In Japan, ramen is treated with the same reverence as the South’s beloved barbecue. Tonkotsu versus shoyu is akin to Carolina versus Memphis. Here are six local versions of ramen:
The standard:naruto ramen at Yakitori Jinbei
Ramen makers adjust the temperature and cooking time of the broth to extract the best taste. Chef Jae Choi of Yakitori Jinbei incorporates three types of pork bones, chicken bones and dried fish, varying temperatures and tempering flavors to provide what he calls “utmost umami.” He tops the rich broth and noodles with ramen’s most common topping: glazed and torched chashu (braised pork belly). He also adds two kinds of mushrooms — kikurage (wood ear) and enoki — plus spring onions, and a jammy soft-boiled egg.
Yakitori Jinbei. 2421 Cobb Parkway SE, Smyrna. 770-818-9215, yakitorijinbei.com.
Best vegetarian:spicy creamy vegan ramen at Jinya Ramen
The recipe for Jinya’s vegan broth is a well-guarded secret. It gets depth of flavor from the slow simmering of yellow onion, green onion, garlic, vegetables and chili oil for more than 10 hours. Sesame paste and tofu are responsible for the velvety texture and savoriness. It’s like melted garlic bread in a bowl. Chili oil injects just enough kick, while sesame seeds, garlic chips and crispy fried onion lend textural balance. Upon ordering, request kaedama, and extra noodles will be delivered just as you finish your first batch. Jinya also makes spinach noodles for extra vegan slurping.
Jinya Ramen. 3714 Roswell Road, Atlanta. 404-254-4770; and 5975 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. 404-600-6974, jinya-ramenbar.com.
Best chicken:sutamina ramen at Haru Ichiban
Each of the 11 types of ramen here can be customized with the broth of your choice. If you don’t choose, you will receive shoyu (soy), and it’s a wise choice for the sutamina ramen. On top of thick, rich broth and supple, chewy noodles is a pile of crispy chicken nuggets (karaage), minced garlic, balls of tempura crunch and sesame seeds. There are greens and roots to go with the crunch — spinach, wakame (seaweed), slivered scallions and bamboo shoots. A runny, poached egg adds to the chicken pleasure.
Haru Ichiban. 3646 Satellite Blvd., Duluth. 770-622-4060, haruichibanjapaneserestaurant.com.
Best late night:ramen at Octopus Bar
Owner-chef Nhan Le builds a bowl of ramen around shoyu tare, the concentrated sauce responsible for the broth’s flavor, and incorporates smoked, rendered chicken fat in his mayu, the source of the smoky aromas. He tops the slow-simmered broth and noodles with chashu, a 6-minute egg, spicy fish powder, nori (seaweed) and tangy slivers of menma (bamboo shoots). The unctuous flavor bomb is late-night salvation in a bowl. Octopus Bar opens at 10:30 p.m.
Octopus Bar. 560 Gresham Ave. SE, Atlanta. 404-627-9911, octopusbaratl.com.
Fanciest:A5 wagyu mazemen at Brush Sushi Izakaya
The soupless form of ramen, called mazemen, typically has a base of shoyu and lard. Chef Jason Liang uses house-made soy and A5 wagyu fat mixed with green onions. A5 is the highest grade of Japanese beef. Atop a heap of thin and slightly curly noodles sit a hunk of seared A5 wagyu, ikura (salmon caviar), uni (the edible part of sea urchin), kizami nori (roasted, shredded seaweed), a chiffonade of green shiso leaves, and a soy-seasoned half-boiled egg. Maze means “to mix,” so, after oohing and aahing over the presentation, mix it all together.
Brush Sushi Izakaya. 316 Church St., Decatur. 678-949-9412, brushatl.com.
Best local spin:ramen at BoccaLupo
BoccaLupo’s Bruce Logue cooks down collard greens, pork belly and barrel-aged soy for a potlikker-esque essence that is the backbone of his ramen. It’s smoky and rich, and fat from add-ins like prosciutto prolong the release of flavors. House-extruded linguitini noodles cleave to the broth. He also adds boiled peanuts, a mound of Woodland Gardens’ edamame, chili paste, collards and a soft-cooked, soy-marinated egg. Much like Japanese chashu, two thick slabs of seared and fork-tender pork belly enhance the porky intensity of this genius Southern take on a Japanese classic.
BoccaLupo. 753 Edgewood Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-577-2332, boccalupoatl.com.
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