There is no sign that the recent craze for ramen is going away. And, as a rabid ramen lover, I’m fine with that. The more ramen restaurants, the better. If you need assistance sorting through the plethora of ramen eateries in and around SLC, I’m here to help. These are a few of my favorites.
Toshio “Tosh” Sekikawa has been making ramen in Utah for as long as anyone – since before there was a single dedicated ramen eatery, at spots like Naked Fish, Mikado and others. Now Tosh has two Tosh’s Ramen locations: one on State Street in SLC and a second in Holladay. 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. While the tonkotsu ramen ($9.45) is my favorite, I also really enjoy Tosh’s shoyu ramen. This one is made with chicken broth and soy sauce and is served with onsen tamago (boiled egg), pork chashu, bean sprouts, spring onions and perfectly cooked wheat noodles. 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, menma, and more.
I always judge ramen restaurants based, first and foremost, on their ability to produce traditional tonkotsu ramen. Ramen Bar does a very good job of this. The broth here is said to be cooked for 36 hours, and it tastes like it. The pork broth is rich and creamy, brimming with ramen noodles that were just slightly al dente—very nice. The noodles come from a company in California and are of very good quality in taste and texture.The pork ramen ($10) is a bowl of pork bone broth with ramen noodles, roasted pork belly (a big chunk of “end” piece in mine), half a hard-cooked egg, scallions, a square of roasted seaweed and, unexpectedly, corn. Non-meat eaters will appreciate Ramen Bar’s vegetarian ramen made with purple yam noodles.
Ramen aficionados know that rad ramen is all about the stock. At Jinya Ramen Bar, they simmer their ramen stocks for over ten hours. The stocks are made from whole pork bones, chicken or vegetables (depending on the type of stock), spiced with ingredients such as dashi, kombu and bonito. The Jinya cooks are so serious about their broth that they use only FUJI brand water to make it – it’s 99.9 percent free of impurities. However, for those who don’t care for broth, soup haters might enjoy Jinya’s Hiyashi Mazesoba, a brothless ramen bowl. The other key ingredient to great ramen is, of course, noodles. Jinya ages their made-from-scratch-daily, noodles for three days in order to maximize texture and flavor, and offers a choice of either thick or thin ramen wheat noodles, and also spinach noodles.
As someone who has lived in Japan, I’m pretty picky about my ramen. So I’m happy to report that Chef/Owner Mike Fukumitsu’s ramen at Kobe Japanese Restaurant is as good as I’ve had, anywhere. It starts with broth made of pork pieces and bones that he cooks down for at least 24 hours. That’s a fine start, and makes for a wonderfully creamy broth. Add to that a perfectly soft/hard boiled egg, crispy pork belly batons, bean sprouts, nori, pickled bamboo shoots, green onion, narutomaki, and top-quality fresh ramen noodles and you’ve got rad ramen on your hands.
The atmosphere at Ramen 930 in downtown SLC is bold and bright, with a vibrant orange, yellow, and black primary color scheme. It’s a largely young clientele enjoying the not-so-subtle music that permeates the restaurant and doesn’t seem to mind the lack of table service. The owners of Ramen930 did a smart thing, which was to add rice and noodle bowls from Cup Bop to their menu, thereby providing hungry customers with eating options that extend beyond merely ramen. Traditional tonkotsu ramen ($7.95), is a hearty bowl of slightly creamy pork and chicken broth with large, tender slices of roast pork, crunchy bean sprouts, julienned scallions, half a hard-cooked egg, and kikurage (jelly ear mushroom).
One of the newest players on the ramen scene is Toro Ramen on Union Park Avenue in Midvale. Through the years, one of Utah’s most talented (and friendly) chefs has been Sunny Tsogbadrakh. He’s been consistently committed to excellence at restaurants such as Mikado, Naked Fish, Ikigai, and more recently, Nikko Sushi & Ramen in Kaysville. Well, now Sunny has partnered with Tony Magsar to open Toro Ramen. Ramen options at Toro Ramen include tonkotsu, miso, chashu, shoyu, blend (tonkotsu and shoyu with wavy noodles), and karai with spicy ground pork. All ramen comes with pork chashu, soft-boiled egg, bean sprouts, corn and negi.
Yuki Yama in Park City has long been one of my favorite restaurants for sushi. But after a recent visit, it has also become a go-to destination for ramen. There are three ramen options at Yuki Yama: kimchi, vegetarian, and pork, as well as sukiyaki udon. The kimchi ramen with house-made kimchi is spicy and strong, and I also really like the pork ramen with homemade broth, Kurobuta pork belly, scallions, kamaboko and poached egg.
Up in Davis County, Kaysville’s Nikko Sushi & Ramen serves up outstanding ramen. There are three ramen versions at Nikko: miso, shoyu and tonkotsu ($11). All of them come with pork chashu, fish cake, seasoned egg, scallions, nori, and medium-size ramen noodles. I tried the tonkotsu ramen and the broth, in particular, was wonderful. It’s almost creamy, made from slow-cooked pork bones and black garlic oil. The two pieces of pork chashu (belly) were generous, if a little challenging to eat with chopsticks.
Do you have a favorite ramen joint? Let us know about it!
Photos by Ted Scheffler
Culinary quote of the week:
“When I was a kid, I couldn’t see life outside ramen noodles and Kool-Aid.” — Jason Reynolds
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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.