When most Americans think of ramen, it harkens back to their college dorm room days, when they heated up those packs of crunchy-hard noodles (packed with MSG) on a hot plate.
Of course, that’s a dumbed-down, easy-to-cook version of the popular Japanese dish.
Ramen is a culinary art form in the land of Nippon. Ramen shops are the go-to places for those looking for a quick lunch or late-night snack after reveling in the bars. The dish is quite simple, really. Chewy Chinese-style wheat noodles get plopped in a deep bowl with aromatic meat broth, slow-cooked meats, veggies and a soft-boiled egg.
Americans are finally realizing the glory of real-deal ramen. As a matter of fact, ramen shops have popped up all over the United States the past few years, with Boise being no exception.
Island Sushi and Ramen debuted earlier this summer on Fairview Avenue, in a location that’s been a revolving door of ethnic eateries — most recently Siam Orchid Thai restaurant. The spot was even a Filipino restaurant at one time. (Remember that place?)
Anyway, the new restaurant is kind of one-stop shopping for Japanese cuisine. The menu lists sushi offerings (fanciful fusion rolls, sashimi and nigiri), poke bowls, stir-fried yakisoba noodles, teriyaki, ramen and more.
In terms of design, a decorative wood sushi bar takes center stage. If you don’t want to sit at the counter, slide into one of the many booths in the dining room — sparsely decorated with Japanese tapestries and other artwork that leans toward the Land of the Rising Sun.
Ordering ramen comes with choices: You get to pick your preferred broth (tonkostu, miso or spicy miso) and a protein, chosen from a lineup that includes pork, chicken, shrimp or mixed seafood. See, that wasn’t so hard.
Plus, you will receive a small green salad tossed with zesty ginger dressing before the ramen gets served.
Do yourself a favor and try the chashu ramen ($8.95/lunch menu). This traditional ramen, made with slow-cooked pork bone and chicken broth, comes in a deep bowl with a tangle of spongy noodles, slices of roasted pork loin, sweet corn kernels, bean sprouts, chopped scallion, nori seaweed and a soft-boiled egg. The bone marrow in the tonkostu stock and loose egg yolk give the broth a milky appearance.
Another noteworthy pick is the grilled chicken ramen ($8.95/lunch menu), a big bowl brimming with noodles submerged in fragrant broth, tender slices of chicken breast, the aforementioned veggies and a soft-boiled egg that barely contains its yolk. I ordered this ramen with the spicy, fermented miso broth, cut with a little tonkostu broth for added flavor.
Wash everything down with a chilled bottle of Japanese rice lager, sake or plum wine.
Island Sushi and Ramen is a tasty addition to Boise’s vibrant ethnic dining scene. And the wait staff goes out of its way to be friendly and efficient.
Island Sushi and Ramen
Address: 8716 W. Fairview Ave., Boise
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Menu price range: appetizers, salads and ramen soup $2.95-$11.95; entrées and sushi offerings $7.95-$48.95 (sushi and sashimi for two people).
Opened: June 2018