Ramen at David's Uptown Noodle

Davids Uptown Noodle ramen

By Deanna Fox

If you are a safe eater, someone unwilling to go beyond your culinary comfort zone, stop reading now.

What I'm about to tell you about can only be described as Chinese grandmother cooking, and for the typical American palate, stagnating in predictable flavors and preparations, that's bad news.

But for you adventurous types in the AOA readership, those who can open their minds (and mouths) to unusual ingredients and authentic, ethnic technique, read on:

David's Uptown Noodle and its ramen menu are awaiting you.

It's amazing that ramen was ever poised for a renaissance in America. The dollar-or-less variety of instant ramen that was the stereotypical sustenance of college students was invented by Momofuku Ando (1910-2007), a Japanese man who took the centuries-old Asian practice of noodles in flavorful broth and made it microwaveable. Ramen has origins in China (Cantonese and Shanghai cooking) and was brought to Japan where the artform of long-cooking broth was mastered and noodles were adapted to become what we recognize as soba and ramen noodles today. (Lucky Peach has a timeline of ramen.)

In the early 2000s, gastronomic wunderkind David Chang opened Momofuku in New York City, a noodle bar that took ramen from the bargain basement and helped popularize it as respected foodstuff in America.

And now in this area, that trend continues with another David (Zheng), owner of Sake Cafe on New Scotland Avenue and Tanpopo, in the former Miss Albany Diner space on Broadway, both in Albany. At Tanpopo, Zheng channels the upscale-but-eater-friendly ramen that Chang helped to popularize stateside. Familiar meats and toppings fill the menu -- nothing too unrecognizable for lovers of Asian food or offensive for noobs to the ramen scene.

That's not the approach at David's Uptown Noodle, Zheng's latest offering. Located on Colvin Avenue in Albany, Zheng eyed the potential for an authentic Asian experience due to the number of Asian college students who live on the nearby blocks. He makes note that when that crowd comes to dine at David's Uptown Noodle, they feel transported back to their nainai's kitchen.

Davids Uptown Noodle pork buns
Pork buns

Much of that comes from the meat used to fill ramen bowls. Tendons, arteries, offal, and cartilage are rife in beef and pork options, giving the soup its deep umami flavors and thick, jiggly consistency.

This isn't beginner ramen. This is stuff you build up to. If you didn't grow up appreciating the nutritional and taste aspects of these overlooked protein sources, their purpose might be lost on you. But if you seek authentic ramen, this is the best you can get short of a market stand with hand-pulled noodles in Tokyo.

Perhaps the mouthfeel is the hardest part of these proteins to become accustomed to. Chewy and stringy, it's not too different from a bite of gristle in a Porterhouse steak or biting into a piece of a joint from the Thanksgiving turkey.

The smell of slow-cooked ramen is less chicken soup and more rendered lard, punctuated with notes of spicy ground pork paste, tea-colored boiled eggs, and fresh vegetal tones of radish and scallion. Add a little red wine vinegar to perforate the rich broth with a bright acidity. (Tonkotsu broth is cooked for 16 hours. Zheng makes it himself and hauls it in 5-gallon pails between his establishments.)

The menu at David's Uptown Noodle mirrors Tanpopo, but it's the preparation that makes all the difference. It's ramen versus ramen-lite. It's Bruce Lee versus Jackie Chan.

Round out the meal with an order of pork buns (worth every cent of the $8 price tag). And if you still have the urge to microwave your ramen, let it be the leftovers you loving retrieve from your fridge after your meal at David's.

Deanna Fox writes about many things, mostly about food. More can be found on her website, Twitter, or Instagram.

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Find It

David’s Uptown Noodle
11 Colvin Ave
Albany, NY 12206

Comments

Oh, man. What I wouldn't do for a mouthful of tendon right now. i'm going to Dave's Uptown as soon as I can get there. Thank you!

Again with the hard-boiled eggs! And once again as a $2 addition!

THESE are the eggs that belong in a real bowl of ramen: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/03/ajitsuke-tamago-japanese-marinated-soft-boiled-egg-recipe.html

The vegetable ramen is vegetarian, scrumptious, not at all hard-core. Being a vegetarian, if I'd read this review prior to going to David's I never would have gone. And that would have been sad for my tummy, because it would have missed out on a very lovely, warming, delicious munch.

Oh MAN I am excited for this.

Just think, a couple years ago our area had no ramen places, now we have two. We had no authentic taco places, now we have a few! We had no half-decent banh mi places... well, I guess we can't have everything.

@Tony -- thanks for the vegetarian addendum. I read this piece and figured this place was not for me. Glad to know I can find a tasty vegetarian ramen there.

Vietnamese sandwiches at Saigon pearl on Madison are pretty darn good and cheap....could eat 5 of them!

We went to Dave's not too long ago, and although we were served a rich, flavorful both with very succulent pork belly, we had some major gripes that I hope they read this and change:

1. Turn on the heat in the dead of winter! It was freezing in there - the hostess/server was wearing her winter parka.

2. Don't give attitude/roll eyes to customers who ask to turn on the heat

3. Get a high chair

4. Don't charge more for adding on an egg - this is requisite of a good bowl of ramen

5. Last but not least - serve the ramen piping HOT. What we got was borderline lukewarm. Unacceptable for Ramen in my mind.

Thanks for posting this... right in my neck of the woods, and can't wait to try it!

The best (tonkotsu) ramen comes from Fukuoka! I'm excited to try this.

Hope it's better than Tanpopo, which was, to be very blunt, sad watery ramen for people who have never eaten the real deal.

I live within steps of Uptown Noodle. My wife and I both got ramen to go about a week or so after opening. It was very disappointing. We were both expecting Tanpopo level ramen, but that's not what we got.

The ramen broth was bland, tasted off, and it was barely lukewarm. As I said, I live within steps of the establishment, it didn't cool because of a long ride home.

Needless to say, I haven't been back, but perhaps it's worth another try.

"...Chinese grandmother cooking, and for the typical American palate, stagnating in predictable flavors and preparations, that's bad news."

That in itself deserves an extended eye roll.

And aren't ramen and bao intended to be frugal, filling meals? $2 for an overboiled egg is an insult.

I also live right around the corner from here and was super excited when it opened. I don't mean to pile on but Dave, c'mon. When I went a month or two ago (on a Friday night--not late, maybe 6) I couldn't have the green salad I ordered because the dressing had GONE bad. They were also out of marinated cucumbers. Um. Okay. Onto the main event. Ramen was okay. Meatballs seemed to be standard issue (I've seen them in the frozen food section at the Asian market) chewy and eh. Brisket was fatty (not bad) and sparse. I want to like this. I really do. Please, Dave. get it together.
I know Taiwan Noodle isn't ramen, but so much better for a steaming-bowl-of-hot-noodles fix.

After reading this review, my significant other and I went to David's Uptown Noodle on Wednesday night. It was wonderful! Our server was really friendly, and the ramen was outstanding.

It's worth emphasizing that the ramen is definitely a more "adventurous" experience than the ramen at other local ramen shops, including Tanpopo. Still, the ramen we had at David's was delicious--piping hot, flavorful, and especially good with the hoisin sauce they served.

Also, for bonus points, their shumai were the best shumai I've ever eaten.

David's Uptown is a much needed addition to the neighborhood and city of Albany. Everything is homeade except for the noodles -- you cannot go wrong with any choice! 👍🏼

Yeah both Daves and Tanopopo pretty darn good in my humble opinion. Sake cafe also pretty darn good. Let the naysayers wine about a $2 egg I'll keep enjoying the ramen which before these places were opened cost me $60 dollars road trip to travel somewhere to get it! For the love of God enjoy yourselves and be happy a guy like Dave has the courage to open 2-3 restaurants in this area...how are your restaurants and businesses doing???

Just had an early dinner at David's Uptown and it was delicious. Whatever the problem with the heat was, it's been solved.
Pork belly buns (eyeroll of ecstasy). Little Hanu Maki, were delicious flavorful eggrolls. I enjoyed the special beef ramen, and want to try other items the next time I go there.
(I've eaten at Tanpopo, and while the food and service was good, IT WAS FREEZING in there, twice this past fall and winter.)
When they get their liquor license (hurry up Dave) it will be great to sip sake or down a beer with the meal.

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