photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Imagine you have a favorite... yoga instructor. (Just go with it.) You always enjoyed yoga, but you tried different places and teachers, moving around like a yoga nomad. And then one day, you found this one instructor in a weird little new studio that happened to be right by your house, and you finally were like, "OK I GET yoga now. This is cool. This is my spot." And the rest was Downward Dog history.
Except. Imagine your little neighborhood spot suddenly decides it's going to rotate in new teachers every month or so, like some kind of Yoga Expo. Your reaction: thanks, but no thanks? As much as doing Bikram with some famous guy from Bali sounds exciting, you're probably never going to go back.
Turns out, after a few months, your prized instructor opens up their own spot. Everything's mostly the same, and there are even some fancy new features (better... mats?). But it's also a little out of the way, and although all the poses are the same, it's never exactly the same.
In this hypothetical situation, Nakamura - a Lower East Side ramen spot - is that new studio. Ramen Lab, which we described as a religious experience when we first went, is that original studio. When it first opened, Ramen Lab was two guys, one always wearing a fedora, serving up light chicken-based ramen that was fairly transcendental. The noodles were great, but so was the funkiness of the place - the open kitchen, and the fact that you often had to stand while you ate. Ramen Lab has since transformed, and now plays host to a different famous ramen chef from a different part of the world every month or so. Cool as it sounds, the days and times it's open are unpredictable, and sometimes the whole place goes dark for weeks.
The two guys (fedora still included) are now at Nakamura, a little place on Delancey, right under the entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge. The original chicken ramen is there, and it's almost as good as we remember (there's a spicy version that is distinctly bad, though - do not order it). There are also some really good dumplings, and an interesting vegetarian ramen. That said, the magic isn't entirely there - without the open kitchen, the energy level is lower and it's just not quite as fun a place to eat as Ramen Lab.
So should you go out of your way to try Nakamura? If you're a dedicated ramen obsessive who particularly likes soups that aren't as heavy as those at Ippudo or Totto Ramen, it's a worthy bowl. It's also a great place for vegetarians who want to get down with some ramen. Otherwise, it depends how much you like yoga.
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These gyoza come out all stuck together on a steaming skillet, and they're a perfect appetizer.
The light, chicken-based broth here is pretty much perfect. It's the chicken noodle soup of ramen (literally): satisfying, comforting, and the main reason you should be coming here.
Shaki Shaki Spicy Ramen
Essentially the Torigara, but with a bunch of chili thrown in. This sounded great in theory, but ended up tasting like the Torigara with a bottle of Tabasco thrown in for no good reason. Stick to the original.
XO Miso Vegetarian Ramen
A rich, funky, and surprisingly satisfying vegetarian take on ramen. Despite its lack of animal fats, it's actually on the heavier side still.