3 out of 4 stars
Ken’s Ramen, the new restaurant located in the heart of downtown’s culinary scene, opened early February of this year and has been much hyped since. Despite the fact that the restaurant only has a few tables and a small noodle bar, the restaurant’s vibe is evident the moment you step inside. Loud hip-hop music blasts over the speakers, chefs busily strain noodles in an open kitchen setting, and waiters and waitresses hurry between taking orders and telling hungry onlookers that the wait will be half an hour.But is the food worth the strain of shouting over the noise, waiting for the table, and feeling deadly full after you’re finished eating? The answer is whole-heartedly yes. I ordered the Tsukemen ramen, a modern version of the ramen dish that involves two bowls. In one, you receive a sheet of nori (a delicious sheet of dried seaweed) placed atop the noodles (sourced from Sun Noodles) . A lime wedge is hooked onto the side of the bowl along a smear of spicy Yuzu pepper. In the other bowl is a deeply rich Katsuo broth made using bonito and a whole chicken. Swimming within the depths of the slurp-worthy broth is menma (bamboo shoots), scallions, kikurage mushrooms, and your choice of either two pieces of char-siu pork belly or 100g of “soy-braised” chicken.
The wide range of flavors, from the chew of the noodles to the depth of the broth to the texture of the meat blend, somewhat surprisingly, well together. There are a total of ten extra toppings that you can add on to any of the four bowls of ramen, most of which are included in at least one of the ramen bowls already. They range from corn to homemade chili oil. I added ajitama to mine, which is a soft boiled egg that is, so says the menu, “soy sauce injected”. I expected to be able to see it with one look at my broth, but it was actually hidden, having sunk to the bottom of the bowl. This at first led me to believe I had been deprived my egg, but was made up for by the fun of finding it in the bottom of my bowl—especially one so perfectly soft and runny—a soft boiled delight.
Other than ramen, there’s not much here. There are seven alcoholic drinks to choose from, sake being one, plus eight different sides, one of which is plain rice. I split a Hirata Pork Bun with my brother that was divine. The bun melted in my mouth with it’s perfectly soft chewiness that makes you want to leave it in your mouth forever. The pork itself is seared through with a blowtorch (right in front of your eyes if you’re as lucky as me to sit at the noodle bar). A small handful of greens add some lightness to the dish and it is all topped off with Ken’s spread sauce.
On a whole, Ken’s Ramen is certainly worth the long wait you’ll have to go through. Having just opened and being the talk of the town with a star menu item as trendy as ramen has filled their doors the couple times I’ve peeked inside, but I insist that shouldn’t turn you off. In fact, it should only build your interest. With so many other good choices for food downtown (Coal Fired Pizza, Viva Mexico, and even Figidini right next door), Ken’s could easily be lost. But with such creative chefs who obviously care about the food, Ken’s seems to be bubbling up to the top of the city’s bowl.
For more info, visit www.kenramenpvd.com
Photography: Bro D