When I go to Chinatown, it’s not because i am in the mood for fine French food.
Hell, I’m not even in the mood for fine Chinese food.
I want down home, familiar, had-it-a-million-times-before Chinese food. The sweet, sticky char siu bao. The soft, slippery dan-dan noodles. the dumplings with crisp wrappers and juicy fillings.
I really don’t go there for ramen. And neither does anyone else. Other than a random bodega, you aren’t likely to find much besides Chinese food in Chinatown.
So imagine my shock when I came across a ramen joint in Chinatown.
BassaNova Ramen is a basement level restaurant and it’s very modern. All white, impeccably clean, and minimalist. It’s just a place to stop in with family or a friend – not a good date spot. It is so totally different from all of the bustling dim sum palaces that I couldn’t help but be curious.
Of course, if I had read The Bible, I would have known…this palce is a Tokyo export known for its super rich, porky Tondaku Ramen. So, obviously…that’s what I got:
Not for the faint of heart. This broth is almost gelatinous. It’s very rich and nutty, with the unmistakable tastes of pork and sesame. The flavor isn’t overly salty but the real standout here is the texture. It is almost a broth you can chew – does that make sense? It’s so full bodied and silky that it is actually filling on its own. Days later, I still remember it and can’t get the memory of the texture out of my mind. It’s so comforting and at the same time, new and exciting. I can’t recommend the broth enough.
The noodles are also excellent. Thin and very bouncy/springy. They really soak up all of the flavor from the nutty nori, the sweet toasted garlic, and the soft wood ear fungus – don’t be scared, it has the texture of bamboo shoots and is really tasteless.
And the pork. That PORK! How I wish I had gotten the full portion instead of the lunchtime one so I could have had another slice of two of that wonderful pork. It’s so soft that it really does melt in your mouth – sorry to use that expression, but how else can I describe what is essentially meat butter? The edges still manage to be charred and a little smoky, in contrast to the silky, lush meat.
This ramen rocks.
And it’s a good thing, too, because this ois one of only a few items on the menu. It’s a really minimalist place - they don’t even serve Coke!
But they don’t need to. The staff is excellent, the price is right (bring cash for your cheap, delicious lunch), and the food is really great. It doesn’t have the signature kick of most ramen, and the noodles are a little thinner, but wow…it’s so complex. It’s so different. It’s so great.
Because even I occasionally need a break from dim sum.