If the above photo of a pork belly chunk—50% meat, 50% jelly-like fat—sitting in a bowl of ramen appeals to you, you'd probably be a fan of Minca.
But I almost forgot about Minca's buttery pork chashu (simmered pork belly). Until Melissa suggested that we eat there, my previous visit to Minca was over a year ago. WHAT MADE ME STAY AWAY FOR SO LONG? (I TYPE IN CAPS A LOT; I HOPE YOU ARE OKAY WITH THAT.)
Their broth. It's heavy, stomach coatingly thick, umami-laden stuff, and in the budding stage of our relationship, it was the main reason I went to Minca more than any other ramen shop. But on that over-a-year-ago visit, the ramen left my belly feeling uncomfortably bloated, and while that is a common sensation for me, this time was different. It didn't taste worth it. The love was gone.
But now the love has come back a bit. During my last visit, the soy sauce-flavored chicken broth in my wahoo ramen ($9.50) didn't feel like a bowling ball in my gut. It's not a nuanced multi-layered flavor 'splosion like the kasane-aji ramen from Ippudo, but it satisfies a ramen craving, with the plus of being less expensive and not requiring an hour wait to sit down. The noodles are just right—springy and not too soft—and supplemented with half a hard boiled egg, sliced black mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and square of nori.
They give you the choice between chicken or pork chashu, but my god, if you're reading this I hope you only see one choice. Rhymes with "fublork." Unlike pork chashu I've had at other ramen joints, Minca's version is buttery throughout—fat and meat meld together. Melissa told me that they torch the outside of the pork for direct flame-enhanced deliciousness.
After filling our bellies with ramen, we headed to Butter Lane, one of Melissa's favorite cupcake shops (and she knows cupcakes; she writes for Cupcake Takes the Cake). They have a wide variety of frosting flavors as you can see from the menu above, but since I'm boring I usually get vanilla cake with vanilla frosting no matter where I go. Butter Lane offers two kinds of vanilla frosting, French and American buttercream. I recommend the smoother French made of egg whites, butter, and granulated sugar. Overall, the cupcakes have a good cake-to-frosting ratio, and neither part is too sweet. Cupcake lovers should definitely check it out. If only Michelle Obama knew before going to Magnolia Bakery. (I was right by Magnolia when she was there on Sunday night, but I didn't know what the parade of black SUVs, police cars, wooden security personnel, and policemen were for at the time. I suppose I should've known that craptons of road blockage means there's someone super important in the area.)
Of course, the dessert doesn't stop there. Oh no—we expended meager calories by walking from the East Village to L'Arte del Gelato and sharing a large cup of pistachio, caramel, and blueberry (sorbet). That's how we roll on a Friday night.
Yeah. Man, That almost, just almost makes me want to dance.
If you get the chance, see them live and have a damn good time. Just don't sit in the front row or you might get a too-close-for-comfort, 95% naked serenade from Danny Sexbang. ...Or do sit in the front row. (Note: this probably only applies to attractive females. Danny is totally awesome; I got a fully clothed hug from him after the show.)