You have no idea how hard it was to write a positive review of a place that played Sean Kingston while we were eating. The Shaggy song that came on a few before that? Shaggy is awesome, and don't you even try and suggest otherwise. But "Beautiful Girls" is really hard to get past. I felt like I was having dinner at Sushi Samba in 2007.
Playlist critiques aside, Jin Ramen is a great little restaurant. Tucked under the 125th Street subway stop, this place turns out some really good ramen and (obviously) pork buns. I'd say it's a hidden gem, except it's well known amongst the Columbia community and Harlem locals, and is always busy. Each time we've visited, the dining room has been packed with a mix of students and neighborhood types, slurping up noodles and bumping to the sounds of Now Vol. 26.
Before you get ready to make a trip up to parts of New York City you've only seen from the inside of a Metro North car to eat some ramen, let us tell you how we think Jin stacks up to the other spots around town. This is definitely not Ippudo, and Totto Ramen beats it by a mile. But those are the best in town. If you like Hide Chan and Rai Rai Ken, you're going to love this place. It's not quite as authentic as either of those, but you'll definitely be satisfied and full of pork fat and sodium by the time you leave. Our biggest critique here is that we didn't love the noodles - they seemed a little tough and too much like the ones you get out of a package. But the broth, especially the spicy pork, is incredible.
Ultimately, Jin Ramen is absolutely worth a trip if you're looking to get some variety into your ramen rotation, and if you go to school at Columbia and haven't already hit this place, you need to do so immediately. I don't know what college is like these days, but "eating ramen" meant something entirely different at Colorado State University...and it usually involved filling up an electric kettle in the water fountain at 2am. You kids have it pretty good.
Photo Credit: Glenwood NYC
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The pork buns at Jin are good, but they're very different than the other ones you've had recently. First of all, the pork is much crispier and less fatty than what you'd typically find, almost like well-done bacon. There's also a big pile of slaw on the side for you to put in the bun. The end result is something that tastes a bit more like a burger than it does a pork bun. It's good. Just different.
The typical pork bone broth ramen, and a very good one at that. As we mentioned above, the noodles aren't our favorite, but the broth more than makes up for it.
Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen
This one is the most popular and our favorite of the ramen bowls at Jin. The broth is red like hot fire, and it's spicy like that too. If you can handle a little kick, this is the one you want to be eating.
We wouldn't usually include a beer in the Food Rundown, but this one is worth mentioning. Jin carries Coedo, a craft beer from Japan that's excellent. They're $10 each, but in our opinion, they're twice as good as a Sapporo, so it's worth it. Jin has a few of the Coedo varieties on hand, our favorite being the Kyara, an IPA.