It all makes sense now. When my good friend Keizo Shimamoto released the Ramen Burger to trendy-hungry New Yorkers, he wasn't just going for a short gain in the culinary world. He had the long game in sight. While many ramen chefs have never even been to Japan (I once met a guy who's recipe was based on an episode of Martha Stewart), Keizo has honed his ramen knowledge on both sides of the ocean.
And like many true ramen nerds, he is a huge fan of simple, Tokyo-style shoyu ramen.
And it doesn't get much more simple than this. Ramen Shack is a weekly ramen stand located at Smorgasburg Queens. It's a seven-seat affair, reminiscent of a real 屋台, food stand. You sit, slurp, and go.
The atmosphere is fun, without feeling rushed. Slowly savoring your ramen is still a problem in the States, where diners spend as long as 40 minutes with their bowl. Although there really aren't any rules when it comes to eating ramen, most ramen nerds will say that the noodles get soggy after 8 minutes.
The menu is literally only ramen and ramen toppings. Keizo has promised an ever-changing Special Tokusoba (which incidentally translates to special special noodles), but I was here for the Classic Chuukasoba.
And here it is, a $7 bowl of Tokyo-style chuukasoba.
I'm not exaggerating, I'm not pandering to my friend, I'm not trying to garner click-bait on the internet. I'm being honest when I say that this is on of the best bowls of ramen I've had in America. Sure, other bowls are more fun, with playful toppings and a very nouveaux feel, but the simple bowl at Ramen Shack is what makes ramen great.
Chef Shimamoto hand presses the noodles just before cooking, giving them the chewy, mochi-mochi-ness that good ramen needs. The toppings are all on point. But it's the soup that seals it. You have that impact from the shoyu, followed by the subtle umami flavors you only seem to find in your local ramen shop.
All I can say is that I'm sold. If you are a budding ramen enthusiast without the means to come to Japan, you need to check out Ramen Shack. If you have a failing ramen shop, you need to hire Keizo as a consultant. If you are looking to move to New York, you might want to consider living within a block of Smorgasburg Queens.
And now that you've read all that, and are ready to dive head first into a bowl, I may have some bad news. Ramen Shack is, at the time of writing, a temporary deal. The Queen's location, according to a Facebook post from nine hours ago, says that they will be here one more week before moving to Brooklyn. Whether or not that is a more permanent thing, you'll have to check for yourself.
The website is here.
43-29 Crescent St, Queens, NY 11101, USA
Nearest station: Court Sq
Open Saturday 11am-6pm