Around 4:30pm on Tuesday, November 3rd a line begins to form outside of a small stand-up counter restaurant on Kenmare Street in SoHo. The sun sets as the crowd grows, marking their orders on laminated white menus with dry erase markers, waiting for doors to open at 5pm.
What’s happening? Ramen Lab has a new pop-up!
Sun Noodle is a company with factories in Hawaii, Los Angeles and New Jersey. A main supplier for top ramen shops around the world ”notable NYC customers include Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop and MoMofuku Noodle Bar ”they created Ramen Lab this past June to bring international ramen chefs to Manhattan.
Inviting top ramen chefs for stints of three to four weeks, the pop-up’s manager Doo Na says, is like opening a new restaurant every month.
We deliver noodles to them, said Na, of the Rhode Island purveyors who most recently took over the lab. I had gone in a few times to drop off samples and try their ramen. They have their own thing going on, with their attitude and hip-hop blaring. Indeed, Jay Z, Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar blares from the speakers.
A team of six workers in black T-shirts hustle over simmering pots, all with their heads down. Manager Yoshi Kitasato tells us, When we are getting ready, and cooking, we get serious. The focus turns three types of ramen, pork buns and over ten toppings options. Usually when chefs come in, they try to simplify their menus, Kitasato says. But they wanted to bring their whole Rhode Island experience with them.
Includes: spicy sesame vinaigrette, custom tailored thick yellow wavy noodles, chili oil, sesame puree, bean sprouts, scallions, torched pork cheek
This soupless ramen caught Na’s eye this past October at Slurp Fest ”an annual ramen tasting festival at Astor Place ”and gave him another reason to bring Ken’s to SoHo.
The sesame vinaigrette, sesame puree and chili oil coat the thick, chewy noodles and smell like simmering onions and peanut butter. Pork adds a smoky flavor, and crunchy sprouts balance out the richness.
Includes: paitan broth, thin white noodles, torched pork cheek, kikurage, bean sprouts, chili oil
Also known as Ken’s original chicken noodle soup, the strength of this dish comes from the complex broth, which the team simmers for 30 hours. It has a sweet butteriness ”reminiscent of American chicken soup ”then delivers a sharp punch, thanks to the chili oil and the grassy aroma of mixed vegetables.
*We are no strangers to the fleeting and refreshing pop up. Check out what we’ve got going on at our three rotating retail and exhibition spaces by visiting The Market at the Roger Smith Hotel.