A Tale Of Two Ramens, Part 2

Yesterday, we had Part 1 of Trey Popp’s ramen adventure. Today, we present the conclusion, in which he and his faithful companion actually go and eat some ramen in an attempt to determine what the big deal is all about. ~JS

First, we went upscale.

To my palate—unschooled and therefore unspoiled by expectations—the pork belly ramen at Morimoto (above) was remarkable mostly for how thoroughly porky its broth was. As Asian soups go, my touchstones are the intensely aromatic soups of Thailand, and the heavily spiced and condiment-doused foe of Laos (the identical twin of Vietnamese pho, only spelled in accordance with a different transliteration system). The tonkotsu at Morimoto struck me as the product of a different priority: It was less about showing off its ancillary aromatics than emphasizing pork flavor to the nth degree. This it did splendidly, with a full-throated flavor but without the off-putting coagulation of fat that marred a subsequent bowl at Nom Nom Ramen. The noodles were cooked the way I like most noodles: Tender but retaining the spring promised by their kinks. On top were a couple quarter-inch thick slices of pork belly and a hard-cooked egg split down the middle (a minute or two past the soft-cooked egg the menu advertised). Still, it was pretty delicious. I’d slurp it up happily in the winter, though $15 is a stretch for any soup.

My friend the globetrotting ramen expert, though, dismissed the pork belly as inauthentically thick “window dressing.” But it was exquisitely tender, and the soup overall was good enough to win the Iron Chef’s “schtick” a pass in his book.

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A Tale Of Two Ramens, Part 1

A couple weeks ago, I tasked Philly mag’s food critic, Trey Popp, with what I thought was a fairly simple task: Go check out the ramen that has been on the menu at Morimoto forever and see how it stands up to all the newcomers in town. Unsurprisingly (in retrospect), he approached the assignment with a bit more…rigor than I expected. This is Part 1 of his ramen report. Check out Part 2 tomorrow. ~JS

I am a ramen virgin.

There, I said it. Can there be a more embarrassing ignorance for a Philly food writer to own up to in the spring of 2012? Ramen, as you’ve no doubt heard, is the next Next Big Thing. It’s this year’s Korean shortrib taco, the new hand-stretched fior di latte, the next Izakaya pop-up. And here I am, 12 years on from a 12-hour stint on Japanese soil—ten of them in a long-haul-layover coma and the rest waiting for a flight to five-dollar-a-day-land—trying to explain to my wife that there’s apparently more to ramen than peeling the top off a plastic cup and plugging the electric kettle into your dorm room wall.

Exactly how much more, though, is the question.

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