Ramen at Santouka – NJ
Years ago, when I used to go to Mitsuwa before they renovated, the ramen wasn’t very good. It was decent enough to stave off hunger before diving into the Japaense snack aisle, and later perusing the extensive sake section, but nothing comparable to Ippudo in Manhattan. In recent years, however, things have changed across the river. The ramen at Santouka, the ramen stall in the food court at Mitsuwa, is actually good, excellent even, and I’d say rivaling some of the better ramen shops in New York City.
Spice fiends usually order the Spicy Miso Ramen ($8.49; pictured above), curly ramen noodles in a spicy, pork-based miso broth with wood ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, scallions, and chashu. The fiery chili oil on top may look scary, but it’s perfectly manageable with a medium, dry heat. It’s a fine bowl of ramen except for the pork which could be more tender.
It’s for this reason, I always order the Tokusen Toroniku Shio Ramen (Melty Roasted Pork Salt Ramen / Choice Pork Ramen) ($11.49) which comes with yes, “melty roasted pork,” or in other words, thin slices of tender, fatty pork jowl that practically melt in your mouth, especially after being warmed in the hot pork broth on the side. (The pork, along with wood ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, scallions, umeboshi, and narutomaki, is served separately from the soup and noodles in the Tokusen Toriniku Ramen.) It’s incredibly swoon-worthy and also very similar to the roast pork at Ippudo when they’re not off their game (on my last visit to Ippudo, their chasu was oddly tough).
As for the soup and noodles, it’s also delicious. The curly noodles are firm to the bite, and the soup is full-bodied and practically creamy to the taste. In fact, because the soup is so rich, it’s quite filling, so if you want a smaller portion, you can ask for a small for a dollar less.
Concerned you might be cheated out of the melty pork if you do so? No fear, the amount of pork is about the same. The picture above is a plate of pork that came with a small.
What does mean to you when you don’t have a car? Well, if you can’t finagle a ride, don’t forget there’s a shuttle bus service from Port Authority to Mitsuwa. It costs $6 round-trip which when you factor in doesn’t make Santouka any more cost-effective than Ippudo, but it makes for a fun and tasty half-day trip, even if you’re only going as far as Jersey.