New York’s ramen scene is rapidly diversifying, with last year’s boom in Japanese brands arriving in the city showing no sign of slowing down.
But the ramen isn’t why you should put the newest import, E.A.K. Ramen, on your must-visit list.
The clutch order at this new Greenwich Village shop (469 Sixth Ave.) is, if you can believe it, the fried rice. This breaks pretty much every rule about ordering what a restaurant specializes in, but trust — E.A.K. elevates rice from mere side dish to main event.
The fun begins with the presentation. An unassuming pile of barely off-white rice arrives on a sizzling griddle. Don’t let the color fool you — this rice has been infused with enough pork fat to glisten, with an intensely fragrant cloud rising off it.
Your server will then begin the presentation, pouring a scrambled egg in the narrow moat between the rice and the edge of the pan, where it cooks almost immediately. Your only other ingredients are flavorful chunks of pork that definitely don’t bear any resemblance to the red freeze-dried stuff in normal pork fried rice, and a heaping handful of scallions on top. Mix it, or don’t, but this simple dish will be your instant favorite.
Since you’re already there, do sample the ramen (their slogan is “But first, ramen” after all). E.A.K., which has nearly 40 locations, specializes in the “ié-kei” a style of ramen from Yokohama, which combines the usual intensely fatty pork-based tonkotsu broth with the lighter Tokyo-style soy sauce broth. The result is a pork-chicken medley that’s creamy but not so rich that you can’t finish the bowl; the noodles are also thicker and straighter (not quite udon), with a garnish of boiled spinach, a whole marinated egg and a square of toasted seaweed.
Each of their five bowls has a totally distinct personality. The peppery tang of the Zebra gets a smart hit of garlic oil with a flavor unlike any typical ramen, while the Miso ramen makes your eyes water even at medium spice strength. There’s even a vegan ramen, born in E.A.K.’s first U.S. location in L.A.
Also worth your time on the menu: the pork bao. The fat has been cooked right back into the meat so tender it falls apart, tucked inside a delicate bun that almost dissolves on the tongue, with some funk from a marinated egg and a lightly spicy sauce. Drinks include a full bar of soju-focused cocktails, plus beer, wine and sake.