When Maya went on her ramen rant last March, I humbly admit that I just didn’t get it. I know that New York is the trend-setter in food, but I also know that historically, things that are popular are not always good. (Atkins diet comes to mind.) Ramen noodles in broth with pieces of this-and-that dumped in? It turns out that this trend is one I hope lasts. And makes its way to the C-bus.
As soon as she met me at LaGuardia, Maya started in. “Do you think you’ll want ramen? I was thinking about ramen. How do you feel about ramen?” Although I’d seen her pictures from Ippudo, and read a little about the craze, I kept envisioning those dried-up three-for-a-dollar guys that sustained me in college. But I trusted Maya’s taste and faked interest in the stuff, promising that I wouldn’t leave the city without a trip to Ippudo. When I saw the line out the door on a Sunday afternoon (we’re talking 1:30-ish, not prime time eating here), I knew I was in for a treat.
She insisted that we have pork buns before the noodles. I’d imagined a wheat-like roll with a piece of pork inside, similar to something I’d had on a plane ride in Cambodia. (Okay, smirk if you want. Pork buns = pork in a bun. It makes sense to my midwestern mind.) Instead we got these. Oh pork, how I love thee.
Before I talk about the actual ramen, let me say this. These bowls are big. As soon as my lunch was in front of me, I quickly conceded that $13 for a bowl of what I thought would be soup was quite fair.
I ordered the special and added kakuni, or braised pork belly to the mix. Soft boiled egg, salty pork- and chicken-spiked thick broth, tender noodles, mushrooms and scallions came together in this giant bowl of love. There’s no doubt that these noodles are handmade; a quick jaunt downstairs (near the facilities) features a room with a tiny window showcasing the hero of the hour – the noodle maker – a person, not a machine.
Maya and the Carnivore each had a bowl of Maya’s favorite, Akamaru Modern, featuring the restaurant’s special garlic-drenched sauce, pork, cabbage and a few veggies. Frankly, I liked mine better.
And so, I begin the search for something similar in Columbus. I don’t expect handmade noodles or a line of hipsters out the door, but I want to have something like this again, and I don’t want to have to go to New York to do it. Suggestions, Columbus foodies?