Food & Drink
Kimura Introduces SA to Ramen Mania, With Mixed Results
Published: September 25, 2013
I’ve consumed buckets of noodles in Asian restaurants over the years, but I somehow missed out on the collegiate ramen regimen. Before heading to Kimura, chef Michael Sohocki’s ode to the slurping set, a training session with packaged products seemed only fair—in every way; though the noodles themselves were usually decent, the pre-fab, chemical-enhanced broths left much to be desired.
Then, it seemed necessary to revisit Tampopo, the glorious Japanese film from the ’80s about a failing noodle shop. Even if you consider yourself a black belt in ramen, it’s worth Googling “Tampopo—ramen master,” for the YouTube scene in which the noodle sensei instructs a neophyte on the properly reverential way to approach a bowl.
Kimura, which opened this summer, isn’t as relentlessly noodle-centric as the shop at the heart of Tampopo. But ramen mania, slow though it was to reach San Antonio, has been in the spotlight long enough nationally to expect that Kimura’s efforts will taste better than the packaged college staple. Before anyone leaps to the wrong conclusion, yes, they do.
The tonkotsu noodles in chicken and shoyu broth are a good place for all of us to start. Broth is a complex creature and the vessel of the soup’s essential umami; Kimura’s rendition was good but not exceptional, despite the earthiness of marinated shiitake mushrooms. As for the featured braised pork slices, Tampopo’s master is considered an “old fool” for his statements such as one suggesting apologizing to the slices by putting them to one side and saying “see you soon.” Exaggerated as that may have been, in this case the pork almost needed to apologize to us; its flavor appeared to have been given up to the braising liquid, leaving little for the slices themselves.
Then there’s the question of the soft- to mid-boiled egg. Much has been written about the proper cooking time (six to seven minutes), what, if anything, is added to the water … but most sources seem to think that the egg should be presented cut in half through the poles both to facilitate eating and to show the perfectly cooked yolk. It may sound like old-fool carping (and call into question chopstick skills) to complain about a whole egg, but that’s my complaint and I’m sticking to it. About the noodles themselves, I have no complaint at all.
The Kimura staff, all head-banded to look the part, initially started out making their own noodles but quickly discovered that it was a royal hassle to do them a-la-minute; the pre-portioned imported product is now pulled from a bin to be plunged into boiling water for each bowl. The same noodles appear in the miso ramen, a bowl I expected less of but liked better than the shoyu/chicken. (A version with pork bone broth that appeared early on seems to have been abandoned.) With a few shakes of seasoned togarashi chili flakes, this soup, enhanced with said egg, shiitakes, spring onions and bean sprouts, sings.