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.