a few good ramen
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A Few Good Ramen
August, 2010, Page 188
Photos by Enrique Hernandez
Ramen is all the rage this summer, so slurp up these bowls of noodle-y goodness.
1301 E. University Drive, Ste. 114, Tempe, 480-388-3685
For Republic Ramen owners Rey Perez and Kim Ahn, Asian noodle shops abounded in their former home cities of New York and Los Angeles but were nearly impossible to find in the Valley. So in April, the husband and wife opened their own fast-casual café just a block from Arizona State University’s Tempe campus. One bite, however, shows that this is no college dorm cuisine.
Chef Jared Lupin attended culinary school in Korea and has worked at Scottsdale venues Drift, Geisha A Go Go and Stingray. He’s constantly adding to his menu, experimenting with both traditional tastes and inventive dishes, like cold
noodles with dipping sauce, and edamame hummus. The result is a build-your-own affair, starting with stock bases of
(fermented soybean paste),
(clear salt), rich
(pork), vegetarian seaweed, or a house specialty blend jazzed up with exotic peppers.
Start with beef, pork, shrimp or tofu with fresh spinach, sweet bell peppers and carrots. Then pile on char siu (Japanese pork), scallion,
(Japanese fish cake accented by a pink swirl in the middle), bell pepper, egg,
, corn and/or bean sprouts, plus condiments like fiery Sriracha and togarashi spice.
The Compound Grill
7000 E. Mayo Blvd., Bldg. 21, Phoenix, 480-585-5483
In Japan, ramen shops are on nearly every city block, happily existing in guises from elegant sit-down restaurants to relaxed roadside stands called ramenyas, or even closet-size train station cubbies where commuters stand at a counter over a quick meal of skinny noodles swimming in steaming broth.
Even the most rabid ramen lover likely will be surprised by this venue: It’s a showcase of live music in a Phoenix strip mall, with rock, jazz, blues and eclectic/indie performed five nights per week on a stage adjacent to a sleek wood- and steel-trimmed restaurant and bar.
Opened last November from the producers of the McDowell Mountain Music Festival, John and Cathy Largay, Compound has featured national acts such as Dave Mason, Los Lobos, Cowboy Junkies and The Tubes. In this creative kitchen, Chef Memo Maldonado riffs on the classic soup recipe, calling it “Rockin’ Ramen” and utilizing a base of slender soba noodles in a vegetarian broth bobbing with mushrooms, greens, coriander, onions and sprouts sourced from local organic farms. Lighter than meat-based soups, this broth is engagingly sour, kissed with a little sweet. It’s an enormous bowl, but heartier appetites can add beef, chicken or shrimp.
Hana Japanese Eatery
5524 N. Seventh Ave., Phoenix
Ramen can be much more than simple comfort food. It can be art – an expression of the chef through noodles and long-simmered broth. At Hana, Chef/owner Koji Hashimoto makes magic in big bowls, with fat tangles of udon alongside crunchy tempura shrimp and vegetables in light soy broth, or skinny brown buckwheat soba noodles tumbled with shrimp in salty soy soup.
, he tosses together pan-fried shrimp, vegetables and rice flour noodles, served sizzling on a cast iron plate. For summer he makes chilled
ramen with chicken – an extra special delight when followed up with a scoop of vanilla-wasabi ice cream custom created for the Hashimoto family by Scottsdale’s Sweet Republic.
Chef Koji has the chops to wield his chopsticks in style: He worked at Scottsdale’s Kyoto and Shogun, his own (now closed) restaurant in California, with Wolfgang Puck, and the former Ayako Sushi at Biltmore Fashion Park. As good as Hana’s dishes are, the Yakibuta Ramen is a standout, luxurious buttery brown broth brimming with fish cake, thick slices of unctuous pork, slips of crisp bamboo shoot and briny seaweed. The slow-cooked pork falls apart like barbecue, with just enough chew to stand up to the silky noodles.
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