In Praise of Ramen
Prime places for a heavenly bowlful of noodles, broth and more.
Last week I went to a screening of the 1985 movie Tampopo at the Enzian Theater. The archetype of all food movies, made when references to high-end gastronomy and humor about food snobs was appreciated by just a tiny segment of the audience (unlike now), it revolves around the search for perfect ramen. Combining very smart and slapstick humor, it is a love poem to the traditional Japanese ramen restaurant, and it makes me crave a bowl of noodles and broth just thinking about it.
So while I dream of an authentic phone booth-sized ramen-ya opening in Orlando someday, here’s my unscientific, totally biased, Top 6 roundup of local ramen (there are lots more—tell me your fave!):
Baoery Asian Gastropub: Excellent in all regards, particularly the kimchi shellfish. But sadly, you’ve got only a couple of days left to enjoy it. More on that below.
Domu: Fabulous broth and ingredients in the Tokyo ramen (chicken, egg, wood ear mushrooms, duck fat), but I find the noodles disappointing.
Dragonfly Robata: Miso-braised short rib ramen is a heady pleasure.
Hanamizuki: Lunch only, very diverse offerings including shoyu noodles in soy broth and salty and savory shio butter ramen.
Seito Sushi: House-made noodles and a rich broth makes for an outstanding bowl.
Sushi Pop: Chef Chau’s mama crafts the Sunday-only ramen offerings, offering fresh rye and buckwheat noodles and richly flavored broth.
Vegan ramen at Seito Sushi (photo courtesy of the restaurant)
Baoery Asian Gastropub is closing March 31. It was the latest iteration of casual restaurants in a difficult location. At the far edge of a restaurant-filled block that harbors Soco and Shari Sushi, the spot had been Central City Market and Cityfish before becoming Chef Greg Richie's Baoery in 2015. A wonderfully informal late-night place for that terrific ramen, sandwiches, and a pioneer in the now popular bao scene (Baoery's Korean fried chicken-filled "Twin Dragons" being my personal favorite), the restaurant suffered from a combination of parking woes, too large a space and the curious indifference local diners seem to have for Thornton Park. I've seen several exemplary eateries struggle in the neighborhood and finally close (Chez Jose, Aroma and Il GelatOne are much missed), and such is the case for Baoery. Richie told me that Baoery is "a concept that could have grown, just not in that space.'' He compares the experience to making a movie. "We made a good product, and it was getting better every day, but we flopped at the box office." Like any great artist, Richie has a lot more to show us, both at his flagship Soco and whatever comes next.
Orlando’s own four-time James Beard Award nominee, Kathleen Blake of The Rusty Spoon, hosts a star-filled “Women in the Kitchen” celebration on the grounds of Lake Meadow Naturals on April 23rd. Cooking for the event will be—deep breath—Paula DaSilva, Artisan Beach House; Katharine Elderslie, Elderslie Farm; Adrienne Grenier, 3030 Ocean; JB Award Winner Melissa Kelly, Primo; JB Award Winner Emily Luchetti, The Cavalier; Whitney Otawka, Greyfield Inn; Jenn Puccio, The Park Tavern; JB Award Winner Anne Quatrano, Star Provisions; and Gloriann Rivera, 1921 by Norman Van Aken. Tickets are available by calling 407-401-8811.
What began as a way to share Poca’s Hottest hot sauce has become a community-spanning extravaganza: The 6th annual Sauce Cook-Off fills Will’s Pub on April 16 with a cooking competition using Wendy Davis’ piquant creations, plus a free taco bar, kids dance club and a food drive for Ferncreek Elementary School. Bands feature alternative music superstar G-Love and local stars Beebs and Her Money Makers, Kaleigh Baker and The Absinthe Trio (all three featured in November’s Music Issue!).
Sources tell me that chefs Alex Meyer and Josh McFall, late of Citrus Restaurant, have unpacked their knives at the Outpost Neighborhood Kitchen in College Park. The Citrus space soon becomes Jason Chin’s Mexican concept Reyes Mezcaleria, overseen by Seito Sushi’s executive chef, Austin Boyd.