By Lori Vetrano
When most of us think of the word “ramen,” we think of the 99-cent sodium-filled, processed, easy-to-make dorm room staple sitting in all of our cupboards. Yet according to the sign posted in the window of Philly’s new Ramen Bar located at 40th and Locust, ramen is essentially supposed to be a “steaming bowl of fresh Japanese noodles, folded neatly in a rich, well-concocted broth with a layer of harmonized toppings.” Clearly, we have lost the art of the fresh, rich food that we’ve come to associate with desperation and being broke. However, noodle bars have been popping up all over the city to remind us exactly what the taste of this noodle soup should be.
Ramen Bar, which opened this past September, is just around the corner from Greek Lady and Qdoba on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus. Upon walking inside, the smell of fresh ramen noodles is immediately recognizable.
The interior has chic, modern Eastern-style decor with a cafe feel. The chefs are in the corner cooking the food, where the customers can see that the food is freshly made.
The menu offers some variety of foods: The main dishes of course contain ramen noodles, meat and vegetables.
However, Ramen Bar does offer another array of foods that contain simply meat, vegetables and rice for those who would rather not consume their daily serving of carbohydrates in one meal. They also serve appetizers such as edamame, tempura, tofu, tuna and dumplings. The Shumai, or shrimp dumplings, are tiny bite-sized pieces that are the perfect combination of thin, chewy dough and shrimp. They’re the perfect appetizer—small but satisfying.
However, you may still want to split an appetizer because the dishes are huge. The bowls are gigantic and filled almost to the top with broth, noodles and toppings. Ramen Bar’s most recommended and favorite dish is the “Zenbu No-Se Ramen,” which contains pork, mushroom, egg, fish cake, sesame and scallions. Although the $15 price tag may be a bit expensive, the size of the bowl and the quality of the dish justify the amount.
This certainly isn’t the cheap, fake-shrimp-flavored salty packaged food that we’re used to consuming, but instead a fresh, tasty and warm soup that is perfect for the coming cold weather. The pork is tender and flavorful. (If you’re not a pork fan, you can always replace with chicken or shrimp.) The fish was fresh and didn’t taste too salty, and the noodles were firm and tasted much more wholesome than the packaged kind. The broth had a unique, slightly creamy yet thin consistency and was delicious to slurp on its own.
The bowls will most likely render you unable to order dessert, but if you somehow find, Ramen Bar offers delicious Pan-Asian ice creams: green, mochi, red bean and fried.
Most of the dishes besides the Zenbu are under $10, which makes it pretty easy on your wallet, especially in the city. The next time you’re in Philadelphia and are craving a different, cultural sort of cuisine without hurting your wallet, stop by Ramen Bar.
The ramen noodles aren’t as cheap as the 99-cent ones in your dorm room, but they’re certainly a lot more fresh and tasty. But be warned: Once you try the real deal, you may not be able to turn back.