If we still ate noodles, I’d drag you to Brooklyn. I’d insist on Ichiran for ramen, even though I’ve never been. Before the bite of the hand-pulled noodle, just when that flavorful broth ripped us through a tunnel, transporting us to our childhood memories of comfort, we’d both look up from our bowls. “Right?” God, yes. There wouldn’t be much talking, as it’s a solitary experience close to prayer.
I’ve never, not once, eaten ramen in New York. But, man, can I read about restaurants. Especially when I’m on the hunt to satisfy a craving, hungry for the perfect place to suit the time of year and casual occasion. A noodle bar, there’s something timeless to it, something cinematic or black and white. It will be snowing of course.
When asked what my favorite moment of Japan was, I surprise myself with this answer: Kagari. Kagari is a ramen restaurant located in Ginza, the swanky shopping district of Tokyo. Amid Dior and Gucci is this tony restaurant which seats all of 8 patrons in a U shaped bar, with the chef at its center. I visited at night, when all the shops had closed, and I waited outside for 45 minutes as I inched my way to the front of the single-file line.
I panic when it’s time to order, especially in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language. I have a hard time asking for what I want in life. Even if I’m asked to place a pick-up order over the phone, there’s that moment of rehearsal, of preparation, as if I’m the next one to share with the class. At Kagari, I simply pointed at a menu item and hoped I did it right. Though, I’m not sure you could get it wrong there.
Now that I’m back in New York, I miss the magic in it. The healing properties of broth, your hands on the bowl for warmth. The at once delightful and terribly disturbing slurping. Choosing the “doneness” of your noodles is also a key component in ramen love. You want those suckers majorly aldente. And you really can’t be shy about the slurp-factor. It feeds into the enjoyment and absurdity. Now, why was this bowl better than any of the subsequent bowls I’d enjoyed while in Japan? The broth was creamy. Not heavy cream creamy, but bone collagen creamy. A definite yellowed cream as pictured above. It was otherworldly.
Now, here’s why I surprise myself. After I got over the self-consciousness of slurping my bowl of ramen in Japan, I visited a drugstore to shop for beauty products and unusual Kit-Kat bar flavors (Sake, Wasabi, White Chocolate). And then, I died in a bathroom on the fifth floor.
I might have stripped down to my bra. It was the sweat that comes, I’m sure of it, right before you die. I sat in that bathroom for what must have been a half hour. Heavy breathing was involved and I’m pretty sure I had to coach myself into putting my clothes back on. And still. Top of the charts was the ramen I ate in the minute-big noodle bar, where I didn’t need to talk, where I could just point to what I wanted and get it exactly. That’s the life.