For our second ramen adventure of the week we found ourselves on our way to Ramen San.
I would like to point out that when I first arrived in Chicago on the Sunday evening I had ordered delivery from Ramen San. I would recommend to not get ramen delivery but to instead head to the restaurant itself.
My first experience ended with me being disappointed and sad with the bowl of ramen I had.
However, the in-dining experience, with the same bowl of ramen, completely changed my world around and I can’t urge you enough to give Ramen San a try.
I do believe that maybe the delivery took a while and it was possibly a one off that the ramen did not travel well, so I won’t tell you to absolutely not do it, but I ended up dining at the restaurant twice because I enjoyed my food so much whilst eating in house.
If my husband had not convinced me to give it another go I would have missed out on a delicious ramen experience.
It was a Wednesday afternoon, the coldest day in Chicago records for years, -22 Celsius with a wind chill that felt like – 44, and as we shuffled our way towards Ramen San in the deadly cold I felt my eyelids pushing to try and stick together.
At that moment in time I laughed at just how far I’d go when the promise of a hot bowl of ramen was on the horizon.
We where crazy, positively insane, and we seemed to be the only people out walking for what seemed like blocks.
Rushing in out of the cold the smell of ramen filled my nostrils, and the heat ran over my icy body like a wave.
I was shocked to see how many other people had ventured out into the cold just to be here dining at Ramen San. To the right a fully stocked bar awaited, and the wooden high tops and booths filled the big restaurant with ample seats for hungry patrons.
In the background I noticed 90s rap music playing, and a few days later I’d notice it again upon my return.
Our waitress greeted us and told us to step inside so that we could warm up from the cold, handing us both a menu as we claimed a high top; the menu was nicely written in a typewriter format and the presentation made it easy to navigate.
Of course I knew that both my husband and I would be getting the Tonkotsu, but it was still a fun read.
Part of me really wanted to try a Mantou bun but I knew that I had no hope of finishing it along with a bowl of ramen.
I also noticed that their lunch menu seemed like an awesome deal.
You could select one rice plate and one main dish; the ramen bowls where half size and each meal came with a salad San on the side. For $15 that wasn’t bad, but I was here for the Tonkotsu and the Tonkotsu alone.
With both of our orders in the system, with added fried garlic, we waited patiently.
Two Sapporo beers appeared at the table and I decided I’d leave it for a while until my hands warmed up enough to brace themselves for the ice cold glass.
The beer was delicious, as Sapporo always is, and as our bowls of ramen floated to the table I had already drank a full half a pint.
It looked good. The difference between the Sunday night and today was night and day.
First things first, I lifted the egg as though it was some kind of god on my ramen spoon, before smushing it into my mouth.
It tasted just like a runny boiled egg, and I longed for a marinated ramen egg once again.
Right there and then I told myself that at some point during the week I would find a marinated ramen egg come hell or high water.
The pork slice broke into two pieces at the touch of my chopsticks, and as I tried once more to pick it up my husband put his first piece of pork into his mouth.
He stopped, put down his chopsticks, held a thumbs up and nodded, pointing towards the remaining pork in his dish.
That was it, I had that pork on my chopsticks faster than you could have moved your eyes to look at it. I wanted it so bad that I would have even lowered myself to stabbing the meat in order to get it into my mouth.
The sear on the pork was fabulous, a 100% upgrade from my delivery, and it tasted almost a little smokey; it was salty, it was tender to the point of literally falling apart at every touch, and the flavors coming from the Chashu marinade where that of soy sauce, mirin, garlic, and sugar.
It was the perfect texture and flavor for a fabulous Chashu pork – this was the kind of meat you would expect from any great ramen joint.
Next, the broth.
I raised the spoon, blowing as it ascended, and took my first sip.
It was good; meaty and flavorful in a creamy way.
I definitely felt myself leaning towards Strings broth more, but Ramen San had pretty much hit the nail on the head. It wasn’t as thick as Strings, but it was delicious in its own right.
The cloudy creamy appearance and taste left my mouth swimming with what felt like a pork fat bath. I would happily have ordered a pint of broth to just drink for pleasure, or happiness on a sad day.
There seemed to be a lot of seaweed and bamboo shoots in the bowl, but I didn’t mind. Some I picked out and put into a separate dish, but I mostly ate all of them before moving onto the noodle.
Another thing I’d like to say is that the ramen does come with a good amount of fried garlic, but you should ALWAYS get more as an addition; you can never have too much garlic, especially when it’s fried.
I was happy that the chef was heavy handed on the scallions (green onion) as the added crunch and potent flavor worked very well.
In fact, a mouthful of their Tonkotsu broth, fried garlic, and scallion mixed together was such a pleasant experience that I loved to keep mixing everything with every sip of broth I took; the flavors literally danced around my taste buds.
The ramen noodles where also good. Not too al dente, not too mushy, and so far they where my preferred choice based on the two bowls I’d tried so far in the Windy City.
Each good nood pull picked up sesame seeds, a layer of broth, and scallions within their tangled strands, and I found myself just plowing them into my mouth without being able to stop.
I laughed as I lifted my head and saw my husband doing the exact same thing; we where in our happy place.
My experience from the delivery had been completely erased from my memory and should in no way influence you when deciding to eat at Ramen San, because the bowl of ramen was so delicious that we dined at the restaurant twice before we had to leave the city behind.
Another great bowl of ramen, and another cold day that justified all of our excessive ramen consumption.
If I had to eat ramen every day for the rest of my life, I’m pretty sure I’d be happy.
Ramen San is a great neighborhood joint, and if I lived here I’d definitely have it as one of my locals.
Thank you Ramen San for a great bowl of Tonkotsu, and a great time.
Until next time,
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