The place with the kind of funny name had some kind of good food. Really good, actually. And it felt different inside the restaurant — somewhere between New York City hole in the wall and inoffensive Boulder chic.
The restaurant is called My Ramen & Izakaya, and they serve ramen, Japanese rice bowls, seafood and a few other miscellaneous items and drinks. An izakaya is sort of like a pub; a Japanese-style bar and drinking parlor. It’s hard to pinpoint what in the decoration of My Ramen sets it apart from other restaurant designs in Boulder, but there’s a distinct urban vibe that feels unique. The space itself is set up like a city diner, about 15 feet wide and a million miles deep, allowing for only one two-person table to fit along the long side of the restaurant. There are these cool white industrial asterisk-looking light fixtures hanging from the ceiling, and the furniture inside is black and metal.
As for the food, though there are some really tantalizing items on the menu (pork belly, octopus dumplings, baked mussels and a beautiful, large grilled squid), I was eager to go after the ramen. It’s in the name after all, and the ramen shop is a national trend that has recently manifested in Boulder at several places.
At some point, ramen changed from the $0.10 pack that came in beef, chicken and shrimp flavor at the store to a $10 bowl you had to wait in line to get in culinary centers on the coasts. We’ve had our pick of pho — spoiled by pho even! — but ramen is relatively new to Boulder and distinct in that it uses different broth (pork and chicken bones are simmered with vegetables for hours to make ramen broth at My Ramen), different noodles and different ingredients.
My Ramen hits on a couple different styles of ramen. Their soup bases include options for miso (bean paste), shoyu (soy sauce), curry, vegetarian miso, and one with sesame paste and soy milk added in.
The serving size is ample. For roughly $11, you’ll get a bowl that’s about a foot in diameter, and 6 inches high, filled to the brim with noodles, vegetables and some add-ins depending on what you order. We tried out the Tantanmen and the vegetarian ramen (forgoing the “Favorite” and the “Chilled” ramen because the Tantanmen was like the “Favorite” amplified to 11; and because it was windy and cold outside so Chilled didn’t seem too appetizing.)
The Tantanmen featured a half boiled egg, spicy ground pork, wood-ear mushroom, bean sprouts and onions all bathing in a sesame paste, soymilk and house soup base. The noodles were in the familiar long pig’s tail, curlicue shape and tasted just like the ramen we all grew to know and love in high school and college. But, here, the soup was remarkably better than those little metal packets, with the rich, umami pork flavor taking up the palate, and the onions, mushrooms and bean sprouts balancing out each bite. In the vegetarian bowl, the richness of the broth was remarkable for not involving any bones. It certainly didn’t have as many flavor and textural elements as the Tantanmen, but it was light, and satisfying all at the same. It also came with inari, or fried sweet tofu skins, that were pretty spot-on.
Though the trend took a while to get to Boulder (heck, the owners of My Ramen have had a shop in Lafayette, Udon Kaisha, for some time), My Ramen does it well, making it a nice addition to the city’s food, and ramen, scene.