles are difficult to eat with chopsticks and I have too much pride to ask for a fork. The more humble (or more chopstick adept) diner will get far more delight out of the tan tan men.
There are those out there who haven't had foie gras, and with the July 1 deadline looming ever closer, some won't get around to trying it in time. Those who find themselves unable to meet the deadline shouldn't worry, though; a bowl of the tonkotsu at Ramen Jinya is just as decadent. If this is your first taste of real ramen, you'll never look at it the same way again