The ramen craze hasn’t left New York yet. Ramen shops have been sprouting up all over the city, with a new one opening every few weeks. Among the many bowls served, Mew Men stands out with its focus on fresh chicken broth.
Mew Men’s culinary director, Hiroshi Hiraoka, is a ramen chef with many years of experience cooking at Ippudo and his own ramen shop in Japan. For Mew Men, he devised a broth recipe using free-range chicken from upstate New York farms. The restaurant also refrains from using MSG or artificial ingredients.
You can taste the difference. The Shoyu-Chintan ramen has a surprisingly light and delicate flavor, full of umami but without an overwhelmingly salty taste ($13). The broth, made daily, takes five-and-a-half hours to cook and requires constant attention to monitor the temperature. It’s a welcome contrast to the oil-slicked bowls of many ramen shops.
The noodles are topped with pieces of chicken, pickled overnight and then slow-cooked with peppers, and pork chashu that boasts a unique look and texture. The pork is seared on the surface and then slow-cooked for four hours, rendering it slightly pink and pliable, like tender slices of roast beef.
Mew Men adds unexpected elements to familiar ramen tropes. Shio, or salt-flavored, ramen tends to have a clean and light broth. But Mew Men’s Shio-Paitan features a creamy, milky base made from simmering chicken bone marrow ($13). The soup is nourishing, like an antidote to cold weather, while its viscosity adds an extra-slippery dimension to the noodles. Onion flakes sprinkled on top provide a pop of flavor.
Even the restaurant’s decor is a bit out of the box. Road cases (used for carrying instruments) are repurposed as table legs, while stage lights decorate the ceiling and a DJ sound system lines the back wall. The air buzzes with the sound of conversation and a mix of musical genres playing in the background—it’s lively, but not noisy.
The Kara-Shoyu is a spice lover’s dream bowl, but its heat comes from peppers not commonly used in Japanese cooking ($13). The broth is topped with minced pork that has been cooked with ground jalapeño peppers and infused with homemade hot chili oil (a secret recipe that the restaurant declined to divulge). The heat is intense and has a numbing quality akin to Sichuan peppercorns. When you eat the noodles, the spices might give you a kick to the throat—especially with the chopped habanero peppers served on the side—but it’s worth the pain. A generous helping of chives and sesame seeds makes the bowl even more aromatic and flavorful.
For vegetarians, there’s the Veggie-Tantan ramen. Instead of the strong spicy and garlicky flavors in a typical tantan ramen, Mew Men’s has a nutty, thick broth made from a blend of red, white, and kome (rice) misos and sesame paste ($14). And for diners who prefer a soupless noodle dish, the Maze-Men Truffle ramen entices with a little Western influence in the form of truffle oil ($12).
Aside from noodles, there are other worthy options on the menu. Kara Age, or fried chicken, makes a great appetizer, coated with crushed cornflakes for maximum crunch ($5 for 3 pieces, $7 for 5).
For lunch service, Mew Men serves set meals that will satisfy, in the traditional Japanese format of a bowl of rice, soup, and pickles. The Japanese Farm Bowl is a mixed green salad served over brown rice and topped with the aforementioned chicken and pork chashu ($13), while the Gindara Teishoku consists of cod marinated in Kyoto-style miso—lightly sweet and buttery—served with rice, soup, and sides ($16).
7 Cornelia St. (near West 4th Street)
Tuesday to Sunday
11:30 a.m.–3 p.m.
Sunday, Tuesday to Thursday
5:30 p.m.–10 p.m.
Friday & Saturday
5:30 p.m.– 11 p.m.