This is what happens when you wait a full year before reviewing a restaurant…I went to Ramen Setagaya’s University Place location a couple of months after it opened last year, and now, when I’ve finally gotten my act together enough to write the review, I find out it closed about a month ago. Sigh.
I was in New York for only two nights on a business trip, and my first attempt at dining at Ramen Setagaya resulted in a fail. I decided to go to Ippudo instead the second night, and after walking for an hour around Union Square Park to digest, I got ambitious. I headed to Setagaya again, determined to get in a last ramen hurrah before I left.
Located about a 15-minute walk away from Ippudo, Ramen Setagaya @ University Park is worlds apart in terms of both taste and ambiance. Ippudo is dark and trendy. Setagaya is bright and down-to-earth. Ippudo’s ramen is deep and rich. Setagaya specializes in the lighter shio ramen.
I immediately liked Setagaya’s atmosphere, from the irasshaimase! when you enter, to the brick walls and the counter facing the open kitchen. The menu gives you a very different impression. Their menu reads like something you’d find at a Michelin-starred restaurant filled with people in tuxedos sipping martinis shaken, not stirred. Reading about “best ingredients from Japan (90% importing from Japan),” “Vietnam’s Kahn Hoa sea salt” used in the shio ramen, apparently one of the “three best salts in the world,” and the “best premium Japanese soy sauce, Sekigahara Tamari Shoyu, for Imperial Family,” I suddenly felt a bit underdressed. Undeterred, I ordered a simple bowl of shio ramen.
While I waited for my ramen, I looked around and took pictures, snapping a few extra pics of the cook grilling chashu, who was eyeing me suspiciously and/or posing for the camera. The place has the warm look and feel of a friendly little ramenya in Any-machi (town), Japan.
When the ramen arrived, the artistic presentation of the ramen made me smile. I slurped away, savoring the clean and light salty broth and the chewy noodles. To be honest, I lost my notes and I can’t quite remember all the details of the ramen. I do remember thinking “this is what all the food hosts on Japanese TV shows mean when they say things like ‘Heee, I can taste the ocean!'” after sipping the clear soup. I can also say I thoroughly enjoyed the grilled, tasty pork and the hanjuku egg, a personal weakness of mine. The light, refreshing ramen and the friendly atmosphere ended my trip on a perfect note, and I’m sad that this particular location closed down.
I may not remember some of the details of my ramen, but I do remember being as impressed with Ramen Setagaya as I was with Ippudo NY, except for different reasons. Ramen Setagaya’s shio ramen gets a satisfying 7.5.
90 University Place (Bet. 11th & 12th Street) This location is now closed.
Try their main location at 141 First Ave., New York, NY 10003