Around this time last year, I was thinking the plummeting temperatures of early winter meant it was the perfect time for a nice hot bowl of ramen. Some friends pointed me in the direction of Sushi Tei in Guilderland, and it turned out to be a great find. And now that I’m starting to get the same winter vibes this year, it seemed like a good time to finally check out the new kid on the ramen block: Fujiya Ramen on Central Ave in Albany. The menu has a lot of interesting variations, including chicken, sesame, seafood, and beef based broths, in addition to the more typical tonkotsu or miso options.
We arrived at peak lunchtime on a weekend and there was only one other customer – perhaps a warning sign, or perhaps just a slow day. Regardless, we went for it and ordered the classic tonkotsu ramen (with pork belly, scallions, kikurage mushrooms, and pickled ginger) for easy comparison to the others we’ve tried locally, as well as the kaisen ramen (with shrimp, squid, fishcake, cabbage, carrot, broccoli, and kikurage mushrooms). A complimentary bowl of salted edamame pods was a nice start to the meal, and had me feeling optimistic.
Alas, I can’t say that my optimism survived the ramen itself.
The tonkotsu broth was fine, but didn’t wow me – I definitely prefer it at Sushi Tei and probably also at Tanpopo. It just felt a little one-note and salty, whereas I was looking for more depth and complexity in the flavor. I also felt like there could be more ingredients added into the base. At Sushi Tei you also get a hard boiled egg and bamboo chunks, and at Tanpopo you get some fishcake mixed in. Here there were only a few ingredients (although you could add more for $2-3 a pop), and it was predominantly the overly generous topping of scallions.
I did, however, really enjoy the noodles themselves. They were cooked to a nice al dente chewiness, which I like because it makes the meal feel heartier. There’s some difference of opinion on this – others I know have complained that denser noodles reduce the “slurpability” of a soup. But I was a fan.
The kaisen ramen had some nice chunks of seafood and a few more vegetables mixed in, but something about this broth just wasn’t as good as we expected. It had a very strong seafood taste but with a buttery heaviness that was a little off-putting. I would recommend skipping this one.
We had seriously eyed the sesame broth on the menu but didn’t end up trying it, and now I’m kicking myself because a couple of people have since told me it’s the best one. What this really means is that another trip to Fujiya is probably on the horizon so I can settle my thoughts on which ramen place should be my go-to. So far, I still think Sushi Tei has the winning bowl, but there’s plenty of time to get to the bottom of this before warm weather returns.