Hide Chan: Traditional Noodles, Quirky Noodles Shop
Ramen shops are a dime a dozen in New York and most of them are very similar. Hide Chan, a second-floor sliver of a restaurant in Turtle Bay, is quirky enough to be memorable (perhaps for the wrong reasons) and tasty enough to warrant repeat visits. On a quiet block in the 50s, between 2nd and 3rd avenues, Hide Chan is easily missed, with no name printed in English and just a slender staircase leading mysteriously upwards.
The restaurant itself is sparse and narrow, with cheap tables and cheaper design flourishes. I won’t lie and tell you that I remember anything in particular about the look of the place, but I think that just underlines that it doesn’t really matter. People don’t come here for the atmosphere. Perhaps the most striking thing about Hide Chan, other than the ramen, is the music in the background – a strange mix of Barbara Streisand, the early years, mid-90s rock, and old-school lounge crooners.
A list tacked to the wall outlines Hide Chan’s most popular items, and it’s pretty accurate for what to order. The traditional Hakata Tonkotsu ramen tops the list and for good reason. The bowl of thin noodles, steeped in a rich oily broth, with slices of pork layered on top, is satisfying, addictive, and somehow both simple and decadent. Add slices of ginger, provided, to give it an extra kick. The Hakata Spicy ramen is the same scrumptious broth and noodle combo as the traditional option, yet with splashes of rayu, a traditional spice that adds enough heat to clear the sinuses. Always a fan of cold noodles, I couldn’t say no to the Hiyashi Tsuke-Men, a rendition of cold soba, served thick and chilly with a mildly spicy sesame oil and a small bowl of dipping broth, if you feel so inclined. While the traditional Tonkotsu ramen was definitely the highlight, Hide Chan’s noodles are all distinguished by a not-too-slippery and not-too-sticky texture, marvelously rich broths and sauces, and just enough spice to keep you awake.
Hide Chan’s not necessarily a destination ramen shop, but if you’re in Midtown East and desperately searching for something different among the rows of big bucks steakhouses, red sauce italian joints, and mediocre sushi takeout windows, this delectable option on 52nd street will save the day. Don’t be surprised if the music’s more than a bit off or if the service ranks beyond bizarre, just put your head down and slurp away at what you really came for anyway, the ramen.