Though it is the middle of April, the abhorrent fact that it has snowed in the past week means that we have had way more than six weeks left of winter. (Should have asked a Bear and not a groundhog.) And an unusually cold and long winter always calls for ramen. Though nothing can quite compare to Totto, Jin Ramen provides a quieter and roomier ramen experience that also happens to be much closer to Columbia University. When a friend and her unicorn, Louis, came to town to visit Columbia and Barnard, Jin Ramen was the perfect place to catch up over hot, steaming bowls of noodle soup.
Located at 125th Street and Broadway, Jin Ramen is right outside the 125th Street station on the 1 train. Additionally, it is a short and pleasant walk—weather permitting—from Columbia’s main campus in Morningside Heights.
Jin Ramen has always been crowded whenever I have been, with lots of people standing outside the restaurant in order to wait for their table. Luckily we were able to grab a seat at the bar. The tables are nice and not too close together, unlike Totto, but the bar is really great because you can see right into the kitchen where they make your food. Plus it means that you get it faster because the chef can just put it on the counter in front of you!
The waitstaff at Jin are super nice, and they take your order on a fancy electronic device that might just be an iPhone in a cool case. The menu has a pretty standard ramen selection, but they have a lot of add-ons to customize your order. They also have specials that rotate with the season, usually more elaborate and non-traditional. I ordered the shoyu ramen, which is a soy-sauce-based soup and my friend ordered the miso ramen. The menu has a nice little allergy notice on the bottom and our server assured me that there was no dairy and no peanuts in any of the food.
Though the bar was a little cozy (read: bumping elbows with strangers), we had a great view of lots of food, and we were able to catch up on the last couple years while we starved away in anticipation of our food. The atmosphere of Jin is noisy enough to know that everyone is enjoying themselves, but not so loud that it hinders conversation. When the chef placed our bowls of ramen in front of us, I cheered very audibly, to his amusement. Who wouldn’t cheer for their ramen?
Of course, the food was delicious as expected. Jin adds some different toppings than Totto, such as bamboo shoots and those tiny mushroom things, but omits things, like a mound of flavored pork. The result is a simpler texture that allows you to focus on the soup and the noodles, rather than attempting to craft masterful bites with a little bit of each ingredient. Jin provides that seaweed salt that people put on rice, but the ramen was so flavorful that it was unnecessary.
The clientele at Jin Ramen seems to be almost all members of the Columbia community, with one or two families from the neighborhood. Jin has a large table in the front that seems great for a birthday dinner (if you can get it), as well as plenty of room for friends and family. Jin has also opened up a new coffeeshop next door, called Kissaten Jin, which hopefully we will scope out soon. The well-priced menu and the friendly staff make Jin Ramen a great place to bring friend-dates, regular dates, and unicorns alike!
Ramen, always a comfort, becomes even more so with familiar faces. Bear enjoyed not only the food, but also a chance to see Louis the unicorn, whose colorful lilac hide reminds us all the spring is coming soon. The two of them had a lovely afternoon slurping ramen and burning their tongues! Though spring is slow to arrive, it’s nice to know that the impossibly long winter has been filled with good friends and good food.