The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Ramen Goodness at Setagaya and Ippudo

black sesame miso
Mm. Ramen.

"Man, ramen's good."


"Damn, I like ramen."

[chew chew]

"Why don't I eat ramen more often?"

[slurp chew]

"Mmm. ...Crap I can't breathe, I better swallow."

Aaaaand that's what it sounds like in my head. I estimate that my brain is 95% Jell-O-like goo made of underachieving neurons where profundity is unable to thrive. (But that last 5%? Oh man, it's like a party with beach balls and a motherfuggin' cotton candy machine!!!)

So, back to the internal dialogue. While eating my bowl of black sesame miso ramen ($10.50) at Ramen Setagaya last Thursday, I had this atypical revelation of, "Man, [insert type of dish I'm eating] is really tasty. Yeah!" Usually, I eat contently, not blown away nor disappointed by what I'm eating (and more than usually, I insufficiently chew too much food far too quickly, the result being odoriferous burps for the rest of the day that I will announce to whomever is unfortunately within my zone of vocal reach). But this time I was like, "This ramen is so hitting some sort of spot that only springy noodles in an umami-laden broth can hit."


I didn't taste much of the black sesame goo that was plopped on the central mound of bean sprouts; I mostly tasted the miso and a surprising hit of throat tingling spiciness from the red chili flakes. It probably would have tingled/burned less if I hadn't sucked the soup straight down my throat. I was shooting back the ramen even more quickly and uncouth than usual because, due to half of my bottom lip being swollen and sore from an infected cold sore that I spent the whole week recovering from (more on that later), I didn't have full mobility of my mouth. Unless I wanted to dribble food all over the place or have it dangle from my mouth like a baby learning how to feed itself, I had to shovel it down quickly. At least I was surrounded by friends who were eating normally.

The ramen wasn't the best I've had, but I'd eat it again. I liked the generous helping of corn (sweet, sweet corn nublets bursting with juicy sunshine, I love you) and the not-too-soft, slightly chewy noodles. The pork had a nice layer of buttery fat around the edges, and although the meat didn't have the same buttery-ness going for it, it was pleasingly tender. I'd like the broth more if it had more black sesame and less miso.

...I guess what I really want is noodles with corn, pork, and black sesame. Hm. Hm. [strokes chin]

Yeaah look at that fat NOODLES, I LOVE YOU
Can you see the fat on top of that bowl? Yeah.

if you're wondering what is the best ramen I've had, so far that award goes to the usually crowded and expensive (for ramen) Ippudo, in particular their "Special Ramen," kasane-aji, ($14) that I ate in December. The menu's description: "Ramen noodle in layered "tori-paitan" creamy chicken and tonkotsu [pork bone] soup topped with pork chashu, bean sprouts, onion, 1/2 seasoned boiled egg, kikurage [slivered wood ear mushrooms], scallions, and yuzu kosho." My description: IT'S FULL OF FATTY CHICKEN GOODNESS; there is no part of this bowl that isn't awesome. The thick tonkotsu and chicken broth exploded with chicken essence squeezed from pure chicken souls. Delicious souls.

But I'm more likely to return to Ramen Setagaya than Ippudo because I don't want to wait an hour to get seated—I want my ramen quickly. And even though Ippudo is only a little more expensive, I like saving a wee bit of money as well.


Ramen Setagaya
141 1st Ave, New York NY 10003 (b/n St. Mark's and 9th; map)
(There's also one on St. Mark's Place, but my friend Nancy said the 1st Ave location was better. I haven't compared them so I'm just taking her word for it.)

65 4th Ave, New York NY 10003 (b/n 9th and 10th; map)


A Bunch of Tasty Bites, And Some Liquids
Kåre Week, Day 5 and 6: Home Cooking, Over-Porked at Minca, and Soft Serve Sundaes
Minca: Land of Delicious Ramen and Pork

This Part Ain't Food-Related

Back to the cold sore, because you're dying to read about orofacial herpes on my blog. It started to form about a week ago, last Sunday, but never having had a cold sore before in my 24 years of life, I didn't catch it early enough to prevent it from entering "MAKE ROBYN GO CRAZY" territory. So for those of you who've never had them before, I'll warn you so you can actually catch it before it happens. Maybe. This is just my experience.

Mine looked like a zit. So I did what I do with other zits: pop that suckah. (I don't recommend you do this.) But it wasn't a zit, so the popping attempt didn't do anything helpful—it just the blister angrier. Lesson learned: if something near your lip looks like a zit but doesn't act like one, that might be a cold sore, in which case NO TOUCHING, JUST STOPPIT. Maybe put some Abreva on it. (Speaking of Abreva, the package listed a bunch of triggers for getting cold sores that included lack of sleep, stress, extreme hot/cold weather, and menstruation. Damn. Cold sores should be popping up all over my mouth like crazy.) My bro recommended the Abreva, while my mom told me to take lysine tablets.

But these things didn't work because I'm pretty sure by Day 2 (Monday) I had gotten a staph infection (I'm surprised I'm not more disease-ridden considering my lack of healthy habits, to be honest). I didn't find that out until three days afterward, though, when I went to the doctor. In those three days, my lip continued to swell so that it felt like a small plum was growing out of my face. I had continuous headaches and toothaches, only on the left side of my head where the cold sore was. I thought, "Um, maybe this is normalOH MY GOD MY HEAD MY TEETH WTF EERruuhgfufughdrool," as I grabbed my head and glared angrily at my bottle of ibuprofen, its label full of broken promises. The pain only went away when I drained the blister (if you didn't just shudder, you should have), which took forever, which contributed to my 5 a.m. bed time last Thursday morning, which contributed to my overall zombie-like state for the rest of the day.

On Thursday morning I popped into the walk-in clinic near my office (the Beth Israel clinic on 23th Street and 7th Avenue; Dr. Uncyk is da man), got some antibiotics, and poof, I'm almost as good as new.

Aaaand that's my story. I'm pretty bad with taking care of my health issues, of which I have surprisingly few, but I'm learning.


Christina / February 15, 2010 1:09 PM

Man, now I want ramen. I need to get some authentic ramen before I die, it's my new number one goal.

Bummer about the headaches and stuff, but good to hear it's improving. But thanks for not posting a picture of that -- I have some friends who like to show their "surgery" pictures and I say no.

Doug / February 15, 2010 1:22 PM

Oh Robyn, your poor pretty face :(

I hate the thought of you trying to pop a cold sore. Glad to learn you've sorted everything out.

eatyourheartout / February 15, 2010 1:36 PM

Mmm... ramen. I crave.

Glad you manage to contain the cold sore before it got any worse. Now, I just hope I don't get one... (I may have even had one, but not realize it). Now I know better having read this!

Erin / February 15, 2010 3:19 PM

Ouch. Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, OUCH. I'm sorry the evil virus germs attacked your face! Stupid germs...
And I feel your pain, literally. The inside of my mouth was bombarded with canker sores over Christmas, aka The Time Of Eating, and every bite was murder. So yeah, ouch. But hey! You're feeling better, which is good.

roboppy / February 15, 2010 4:27 PM

Christina: I didn't want ANY photos taken of my face with doom-filled sore. Although I did think about taking one just to send my mom and be like "MOM, WUT'S WRONG WITH ME."

Doug: It's okay now! My face! Almost like nothing happened! :)

D: You're way healthier than I am, I think you'd be ok. :)

Perhaps we should get ramen when Greg T comes back!


Erin: I've rarely had canker sores. Or I haven't had one in ages. ...I just jinxed myself probably.

Susanna / February 15, 2010 7:01 PM

You can catch or pass on cold sores by sharing the same utensils or food (without using a communal spoon) or even a face-to-face kiss when the herpes simplex I is active.

reese / February 15, 2010 8:09 PM

I don't know if the Ippudo here has the same menu as the Ippudo in Takadanobaba in Tokyo. If they do and you like garlic like me, ask for a karai jiro ramen (spicy garlic ramen). Senbu-iri (with everything, which comes with a whole hanjuku tamago and extra chasu).That was good!

kim / February 15, 2010 8:52 PM

I'm glad you've recovered before Lunar New Year. Hope you made up all the good food you might've missed while you weren't well.

Laura / February 15, 2010 9:06 PM

Ippudo is one of my favorite places in NYC---yes, the wait is annoying as hell but the food is just so damn good! I crave their pepper-encrusted chicken wings on a weekly basis...

And as for the health stuff--I had both a nasty cold sore AND a staph infection within the past year. Definitely sucks balls.

Adam G / February 15, 2010 9:33 PM

There's another Setagaya on University Pl just below E 12th, too - the space that was Tokyo La Men last time I looked (which was admittedly some time ago). I think the 1st Av location is still the best, but I wouldn't kick their noodles out of bed. If I were in bed with noodles in the first place. Um.

Have you checked out the ramen at Menkui-tei on Cooper Sq? It's definitely not as good as Setagaya or Rai Rai Ken or Ippudo (drool), but it's still porky and tasty, cheaper than any of the above, and much easier to get a seat in.

Sorry to hear about the nasties! Hope you're feeling better soon.

wix / February 15, 2010 11:33 PM

Um hi... I loved the cold sore recap! Wanna hear about this crazy blood blister I had one time?

Also just spent 20 min on Mayo Clinic's website reading lists of symptoms, trying to convince myself: "I don't have strep throat, I don't have strep throat, I don't have etc." but there's nothing like painkillers to make an offer a sore throat can't refuse. denial 4 eva!

James / February 16, 2010 12:30 AM

Black sesame ramen at Setagaya?! This I have to try; I can never tear myself away from the glory of their Shio, and I am definitely not a shoyu fan.

Antibiotics win! Go science. And, um, weaponized nature.

Chris H / February 16, 2010 12:41 AM

OMG, I would cheerfully dispense of countless number of chickens (mass chicken carnage) to obtain their delicious SOULS in the form of ramen broth.

roboppy / February 16, 2010 10:31 AM

Susanna: I share food a looot...pretty surprising I haven't gotten cold sores already!

Su-Lin: I hope you never get them!

reese: I don't think our menu is the same! Wah.

Kim: Ahhh yes, I definitely ate a lot over the weekend. :)

Laura: I haven't had the wings! Shall have to try those next time.

Adam: I haven't been on University Place in fooorever, damn. And I used to walk there all the time during school (rarely ate there though).

Yup, I've tried that Menkui Tei and's pretty much what you said, hehe. It's not bad, nor special, but it's cheap and easy to get in.

wix: I've never had strep throat! I hope things stay that way.

James: Well, just a lil blop of black sesame. But "black sesame" anything makes me MEGA EXCITED.

Chris: The souls are so gooood!

Danny / February 16, 2010 10:59 AM

1. I promise to be a real human.
2. Stay awesome is hard because I haven't gotten to the awesome stage yet.
3. Staph infection!?!??! WHA?!?!

TheSpatulaQueen / February 17, 2010 12:13 AM

Have you ever been to Minca? It's my backup when I don't feel like going through the agonizing 2hr wait at Ippudo. The portions are bigger (+1), the seating is quick (+1), it's cheaper (+1), and they treat the pork with a BLOWTORCH until it's melt-in-your-mouth good (+1 zillion). And they have this "Experimental Ramen" option that's just listed as "$....???"

But I have to space my visits because there's so much MSG that I get a headache afterwards, and I consider myself a sponge for MSG. I still go back often, since I'm all down for suffering in the name of eating good food.

roboppy / February 17, 2010 5:41 PM

Danny: Thanks for being REAL!

Staph infections can be super mild (like mine) to...really..not. I don't wanna know what the other end of the spectrum is like.

Nicholas: I've only had curry ramen a few times in NYC and... yeah, just not as satisfying as curry rice or non-curry ramen. You think combining them would be GOLDEN.

Veronica: I can't think of any dishes I've had black sesame in that wasn't sweet!..aside from this. Hm.

Melissa: Yup, I used to LOVE Minca! Their soup is insane. Msg-ed, as you mentioned. And garlic up the wazoo. But now that you mention it, I sort of wanna go back...

Megan Gale / February 19, 2010 11:43 AM

This looks really good! The soup looks fresh and not too over filling. I would love to try this for myself. Thanks for opening my eyes to something new to try.

mausi / February 19, 2010 6:54 PM

Hello! I love Ramen and liked Ippudo but I have never been to Setagaya. I should give it a try sometimes. I also like the ramen store in a food court of Japanese supermarket "Mitsuwa" in NJ. I forgot the name of that store but that was good also! Thanks for sharing your experience.

Jitterro / February 20, 2010 2:27 AM

Hey there; long-time reader of your blog, and I follow you on Twitter as well.

I found this a few seconds ago:

I was liek lolwut o_0

Thought I'd let you know of its existence.

To contribute: ZOMG RAMEN I WANT SOME. The ramen places here in Los Angeles tend to specialize in tonkotsu broth, which is delicious and all, but I greatly envy the variety you get out there in NYC.

tberg / February 20, 2010 7:48 AM

I was so fortunate to inherit the simplex from my ex a couple of years ago... If it feels/looks like a large blemish, it is too late for medicine. The most obvious warning is a slight tingly sensation. Put an ice cube on it 3-4 time a day for 2-3 days. it helps reduce the swelling and the aftermath too. also, it suck but, spicy food touching that spot will only make it angry...

roboppy / February 23, 2010 1:12 AM

Megan: Hope you get to try it!


Jitterro: There are at least three other blogs (including that one) with the same name, methinks. ;_; Maybe they didn't google the name first. Anyhoo, as long as I retain the top spot in google for "The Girl Who Ate Everything," all is good.

tberg: I'll watch out for the TINGLIES.

Olivia: No Hulu for me tonight! I will try to go to bed before 2 AM, YAY!

FN / February 24, 2010 1:40 AM

TGWAE - have you been to Ichiran in Tokyo? The ramen spot where you sit in your own little cubicle and dial up adjustments to the ramen using a form? I went recently and absolutely fell in love with it. There are rumors that one is opening in Greenpoint soon, but that rumor has been around for a few years, so I'm not too hopeful.

roboppy / February 25, 2010 11:41 PM

Allix: I haven't been to Kambi, but I should probably try it since I like Minca. I've been to Menkui Tei a few times and it's...well, it's fine for the price. It's not bad, it's just not that great either. I like that they have a lot of things on their menu.

FN: Nope, haven't had ramen in Japan! :( Last time I was in Japan (over ten years ago) I was obsessed with curry and katsu, so that's probably mostly what I ate. I don't think I got into ramen until I moved to NYC. Would be neat if a place opened in Greenpoint.

j / June 29, 2010 1:22 PM

I've been going to Ippudo for ramen, since I moved to NY about 2 years ago; but yesterday, I abruptly left the restaurant when management decided to slap me with a surcharge of $4/person for eating a cupcake in their restaurant. No one gave me a warning, but they just automatically added the ridiculous surcharge to my tab. I went late in the afternoon, and did not have to wait for a table, but for some reason, things were EXTREMELY SLOW in the kitchen. I mean, come on, it should take 5 minutes to bring out a bowl of ramen. I was STARVING and the only thing to stave off my hunger were the cupcakes that I bought from Butter Lane. I asked if, instead, I could order an appetizer or drinks, but they didn't even give me the option. Moreover, I think it's annoying when this "policy" was not listed anywhere on the menu. The manager on duty said management is allowed to do whatever they please, but shouldn't they, instead, try to please the customers? Afterall, you are paying $15 for a bowl of peasant food. So fellow ramen enthusiasts, beware!

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