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.
Iâ€™m in group 2. Iâ€™m neither a ramen freak nor a noodle geek. Give me a bowl of soup, any soup, and Iâ€™m pretty damned happy. Whether matzoth ball or minestrone, fagioli or pho, Iâ€™m a contented beast. Iâ€™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 Iâ€™m coming from.
I tell you this because Iâ€™ve found ramen people to be a little touchy — ok a lot touchy. Weâ€™re not talking wine snobby or beer geeky; weâ€™re talking Scotch whisky intolerant. If you donâ€™t belong to their club, then you donâ€™t deserve to make any judgments upon it. Period.
Well, I say phooey. Itâ€™s soup. Letâ€™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, Iâ€™d like to put in my vote for the best bowl of ramen in the 916.
Itâ€™s not, as some might assume, Shoki Ramen house on 24th Street. Sure, Shokiâ€™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. Shokiâ€™s broth just doesnâ€™t hit me where I live. Itâ€™s like watching My Dinner With Andre when Iâ€™m in the mood for The Usual Suspects.
Itâ€™s not, as others might think, Hokaido on Broadway. Their fixinâ€™s are fine but their broth is a little off. Itâ€™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, donâ€™t take themselves too seriously.
Â Akebono- 4960 Freeport Blvd, Sacramento, 916-731-8288