Maybe there's a reason why D. Chang hasn't unleashed Momofuku Noodle Bars all over the country yet. Maybe it's because Momofuku is simply too good for the rest of America to appreciate. With that in mind, it's no wonder that Jinya is the ramen brand set to franchise like crazy, because this place is as average as they come. Which means the dude in head to toe Aeropostale is going to love it.
A ramen import by way of Los Angeles and Canada, yes I said ramen from Canada, Jinya's 2013 expansion plans include NYC, Vegas, Seattle and Houston for starters. Us spoiled New York ramen fiends shouldn't be getting overly excited though. Unless, of course, you enjoy slurping noodles to the sweet sounds of Katy Perry and the Black Eyed Peas. Don't be fooled into thinking this is a big addition to the noodleless West Village, Jinya is a ramen bar that belongs at the mall. Right in between Rainforest Cafe and Panda Express.
While Jinya Ramen Bar is super slick looking, it also feels extremely formulaic and completely soulless. Yup, that's mean, but that's the kind of treatment you receive from Immaculate when your soundtrack features Top 40 hits from five years ago. I'm sure their origins are rooted in Japan somewhere, but nothing about this place feels authentic at all. Which would be fine if the food was great, but being that it's not, it just makes it easy to hate on. Jinya is by no means terrible. The ramen is fine, just lacking in any kind of bold flavor. We tried three different bowls, none of which gave us the salty satisfaction ramen usually gives us. The buns are a bummer too, violating the cardinal bun rule of too much bun.
Maybe the West Village is just desperate for ramen. Maybe everyone just left their Aeropostale at home. Maybe we're just too spoiled. Regardless, judging by the crowds, Jinya's NYC outpost seems to be doing just fine. All we can tell you is to temper expectations. There is way better ramen to get into in this city.
It's their signature noodle bowl and the one that's been getting the most internet love so far. If you like totally bland, tasteless broth, order it. It's a pork broth with and comes along with thick, meaty slices of pork way too dense to be in a ramen bowl, kikurage, green onion, cabbage, dried seaweed, a seasoned egg, garlic chips and garlic oil. You'd think some of that action would have some flavor, right? Nope. We'd try something else, maybe something spicy.
Usually most authentic ramen shops focus one base broth which they then spin into different styles and flavors. While we like the idea of a pork broth, chicken broth and vegetable broth sections of a menu so that there's something for everyone, that also raises red flags. Tell tale signs of mall ramen! Too many options. Sadly, the chicken broth suffered a similar fate as the "Black Ramen." Lots of stuff that didn't taste like anything. Well, that's not entirely true. This one had fried onions, and you could definitely taste those. Fried onions make everything better.
A big bowl of soup with all kinds of veggies and noodles, yet didn't have much of an identity at all. This could have come from the school cafeteria.
Thinly sliced cucumbers in some kind of Japanese dressing that, you guessed it, tasted like absolutely nothing.
The pork gyoza was solid. We'd order these again. Hot of the presses, these lightly pan fried delights went down really nicely with a Sapporo draft.
There are a bunch of tempura options, all of which looked and sounded pretty damn good. We went the shrimp route, and were impressed with the creamy spicy sauce over a crispy fried full shrimp. Not bad.
Our favorite bite of the night. It's difficult to make a sticky rice dish with tuna that isn't awesome, and this was indeed that. If we ever come back, the sticky rice with tuna will be on our table.
OK, so as we discussed in the review, the cardinal sin of pork buns is having too much bun and that's exactly the problem here. Our mouth could barely maneuver around the excess layer of flesh surrounding the meat, which was a bummer because the meat - both the pork and the kobe beef - was excellent. Well seasoned and all kinds of moist. It's a shame, really. Jinya's buns have potential, they just need tighten up a bit.