Mentoku Ramen specializes in Hakata style ramen, a regioanl style of ramen local to Fukuoka Prefecture. Traditionally Hakata style ramen has a cloudy white pork bone broth and thin noodles and a minimalist approach to garnishing, just green onions and char siu pork. At Mentoku their base ramen dish sticks to this formula and then they have several options with more toppings, including a “whipped cream” topping made of potato.
The Dumplings: Mentoku serves pork gyoza and Takoyaki, both of which are expertly prepared. The pork gyoza had paper thin skins that were fried crispy on the bottom and were filled with a mild, finely minced pork and some scallions. However, it was the Yuzu Kosho condiment that took this disk to 11. Yuzu Kosho is a paste made from a mash of chili peppers, yuzu peel and salt, which has been allowed to ferment. It has salty, spicy, citrus grapefruit flavor, with a layer of anchovy or fish sauce flavor funk, that I assume is created by the fermentation. This is my new favorite condiment and it worked so well with the gyoza.
The takoyaki were are really good, crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. Mentoku makes their takoyaki with larger amounts of octopus than I have seen in any other versions of this dish. Maybe taking their cue from the restrained garnishing on the Hakata style ramen, the takoyaki were not garnished with the full monty of topping, just mayo, takoyaki sauce and slivered bonito.
The Location: Mentoku is on ninth avenue between 50th and 51st in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, or as the restaurant seems to be trying to re-brand it, the “NYC Ramen District”. Ninth avenue from 57th street to 35th street, and most of the side streets, is a massive restaurant row of cheap to mid-range priced dining options and is one of the major foodie destinations in NYC.