A Second Tosh’s Blooms
Although the North American ramen craze has mostly subsided and other eats have become more trendy with foodies (think: Korean BBQ and Nashville hot chicken), here in Utah ramen is still rocking. To wit, even four years after it opened Tosh’s Ramen on South State Street still frequently has a queue for tables, not to mention jockeying for the valuable parking spaces out front. But, I bear good news: A second Tosh’s Ramen has opened in Holladay (1963 E. Murray-Holladay Rd) and, so far at least, while the restaurant is busy, parking is a breeze and I haven’t seen the lines that you encounter at Tosh’s 1.0.
Lots of Sweat Equity
Turning a former credit union into a ramen restaurant wasn’t easy. “I had to completely replace the floors and install a kitchen,” says Toshio Sekikawa (aka “Tosh”). He basically had to gut the place and start from scratch – a bigger task than he’d envisioned. But the result is an attractive, spacious ramen house with a contemporary, minimalist look.
The one thing missing from Tosh’s Ramen locations that I’ve found in virtually every ramen bar in Japan is counter seating. Ramen spots there tend to cater to solo diners; here, not so much. But that’s alright. I didn’t get any disapproving looks taking up a two-top by myself on my last visit. To the contrary, the servers are as friendly and accomodating as you’re ever going to find. If I owned a restaurant I’d want to staff it from top to bottom with Tosh’s superb servers.
For those who might not be in-the-know about ramen, it’s a traditional Japanese noodle dish served in big bowls brimming with broth. And indeed, the two essential components of great ramen are great broth and great noodles. Like Vietnamese pho, ramen is all about the broth. Tosh simmers pork and chicken bones overnight to create his wonderful tasting ramen broths, which, unlike broth for pho, is a bit milky looking thanks to the gelatin that emerges from the slow-cooked bones.
Unfortunately, I know of no ramen shops in Utah that utilize homemade noodles. Tosh does the next best thing: he acquires his ramen noodles from Sun Noodle company in Los Angeles; they are noodles of superior quality in taste and texture.
Tosh’s offers seven ramen varieties, including a vegetarian version made with broth from enoki and shiitake mushrooms and konbu (kelp), which features seasonal veggies and can be made with vegan yam noodles upon request.
The most traditional ramen style is the classic Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen. It’s pork broth-based, made with thin, melt-in-the-mouth slices of chashu (pork), with scallions, bean sprouts, a poached egg and thin wheat noodles that are cooked to perfection – not mushy, just slightly al dente. A spicier variant called karai ramen features niku miso (spicy miso marinated ground pork), bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and bean sprouts.
While the tonkotsu ramen is my favorite, I also really enjoy Tosh’s shoyu ramen. This one is made with chicken broth and soy sauce. Tosh also offers a blend of the two – tonkotsu and shoyu – as well as miso ramen and curry ramen. The ramen options run from $9.45 to $12 and there are a number of add-ons available, including extra noodles or egg, bok choy, kimchi, shiitake, additional pork, and more.
For anyone who doesn’t especially care for soup, Tosh’s runs daily specials like fried chicken and regular non-ramen menu items such as the delicious fried pork katsu (sort of a Japanese wienerschnitzel) with curry and rice. Starters like gyoza (regular and vegan), Tokyo chicken wings, edamame and kushikatsu are also available.
I know very few restaurateurs who work harder or longer than Tosh does. He spends a lot of time these days commuting between his Holladay and State Street eateries, and is very hands-on and involved in the day-to-day operations of his restaurants. Having known him since his days at the original downtown Mikado restaurant, Park City’s Hapa Grill, and more recently, Naked Fish Japanese Bistro, I’m thrilled to see Tosh having success with restaurants of his own. If you’re looking for ramen that rocks, this is the place.
Culinary quote of the week: Hell, when I was growing up, I could make a meal out of a package of Top Ramen and a bottle of Windex — Coolio
Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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