With the addition of Haru Ramen & Kushiyaki, the forthcoming Dip Dip Dip Tatsu-Ya, Zen, and Ichiban, Allandale now has four spots to enjoy Japanese cuisine (Kiwami Ramen, which would have made it five, recently closed). And with the ramen revolution still in full swing, the ‘hood will have three ramen joints (assuming that Dip Dip Dip will ladle up its parents’ specialty).
As I mentioned in a review of Kiwami Ramen, it takes big takoyakis to open up a ramen joint in the sumo court of Ramen Tatsu-Ya, but Haru delivers. Don’t get me wrong: Ramen Tatsu-Ya remains at the top of the noodle pile, but Haru conjures delicious broths and bowls when you don’t want to drive across town and stand in line for 30 to 45 minutes.
Haru, formerly known as Harabi, serves tonkotsu-style ramens which build upon an all-day-to-make pork-bone broth (tonkotsu means pork bones). The menu presents basic tonkotsu ramens named white (original tonkotsu), black (with black garlic oil and black sesame), red (with spicy seasoning), and brown (with miso) as well as signature ramens (bulgogi, spicy miso, and Don Katsu). In addition, Haru prepares tsukemen (cold ramen) and a vegan ramen. For the kiddos or ramen architects, there’s a basic broth and noodle option where you choose the toppings. There are 19 toppings to choose from and three bowl bombs (lemon yuzu kosho, miso butter, and hot chili). Haru also presents teriyaki (grilled items), katsu (fried chicken and pork), and donburi (rice bowls) as well as “meat things”, “green things”, “fish things” for appetizers or tapas-style grazing. Bento boxes are prepared up until 3 pm.
After the cold front moved through over the holidays, ramen seemed to be just what the ishi ordered. Based on how busy it was (we sat at the last available table), others had the same idea. We started our meal with warm sake and, among the three of us, ordered sea-salted edamame ($4), a black ramen (extra rich pork bone broth, house-made pork belly chashu, aji tamago, negi, and wood ear mushroom with black garlic oil and black sesame, garlic chips and nori; $12), a brown ramen (rich pork bone broth, house-made pork belly chashu, aji tamago, negi, and wood ear mushroom with miso and sweet corn; $12), and a bulgogi ramen (donkotsu broth, beef bulgogi, onions, napa cabage, bean sprouts, enoki mushroom, and green onion; $13). The ramens were good; I actually found the brown ramen to be richer and tastier than the black, but I was not disappointed with my bowl of Vader. Again, these are not Ramen Tatsu-Ya-level, but they are competent and hit the spot.
Yakitori are skewers or kabobs, and Haru offers 17 different skew-targets to choose from, including chicken gizzard, chicken heart, chicken liver, beef tongue, and quail egg and bacon among more tame ingredients. On a return visit, we went with a yakitori mix & match ($25) choosing chicken breast, spicy chicken thigh, beef meatball, lamb and garlic, salmon, enoki mushroom and bacon, quail egg and bacon, and shitake. The standouts were the enoki mushroom and bacon (with the tiniest enokis ever) creating an unusual symphony of flavors and chewing acrobats, the flavorful meatballs, the tasty shitakes, and the savory salmon.
For appetizers, we enjoyed a grilled avocado (kizami wasabi, habanero sea salt, and yuzu lemon ponzu; $6) and the shishito (stir fried Japanese green pepper, dried anchovy, bonito flakes, and habanero sea salt; $6). Both of these dishes were surprising, in large part because we didn’t read the ingredient list before ordering. The avocado was like nothing we’d eaten before in a very good way. And dear, dangerous habanero sea salt: where have you been my whole life? As we were devouring the shishitos, the bride says “There’s something fishy about these peppers…” And sure enough, there to the side, is a pile of the smallest anchovies we’ve ever seen (if we were five years older, we wouldn’t have been able to see them…). Again, different, but delicious.
The space is strip-mall-level comfy and the service friendly, although the edamame arrived with our mains instead of as an appetizer as we had desperately hoped. A few televisions (no audio) broadcasted the Food Channel (Guy Fieri), which was either brilliant (building up your appetite) or cruel (we sat in silence watching Guy stuff his face with saturated fats while our stomachs grumbled angrily). The music was loud, distracting, and stale, seemingly meant for 1990s-era faux-angsted American suburban middle-schoolers. Nevertheless, as the neighborhood ramen-slinger of the moment, we’ll be back!
web&where: interwebs; 2525 west anderson lane building 3, suite 120; (512) 407-9000
what’s the deal? Ramen and kabobs; table-service
overall: ** (food**; drink*; atmosphere*; service**; instagrammability**)
does it scramble? n/a
– meh [think twice]
* OK [it’ll get the job done]
** good [solid neighborhood joint]
*** damn good [we’ll definitely be back]
**** yippity-yikes that was amazeballs [fantastic; one of the best]
***** holy sh!t [transcendental; best of the best]
I wrote this review for the Allandale Neighbor
That means “ramen”!