Use Your Noodle or The Great Ramen Debate of 2011

There are, when it comes to ramen, three types of people that I can cull from the general public. They are, in no particular order, 1) those whose only ramen experience has been to eat it from a plastic pouch when money was tight or time was short, 2) those who like a bowl of soup whether it be Japanese noodle or Chinese sizzling rice, and 3) those who travel the Earth questing for that perfect bowl of ethereal goodness, that unreachable pinnacle of noodley satisfaction, that extraterrestrial chalice of brothy harmony.

I’m in group 2. I’m neither a ramen freak nor a noodle geek. Give me a bowl of soup, any soup, and I’m pretty damned happy. Whether matzoth ball or minestrone, fagioli or pho, I’m a contented beast. I’m looking for a salty, spicy, steamy, stewy bowl that burns my tongue a bit on the first slurp, and bathes my face in a micro-film of sweat. I want to drain the dregs at the bottom of the bowl or sop them up with a crust of day-old bread. This is where I’m coming from.
I tell you this because I’ve found ramen people to be a little touchy — ok a lot touchy. We’re not talking wine snobby or beer geeky; we’re talking Scotch whisky intolerant. If you don’t belong to their club, then you don’t deserve to make any judgments upon it. Period.

Well, I say phooey. It’s soup. Let’s talk soup.

A good bowl of ramen should be rich in vegetation, generous in noodle, and complex in broth. Everything else is personal preference, including meat, seafood, and personal grooming habits.

So, after all that lead up and defensiveness, I’d like to put in my vote for the best bowl of ramen in the 916.

It’s not, as some might assume, Shoki Ramen house on 24th Street. Sure, Shoki’s ramen is good, with subtle, intriguing broth and bountiful chewy noodles, but the cartoonishly small environs lead to unbearable wait times, and the unending scrawl on the menus and walls and chalkboards telling you how beautifully and elegantly and perfectly they brew their unearthly broth makes you feel as if you should pray to the ramen instead of eat it. Also, subtle is not a quality I want in my soup. Shoki’s broth just doesn’t hit me where I live. It’s like watching My Dinner With Andre when I’m in the mood for The Usual Suspects.

It’s not, as others might think, Hokaido on Broadway. Their fixin’s are fine but their broth is a little off. It’s a single-note flavor, and that note is not exactly fantastic.

It is, in fact, Akebono on Freeport Boulevard. Not only does this place serve some of my favorite sushi in town, they also make killer ramen. Fat, rich broths, loaded with beautifully tender pieces of pork, vibrant green veggies, and those funny little fish cakes that make small children smile. The price is pretty incredible at less than $10. The service is always quick and happy. My favorite thing though, is that they, unlike the dedicated ramen hunters, don’t take themselves too seriously.

 Akebono- 4960 Freeport Blvd, Sacramento, 916-731-8288

7 thoughts on “Use Your Noodle or The Great Ramen Debate of 2011”

  1. You can eat it from a plastic pouch when money is tight or time is short?!?! What is this miracle subsidence of which you speak? And is it carb heavy and fat low? I pray it be neither green of soylent nor of long of pork*?

    And I just remembered a dream where I had “noodley satisfaction,” thank you very much!

    * unless breaded and fried


  2. Now you’re usin’ your noodle! Akebono is at the top of my list for many things:

    Sushi …fresh, fresh, fresh
    Their soup
    Oysters on the half shell


  3. Why aren’t you writing for the Bee? Instead we get the perpetual numbnuts pairing his steak with Barbera and spotlighting great servers in St. Helena. Well written.


  4. Greg…we returned to Akebono on Christmas day. We had the ground pork ramen and the blue fin sushi and the amber jack sushi. We love to sit at the sushi bar. The food, as always, was delicious. They still remember my name from Dave’s birthday bash! Great review my friend….and we are headed there for lunch in about 45.


  5. To Dennis…a bit harsh? BAR also talked about local waiters. Remind me to never post what I like to pair my wine with. Come on! Mike used to write about restaurants in Napa Valley and elsewhere too.


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