F, V at Lower East Side-Second Ave.; L at First Ave.
Like typical eight-person ramenyas in Japan, Minca is cramped, not air-conditioned, and has exposed brick walls and just a few tables. The best place to sit is at the long wooden bar facing the kitchen, so you can watch the chef cook. Ramen is Japan's most popular street food, so it's no surprise that lots of teenage Japanese expats frequent the place, along with suit-and-ties pausing for a quick after-work meal. Aside from a few Japanese beers, appetizers, and one rice dish, there's nothing but ramen on the menu—so it's a good thing it's done well. First, you choose from five types of broth; the best option is shoyu, chicken and soy sauce, which has a thick, meaty texture; the noodles are springy wheat chukasoba noodles. The best dishes combine chunks of pork or seafood with the noodles: Charshu ramen has two types of mushrooms and melting, buttery, thin slices of pork cooked in oil and garlic in front of you; seafood ramen contains generous pieces of shrimp, baby conch, squid, and bay scallops, which give the broth a tantalizingly briny taste. All ramen bowls are topped with scallions, black mushrooms, a sheet of nori seaweed, and tamago, half a hard-boiled egg cooked in soy sauce.Recommended Dishes
Shrimp gyoza, $6; charshu ramen, $5