Monday, October 26, 2020

Chicago Ramen

-Grubbing in Chicago(land)
Ramen Royalty out by O'Hare

So this post was originally planned for February but before I could hit post every person involved in food media in the city had done the same. So I figured I'd save it for when the talk dies down. Just to remind people of one of the years best openings. Honestly I haven't been since covid came calling but I've heard of others experiences being positive. Ramen isnt the best as far as foods taken to go but they package it properly. Chicagoland is in the midst of what I call Ramen Boom 2. I like to keep my eye on recently opened restaurants in the Chicagoland area and it feels like every other opening right now is a ramen shop. Plus more are coming. That said most of them are crap. When ramen got big so did figuring out ways to make it faster and easier. It's possible quite a few of these new spots get the same broth from the same factory. In fact in a few cases these places are owned by the same corporation. This results in similar menus and recipes served under different names. That said it's pretty easy to pick out the places worth checking out. So far there's two very much worth mentioning. I already featured Menya Goku which is located on the city's Northside. Today we visit the other one. 

 Newly Opened in Des Plaines 

The easiest way to tell if a ramen shop is serious about their craft is by looking at the menu. The more crap the less likely it is to be special. Or the more likely it is to be run by a corporation. At this point any spot doing something other than Tonkotsu should be given a visit too. If for anything bc they're not following the flow which is how ramen is supposed to go. Japan is a super traditional country especially with food but ramen is the one dish where chefs are welcome to be original and stand out in some sort of nontraditional way. Though the name of Chicago Ramen is pretty generic the guy behind it is very well known on the ramen circuit. Kenta Ikehata became known running the popular Tsujita in Tokyo before opening their Los Angeles location. Now he’s here in Des Plaines hoping to break into the Midwest market. This should be easy if my first few visits are any indication.

Tsukemen at Chicago Ramen

Tsujita is known for their tsukemen aka dipping ramen. But if I’m being honest I didn’t love it in LA. That said Chicago Ramen also lists Tsukemen first though the crowds seem to be favoring the miso ramens (red and white) early on. Not sure what happened in LA bc this was much better. Guessing it’s kind of it’s own thing since this isn’t a Tsujita. Sun Noodles are served cool. Spray them with a lime and dip the noodles into the hot and thick pork stock that’s cooked for more than 40 hours in-house. The chasu (house sliced pork) was perfectly tender and when it and all the noodles are gone you get a few scoops of hot light broth in your dipping stock which turns it into a delicious bowl of soup. It was a really nice experience getting to sit around the kitchen and watch Chef Kenta Ikehata work his magic. Word is he's trying to make Chicago Ramen a brand so go now while he's there.

White Mabo Tofu

If you're thinking of doing takeout at Chicago Ramen the White Mabo Tofu is a dish that would travel fairly well. It's also unlike any other dish I've tried. It's more Chinese than Japanese but pretty much all Asian food derives from China one way or the other. Here's Mike Sula at the Reader on it. "White mapo tofu ramen was born at Tsujita in LA, and it's the White Walker of ramen varieties. A riff on the lava-colored Sichuan mapo tofu, it features a relatively light chicken broth, a thinner-bore Sun noodle, and a pile of soft, silky tofu nestled within. It looks as midwestern as hotdish, but for the blanket of black pepper on top and the Thai chilis lurking in its depths. You can customize the spice level, and if you're battling a viral invader I recommend you push yourself to the limit." Like Chicken & Dumplings. 

Red Miso Ramen at Chicago Ramen 

Chicago Ramen offers a red and a white miso ramen. The pastes of which make the broth almost a creamy consistency. I tried the red last winter and I cant remember if I ordered it extra hot or it's just served spicy but it was a nose burner. There was alot going on. Too much maybe for me. But I love how the broth for these bowls visit a wok which gets it all sorts of smoky. As mentioned it's been a few months since my last visit but the miso options were the most popular early on. But if you read all of the glowing reviews it's the Tsukemen that most people praise. The chicken gets some love too. 

Miso Ramen at Chicago Ramen 

Chicago Ramen 
578 E Oakton St
Des Plaines, IL 60018
(224) 938-9982 

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