If you live in New York you wait in lines. A lot of them. Get used to it.
If something is cheap there’s bound to be a line. If something is good there’s bound to be a line. And god help you if something is cheap AND good. The line will appear to have no end. I am constantly underestimating this.
Totto and Ippudo ramen are nearly impossible to get into because of their price to quality ratio (and of course the hype…who can ignore the friggin’ hype). I like good ramen as much as the next but there is no way I’m waiting 3 hours for a bowl of noodles. I will wait, however, for the hype to die down or find my own new ramen gem. And that’s just what I did.
While searching for a pre-theater bite around the BAM I came across this gem of a ramen joint called Ganso. After dining there it began getting a lot of positive press so I recommend making a b-line for it soon before people start paying lackeys to wait in line for them, Ippudo style.
We showed up rather early on a Friday, a little after 6pm, because we had theater tickets. We were seated at the last open two top without a wait and were psyched that it was in the back next to the kitchen. I love conversing with my husband as much as the next gal but live kitchen entertainment can’t be beat.
We’ve been trying a lot of different sake lately but are still woefully ignorant on the finer points. That being said we often order from the cheaper end of the cold sake spectrum. We were a little shocked at the prices of Ganso’s sake and didn’t see one that we could typically consider to be reasonably priced (no glass was below $10), but we put our frugal ways aside and chose a bottle that turned out to be lovely. They also have beer, wine and tea.
Nick didn’t even have to ask what I wanted as an appetizer. The minute we sat down he saw me drooling over a plate of gyoza as it floated by my head. Get this. It wasn’t just a plate of dumplings, but rather a chain of individual dumplings all bound together by this impossibly thin and crispy lace-like element. They were awesome. One by one we broke off the little pillows of goodness and enjoyed the delicate crunch of the lace, the chew of the dough and the tenderness of the filling. They told me that they finish the gyoza on the flat top with a delicate batter to achieve this result. Genius.
I’m always floored by complex flavors chefs can brew into a broth. My personal attempts at broth making have been poor (and I’m being kind to myself). Perhaps it’s my lack of pork bone.
There are four main types of ramen broth:
Shio (salt) : Clear and light. Much like a chicken or vegetable stock.
Tonkotsu(pork bone) : Thick and cloudy. The consistency comes from boiling pork bones, fat and collagen.
Shoyu(soy sauce) : A clear brown broth. Much like a chicken and vegetable stock blended with soy sauce.
Miso(miso) : A bit cloudy but not overly so. Miso is combined with chicken or fish broth. Sometimes they stir a little lard in for good measure.
I chose the Spicy Miso ramen ($14) and Nick went with the classic soy broth “Ganso” ($12). Both were topped with tender, braised pork shoulder, pork belly, ajitama egg (a soft cooked egg) and seasonal greens.
Nick’s soy based broth was clean and delicate but has a richness that he didn’t expect. Not overly salty. Wonderfully balanced. He slurped until he reached the bottom of his bowl.
The noodles were fantastic as well. Chewy with the right amount of tooth, but to me they’re more of a textural addition to the show stopping broth and melt in your mouth pork. Oh, and don’t underestimate that soft cooked egg. What a wonderful addition to the dish.
There are a bunch of appetizers, all under $10 like the spring rolls, pork buns and even wings. They’re currently offering some summer ramen dishes that are served cold and some bento boxes with Japanese favorites like fried pork loin.
Service was friendly and prompt. Someone, whom I assume was a manager, overheard me talking about the gyoza and was nice enough to stop and chat with me about the finer points of making those beauties. They are kid friendly and offer kid size portions of ramen.
They don’t accept reservations and as they gain in popularity, which they will because they’re awesome, expect to wait. But the good news is that it’s super close to a whopping 11 different subway lines so you shouldn’t have a problem getting there.