Jonathan and I have this really bad habit of forgetting certain things. Like, such as, for instance, that Lan Cafe and Lula's both are closed on Mondays. So we'll wander into The City after work, from Queens and Midtown respectively, all the way on down to 6th street in the East Village- only to discover that our destination locations have no love for us. At least, that is, not on Mondays. Terribly sad. And yet, fortunately, the city (and particularly that part of it) has enough to offer that it's pretty much impossible to walk more than about 200 feet without reaching a restaurant that will feed us well. Enter: Souen.
Souen has two old school macrobiotic spots in other locales in the city, but in spring of 2009 it opened this little ramen place. Yep, ramen. You think you've had it right? You boil water, open up that sad little plastic pouch (5 for $1!!), tear open that weird foil packet of powder that somehow contains like 27 grams of fat, soak, stir, and pretend it's food. Right?
That stuff is to a real bowl of ramen as Chef Boyardee in a can is to your mom's marinara with angel hair.
Souen's ramen outlet shows us how a bowl of these noodles is done. Although not a vegan or even vegetarian restaurant, they have a fair number of veg options and will go out of their way to make sure you know what you're being served. That's the kind of effort we appreciate, and when it comes with good food to boot, you know we're happy diners.
This is what I had: udon noodles in a curried broth with tofu.
The noodles, up close.
Jon had what is doubtless a more traditional affair: ramen in a miso-based broth, also with tofu plus a few types of seaweed and other greens.
A closer inspection of the real deal on ramen:
Souen is a long, narrow restaurant and I definitely wouldn't suggest going there with more than an absolute maximum of four people. Two is probably a better idea. But the atmosphere is warm and comforting while simultaneously modern and "organic" - overall pleasing to the eye and comfortable to be in. And that's coming from a girl who's had to leave dinners because I get so claustrophobic and uncomfortable.
Details like the handwritten (or should I say hand drawn) specials board and the extra friendly waitstaff give this hole-in-the-wall noodle joint a downright homey feel. So if you ever find yourself on 6th street on a Monday, craving a little something warm and noodley, this might just be the right dinner spot for you.