The ramen you used to know and love in college has graduated! Leading the way is Strings Ramen, an amazing ramen restaurant in the heart of Chinatown, directly across the street from New Chinatown Square. I had the pleasure of being invited to try many of the house favorites. As a ramen newbie, I wasn’t sure what was was in store. I knew it was going to be a fun afternoon of trying something new, but I didn’t know I was going to fall in love with traditional ramen.
Strings Ramen is bringing traditional Japanese culture and tastes to Chicago. Many restaurants in Chicago offer a ramen selection, but none are focused specifically on ramen, like Strings. The menu highlights four different types of ramen broth with a variety of ingredients, ranging from spiced crab and uni to duck or turkey.
The four types of broth are:
- Shoyu broth which is made with Japanese Kastuo(bonito fish) and Konbu seaweed.
- Shio broth which is an organic chicken bone stock.
- The Miso broth is made with three types of miso and chicken stock.
- And the Tonkotsu broth is the signature Berkshire pork bone stock also known as "The pork milk.”
Something else that makes Strings unique is their noodles. Strings makes all their noodles daily, using only their dough and noodle maker imported straight from Japan. The use of house-made noodles, genuine broth, and the best ingredients create an undeniable combination for success and ultimately one of the best ramen restaurants in Chicago, recently recognized by TimeOut and Thrillist for its ramen expertise.
During my visit to Strings, my lunch mates did all the ordering since I was a newbie and all. They surely did a spectacular job selecting for me.
I was fortunate enough to have lunch with Kenny Yang, the owner of Strings and learn the story of what made him open Strings. He was living abroad in Japan for several years, and on most nights he would get home late. In Japan ramen shops were the only things open. Kenny began frequenting a specific ramen shop on most nights, and then one night the chef asked him if he wanted to learn how to make it. The rest of the story is history, and is unfolding before us in Chicago's Chinatown.
Lunch started with a Sashimi bowl of cooked rice and raw toppings. Diners can select the toppings they want. We had a decadent variety of Ikura, Spicy Scallop, Spicy Crab and Uni topped with scallions, black sesame, seaweed and red ginger. I definitely recommend trying a sashimi bowl with your meal. It’s a refreshing start to the meal and something worth diving into.
The next dish brought to the table was Yakisoba-Ramen noodle pan fried in duck oil with kikurage (woodear mushroom), Kamo (duck breast meat), scallion, fried egg, and accompanied by a side of dashi broth with scallion and narutomaki. The dish was placed in front of me and the complexity of the flavors tickled my nose. I admired all that was going on from the large pieces of duck to the fried egg on top. I cut into the fried egg and let the yolk drip through the noodles. My first and subsequent bites were delights of heaven.
Up next was the Shoyu Ramen-Dashi broth made with soy sauce, bonito fish, and seaweed. This dish was ordered by one of my friends for all to share. It also included organic chicken oil, menma, nori, bean sprouts and red ginger. There are countless extras that can be added to this dish, like: tosaka, scallion, ageball (fried fish ball), daikon (radish), koban age (fried fish surimi), and numerous others. This dish was a pleasant palate pleaser showcasing so many amazing flavors.
Following the Shoyu Ramen was a comforting bowl of Miso Ramen. Strings Ramen offers three types of miso offered on the menu. I love miso no matter where I go and have to try it. The miso at Strings Ramen certainly didn’t disappoint; in fact, it raised the bar on what I now expect for miso.
The miso we shared had seafood, Kuro Buta (crab meat, scallop, shrimp and Berkshire pork) in it along with black mayu oil and butter, corn, scallions, bean sprouts, crushed garlic and menma. The flavors were extremely developed and changed with each slurping spoonful.
The final dish was the Tonkotsu Ramen. A slow boiled Berkshire pork bone stock with black mayu and garlic oil, crushed garlic, kikurage (woodear mushroom), scallions, and menma. I was excited to try this dish because of the pork stock. The Berkshire pork stock was heavenly and layered with flavors that swirl around your palate and leave you wanting more.
This lunch has me wanting more ramen, and soon! The ramen so many college students live and swear by is finally getting the much needed attention it deserves. After sharing a lunch with friends it is clear to see why they have won so many accolades and will continue to do so. I strongly recommend that if you are anywhere near Chinatown to go and check out Strings Ramen. If you can't make it to Chinatown, don't worry. Strings Ramen's second location is scheduled to open in Feburary, 2017, at 919 W. Belmont, Chicago.
Strings Ramen | 2141 S. Archer Ave. | Chicago | 312.347.3450