Kingston’s food scene gets even better with the addition of Midtown Kingston’s Tanma Ramen, a tempting eatery led by a longtime restaurateur.
Youko Yamamoto misses traditional ramen. Those heaping bowls of broth topped with colorful fishcakes, seaweed sheets, soft-boiled eggs, and multiple cuts of meat that we’ve all become accustomed to are not the real deal. During the ‘60s and ‘70s, Yamamoto grew up in the bustling port cities of Yokohoma and Hiroshima, where ramen was simple: the broth was light, the vegetables were fresh, and it was “nutritious and healing,” she says—as opposed to the aesthetic and often overzealous versions we’re served in most Japanese restaurants. (And don’t get Yamamoto started on instant ramen—that’s a hard pass.)
On the corner of Broadway and Cedar Street in Midtown Kingston, Yamamoto serves up the very ramen she’s been craving since leaving her homeland. The eatery would be right at home on any side street in Tokyo—there’s a classic 7-seat bar where you can peer into the kitchen and have your ramen handed to you from Yamamoto (a very common arrangement in Japanese ramen shops). Just beyond the bar’s curtains, you’ll find a moody tavern setting with a selection of imported sake and beers.
This “little portal to Japan,” as Yamamoto calls it, isn’t her first restaurant stint: for nearly a decade, she cooked up Japanese omakase and traditional plates at cult-favorite Gomen-Kudasai in New Paltz. After it closed in 2018, Yamamoto spent several years mapping out plans for a dedicated ramen restaurant and opened Tanma in December 2021.
The reservation-only spot is open for dinner Wednesday–Saturday and offers a curated menu of Yamamoto’s favorites. Start with small plates like avocado sashimi, hiya-yakko (tofu with ginger and mackerel flakes), and Manchukuo-style gyoza. The gyoza is Yamamoto’s father’s recipe from when he lived in China before World War II; the dumplings are filled with organic pork and cabbage, braised, and then steamed. Pair your small plates with imported drinks, like Itoen brand iced or hot teas, Kimino sparkling drinks, beer, or chilled sake. (Try the Dassai sake—it’s produced by Asahi Shuzo, and the company is building a sake brewery in Hyde Park that’s slated to open next year.)
The main event is, obviously, the ramen. At Tanma, choose from two bowls: the best-seller miso or vegan-friendly shio. The miso ramen has a misodashi (miso broth) made from seven different types of miso paste and a combination of 17 secret seasonings. It’s then diluted with equal parts clear broth, bone broth, and Yamamoto’s special “carnibroth.” She tops it with yellow noodles, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, wakame seaweed, scallions, and pork belly chashu. (Cooking the chashu, by the way, is a 10-day process.) Like true Japanese ramen shops, there’s an “extra toppings” option, where you can spend a little more for additional vegetables, chashu, and noodles (called “kaedama”).
Quite possibly the coolest perk is that Yamamoto will teach you how to eat her ramen the authentic way. First, don’t mix your ramen—everything is placed in specific sections of the bowl for optimal taste. Take your spoon and enjoy some of the warm broth. Then, scoop up a generous helping of noodles and dunk into the broth, then slurp it up—don’t be afraid to make some noise!
In Japanese, “tanma” means to call “time-out” from a childhood game like tag or hide and seek. Yamamoto hopes for Tanma Ramen to be an escape from work and stress, as well as introduce customers to authentic Japanese cuisine. “We all need to take a break and switch directions from where we are headed—hopefully with a healing bowl of noodles,” she says.
579 Broadway, Kingston \ tanmaramen.com
Related: Your Delicious Guide to Dumplings in the Hudson Valley