Buy, Sell, Hold is a new column from Eater New York’s chief critic Ryan Sutton where he looks at a single dish or item and decides — should you buy it, sell it (or just don’t try it at all), or hold (give it some time before trying)?
One of the great things about living in Midtown West is the almost unfair collection of solid Japanese spots: Donburiya, Tori Shin, Yakitori Totto, and too many ramen shops to count, particularly ones serving the cloudy, meaty broths known as paitan.
For spicy chile ramen, I swing by Ivan Ramen in Gotham West. For chicken paitan, I drop by Totto. And then for pork paitan, better known as tonkotsu, I go to ... actually, I don’t really go anywhere for tonkotsu on the West Side. Ippudo is the obvious choice for most here, but I’ve never felt it boasted the clarity of flavor or ultra-silky mouthfeel as it does at other, more ambitious outlets like Mu Ramen in Long Island City.
In any case, that’s the long setup for me swinging by the new-ish Hide-Chan at 248 West 53rd Street, the second Manhattan outpost of the famed Fukuoka chain. They’re famous for — you guessed it — tonkotsu, and they’re run by the good people behind the Totto chain. So I figured the odds were in my favor.
If this were a true scientific test, I would have ordered the classic tonkotsu. But by nature, such tests don’t exist in food writing, so to make things a little interesting, I opted for the the shrimp ramen ($16.50), which blends shellfish stock into the tonkotsu base.
Verdict: It was pretty good! I ordered my noodles “firm” and “wavy.” They arrived both firm and wavy (far out!). A few tiny shrimp, just barely cooked through, bobbed in the pink-hued soup.
The crustacean flavor was apparent in just about every sip, conveying a mild, sweet taste of the sea. And the pork paitan broth did precisely what it was supposed to: stay in the background and provide a bit of supple mouthfeel to the shrimp.
But still. The shellfish stock didn’t have that otherworldly depth I’ve experienced elsewhere. About a month or so ago, San Francisco’s Mensho Ramen popped up in New York and served a chicken paitan cut with fish stock. It exuded an intensely powerful maritime musk. The shrimp flavor at Hide Chan, by contrast, lacked that same oomph.
And the tonkotsu base, closer to the end of the bowl, exhibited a touch of unwelcome sediment on the finish, just like at Ippudo.
Don’t get me wrong — everything here was pretty decent. The shrimp ramen works as a reasonably tasty, somewhat rustic dish. But for the cost, I expect just a touch more refinement and flavor. So if you’re in the neighborhood and really, really want to try a bit of seafood-laced tonkotsu ramen, maybe give it a try. If you’re not, maybe don’t.
Make no mistake; I’m not giving up on West side tonkotsu. I’ll be back to Hide-Chan, as well as Totto’s tonkotsu shop, dubbed “Next Door.”
But for now I’m calling Hide Chan’s shrimp ramen a HOLD.