214 East 10th Street between First and Second Avenues
about $30 for two, with two drinks, without tip
While Rai Rai Ken reminds me of the Japanese movie Tampopo, it is my quick trip to Tokyo a few years ago that always comes flooding back whenever I enter the shop for a simple bowl of ramen. Separating the curtain at the door, I immediately get transported back to winter Japan. Rai Rai Ken’s narrow space and wooden bar remind me of cold cheeks and frozen hands after my usual bike commute through the suburbs of Tokyo. There is a simple menu of three kinds of ramen bowls: shoyu, a soy sauce-based broth, shio, seafood-based and miso, made of soy beans, all served with bamboo shoots, spinach, roast pork, nori or roasted seaweed and scallions, and then topped with the ever-so Japanese pink fish cake. Long strands of ramen noodles complete the package that require pulling, twirling and slurping. You can order fried vegetables and pork gyoza, or dumplings on the side, as well as edamame, or boiled soy beans, and white rice. Sapporo and Kirin beer overflow for those who want to extend their stay.
In New York City, the temperature does not drop as low as it does in Japan during the winter months, but it is nonetheless cold. It is so cold only an imaginary trip back to Japan at Rai Rai Ken can warm me up.