Ramen is, in a way, the new sushi. Just like its rice-wrapped sister, ramen is reveling in its growing popularity, developing its creative side and morphing into something new and updated.
Beyond Keizo Shimamoto's ramen burger, which is the hours-long line foodie hit of the moment, restaurants like Yuki Ramen are turning out amped-up, often seasonally appropriate dishes.
Helmed by inventive and forward-thinking chefs, the new ramens range from Yuji's Mazeman ramen -- noodles served without broth -- to Ganso's "Summer" ramen, with cold noodles and toppings like avocado, arugula, summer corn and sesame-miso vinaigrette.
Yuji Haraguchi, the mastermind behind Yuji Ramen, a pop-up that originally opened in 2012 and is currently housed in the Bowery Whole Foods, says his newfangled, broth-free dish, and the shift toward adventurous ramen, is practical as well as enlightened.
"First of all ? hot soup with noodles, it's very difficult to eat," he said.
And his seafood-focused daily Omakase menu is locavore focused, another dining trend that's catching on with foods not just American in origin.
"Ramen is generally all about using the same ingredients every single day, whether its pork or chicken. I wanted to change that ... and make it local, about what's special today."
Haraguchi wants to "push the boundary," and make traditional Japanese cooking palatable and accessible to American diners, all while impressing the New York City crowd.
"Sushi in America is very unique because of the styles people created here, that we don't have in Japan," he said. "It's very difficult to find something new in New York City because people are doing everything. This is the hardest city to be the first one."
Haraguchi isn't alone. Chefs at Dassara and Zen 6 share his passion for imaginative takes on ramen. Dishes like Dassara's matzo ball ramen and American-Japanese "pub-style" bowls with kimchee and clams at Zutto are also pushing the envelope, taking ramen to higher levels still.
Taste some guddied-up ramen goodness for yourself at these spots:
Yuji Ramen, 95 Houston St., 646-262-1358
Featured dish: Bacon & Egg Mazeman Ramen
Zen 6, 328 E. Sixth St., 646-429-8471
Featured dish: California Ramen
Ganso, 25 Bond St., Downtown Brooklyn, 718-403-0900
Featured dish: Summer Ramen
Dassara, 271 Smith St., Carroll Gardens, 718-643-0781
Featured dish: Matzo Ball Ramen
Zutto, 77 Hudson St., 212-233-3287
Featured dish: Kimchee Ramen with Clams