$20 & Under Restaurant Review: Ramen Q’s At Fuji Mart
The world in a bowl, for $9.
Stop it. Stop right now. Step away from that McDonald’s counter and pull your car out of that Burger King drive-thru lane. Why? Because there is a restaurant in Westchester with food so delicious and so cheap, you will never degrade your body with another toxic bag of shame-filled fast food.
That’s right, I’m talking about Ramen Q’s at Fuji Mart, a little ell of a restaurant that’s attached to Scarsdale’s modest Fuji Mart market. You’ve probably driven past these humble digs a thousand times; Ramen Q's is located on Route 22 near Trader Joe’s and Lord & Taylor—816 Post Rd (914-472-1510). Don’t bother looking for a sign, because there is none—there’s just a paper on the door that reads “ramen.” Walk through this door—there is parking nearby, off Gaylor Road—and head left through the market for an aluminum can of hot green or Royal Milk Tea ($1.49). Both are found in the market’s hotbox, which looks exactly like a glass-fronted dorm fridge except that, obviously, it keeps things hot. Your can of tea will be very hot—in fact, as hot as a fireball. (I’ve found that handling the can with a scarf works nicely).
Gingerly handling your scarf-and-can assembly, pay for your tea in the market, then walk into the restaurant expansion next door; there you will find yourself in a modest but serviceable restaurant decorated à la Ikea with retro touches like red Lucite chairs. Whatever. Décor doesn’t matter at Ramen Q’s, and this meal won’t take very long anyway. Step up to the counter and place your order. If you speak Japanese or know the cuisine well enough, order straight from the menu. Otherwise, you can simply ask advice from the incredibly helpful person at the counter (or ask for a menu in English). There are few choices on the menu, which lists all of nine mains and a small group of sides that include forgettable pan-fried gyoza ($5 for 5), white rice ($2), miso soup ($2), etc.
Creamy tonkotsu ramen, in either the shio (salt) or shoyu (soy sauce) versions, is the real reason to hit Ramen Q’s, though the place also does a mean katsu-don ($7), or breaded pork cutlet fried with egg over rice with scallions and vegetables. Sure, there is also chicken shio ramen and chicken shoyu ramen, made with chicken and shellfish broth (both $9), but why bother? Of the two pork tonkotsu ramens, my favorite is the pure, roasty-tasting shio version that tastes, if you can imagine it, the way that naked pork bones smell when they’re browning in the oven. The shio broth is creamy and silky and slicked with a little bit of fat, which tends to form a thin, crackling skin if left undisturbed. Don’t let this happen. At its best, eating ramen should hurt: You must Hoover up the noodles while they’re still scorchingly hot. First, remove your glasses, as they will fog as soon as you attempt a slurp.
Before you go about trying to be delicate with your noodles, look around at the Japanese businesspeople eating their own bowls of ramen. Slurping is not discouraged, so you might as well just go for it. To do this, tweeze a load of noodles into your mouth and then start sucking while the tails of the noodles are still in the broth. To prevent wardrobe disasters, hold the noodles off of your chin with your chopsticks held parallel to the table, about two to three inches from your mouth. Use these only to guide the rocket-hot noodles into your mouth as you suck. Yes, the hot noodles will hurt—but, then, so many pleasurable things do.
Unlike most ramen, the dishes served at Ramen Q’s do not contain halved hard-boiled or poached eggs. Besides bouncy, mildly flavored noodles, this ramen’s only protein comes in a few thick slices of firm chashu pork. There’s also mild, silken menma (or cured bamboo shoots), plus scallions, and filaments of kikurage (wood ear) mushrooms. This is plain food, people’s food, and it’s incredibly filling—no matter who you are, the volume of this deep bowl of ramen surely exceeds the volume of your stomach. Still, if you’re ravenous, you can supersize your ramen as a combo order ($12)—this includes sides of gyoza and either takikomi rice with vegetables and soy sauce or curry rice with a sticky coriander-scented sauce.
Ramen Q’s has a bit of the ephemeral about it—it stops serving at 7 pm, it's cash only, and it's closed on Mondays. Primarily, it’s a lunch and early dinner stop. Nevertheless, it’s a don’t-miss treat.