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.
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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