204 N. Ninth Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123
Ramen Boy has been one of the most anticipated openings in recent Philadelphia history. While New York is known for its incredible ramen joints, we have been all but void of this soul satisfying broth and noodle mix (besides a few pop-up places here and there). Keep in mind that real ramen is not the $.25 noodle and spice pack that college students notoriously survive off of, but a rich and complex bowl of broth, noodles, a bit of meat and often a few other adjuncts.
The interior is almost entirely wood, with everything from the seats to the floors to the walls looking rather sleek. Unfortunately the romance is lost when sitting on the backless benches that attempt to be cool, but instead are literally more of a pain in the ass.
There is an open kitchen with all kinds of awesome equipment, and it does make for an interesting atmosphere.
Each table is stocked with the essential Japanese "doctoring up" condiments, my favorite being the chili oil.
The menu offers much of the same on each side, with four featured styles of ramen.
I went with the beef and cheddar "cheesesteak" gyoza. These dumplings are cooked on a special grill that steams them while crisping the bottom. At $6 an order, these were the best part of the meal. They are served with a variety of dipping sauces, two spicy, two sweet. The wasabi is quite tasty, as well as the other spicy one (orange) on the end.
I can honestly say this is the first time I have ever had/seen cheddar cheese sauce on my chopstick. I liked it.
After the dumplings came the ramen. I went with the miso and spicy beef varieties.
The spicy bowl is ten-spice oxtail broth with bean sprouts, ribeye, and jalapeno, in addition to the noodles. This is a delicious and satisfying broth. I added a bit more spice in the form of chili oil, but overall I was a big fan of the beefy, spicy liquid. However, the meat that was served with it might as well have been shoe leather. I was hoping for a meltingly tender bite of steak, but was left tearing at the tough pieces of meat before I gave up and ate around it. The noodles and soup were good together, but I couldn't help but feel cheated. It was a $13 bowl of soup, after all.
The miso ramen is made with miso paste and sake, and served with hard boiled egg, noodles, sprouts, and corn. This ramen base was flat out bland. As much doctoring as I could muster was necessary to make it taste more than faintly like miso soup. I understand the intricacies of Japanese cooking, and simple, subtle flavors are often key, but in this case, it wasn't cutting it. I also couldn't get a read on exactly what pieces of chicken were in the soup. There were thighs, but also some strange parts that were chewy and less than appealing.
The corn also threw me for a loop. I couldn't help but feel it was out of place, and it certainly didn't add anything to the dish.
By the time the bill came, I was pretty unhappy. For starters, my ass hurt from the ergonomically incorrect divots in the bench I was sitting on, and, to follow, the fact that I was paying over $40 with tip for six dumplings and two bowls of miso (for lunch!) was outrageous. That's well above what I consider acceptable for Chinatown eats. With so many delicious soup places around Ramen Boy, I can't see myself paying that kind of money for noodles in broth with questionable meats. I understand they just opened and they need time to get their act together, but even taking that into consideration, this just didn't live up to the hype. You can see what Midtown Lunch thought of it here.