Cheap Eats

Super bowls that hit the spot.

Ramenesque: Family-style at Chinatown's Ajisen Noodle.
Don't look for any resemblance between a packet of instant ramen noodles and a steaming bowl of deeply flavored tonkatsu ramen from Ajisen Noodle, the first American branch of an Asian ramen chain that opened in Chinatown this spring. Expect, instead, springy noodles, roasted pork, scallions, and hard-cooked egg in a smoky, buttery broth made from long-simmered pork bones ($4.75). The "tenderous ribs" version features something the menu ominously calls "steamed gristly ribs," which turn out to be rich, fatty chunks of tender, slow-cooked boneless pork ($6.25).

Not in the mood to pig out? Choose an alternative soup stock, like curry or miso, which is also an option at Rai Rai Ken, a new East Village noodle shop with a menu as minute as its fourteen-stool premises. There's gyoza (Japanese pork dumplings) and ramen, available three ways: miso with chicken, shoyu (soy sauce), and shio (chicken broth), the latter two of which come chock-full of bamboo shoots, sliced roast pork, egg, scallion,and seaweed ($6.50). In the theater district, Little Yokohama occupies an equally cramped, twelve-seat space. Customize your soup by selecting one of four noodles -- a thick udon, a thin udon, soba, or seaweed -- or beat the heat with a wonderfully refreshing summer cold-noodle special. Yakko-soba is our idea of the perfect, slurpable pre-theater supper: slick buckwheat noodles adorned with squares of cold tofu, julienned cucumbers, eggs, seaweed, and shaved bonito, in a scallion and ginger dressing ($8.75).

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· AJISEN NOODLE, 14 Mott St., 212-267-9680
· RAI RAI KEN, 214 E. 10th St., 212-477-7030
· LITTLE YOKOHAMA, 374 W. 46th St., 212-315-3161