Seating barely more than 20, along two counters (one looks into an open kitchen), around a communal table in the center, and at a handful of two-tops by the windows, Jun-Men Ramen Bar is the city’s latest and liveliest noodle parlor. The interior is urban-elegant, clad relentlessly in blond woods like some new dorm room in an Ivy League college. The location on Upper Chelsea’s Ninth Avenue makes it convenient to galleries a block away and the burgeoning Hudson Yards developments, whose condos should be coming online in a year or two. After eating your ramen at Jun-Men, you can easily scurry over to Porchlight for a cocktail.
This ramen-ya, the only one in the immediate vicinity, is the brainchild of Jun Park, former chef at Tribeca’s quirky Zutto; he also put in a stint at Catch. The heart of his menu is a mere four ramens ($14 to $18), two of them based on one of the richest tonkotsu (pork bone) broths you’re likely to encounter in this lifetime. That can be a good or bad thing. If you favor the lighter shio or soya broths, or even a broth based on chicken, you’re out of luck.
On the other hand, the tonkotsu here is very, very good. One rendition is delivered plain with the usual accoutrements plus a spray of black garlic-oil droplets; the other arrives fortified with kimchi. The pork belly slabs have been carefully caramelized and are terrific, so wonderfully greasy that the grease drips down onto your plate. Then there is a porky, miso-based ramen and a mazemen, the latter served at room temperature crowned with uni. The noodles are lubricated with porcini butter and truffle oil, making the whole thing taste Italian. Of the four tasted, it was the most expensive and the least impressive. The noodles at Jun-Men are two thicknesses, cooked so that they remain stylishly firm. My favorite was the kimchi ramen, which had more spicy kick than the so-called spicy miso ramen, which was somewhat bland.
Eight "Bites" fill out the brief menu. Naturally, there are steamed bao (two for $9) stuffed with the same great chashu (braised pork belly) that goes into the soup, or with slabs of fried chicken dressed with jalapeño mayo. The glazed chicken wings (4 for $9) were the best things my companions and I tried on a first visit, salty and sweet and crunchy-skinned. Also delightful was the kale salad ($8), the leafy vegetable finely minced and flavored with cheddar and sweet corn kernels. The serving of Jun-Men fried rice ($10) is almost big enough to be an entrée, especially when topped with a runny fried egg; it was very good. There’s a yellowtail ceviche, too, but who wants to preface a bowl of steaming ramen with cold raw fish? It would cook in your stomach.
Beverages offered include very short beer and sake lists, a couple of sake-based cocktails, and a roster of American sodas. For the sweet tooth, there are two desserts, one a cheesecake containing matcha. The chef clearly has an eye firmly on fads. All in all, Jun-Men Ramen Bar provided a pleasant dining experience despite the narrow range of ramen choices. Getting into the small place when you feel like a bowl of noodles, though, may be more of a problem.