If you’re familiar with ramen only as six-for-a-dollar dried soup packets, you have my condolences. Ramen isn’t just another bowl of noodle soup. It’s a meal in itself. It’s an art form. Its masters may use various long-simmered stocks, toppings and flourishes, but they all deserve places in the Albright-Knox of soup.
Recently I returned, for the ramen.
News flash: Sato’s ramen is righteous.
I tried the house ramen, and the spicy miso ramen. They both have springy noodles with a toothsome texture, broth that’s substantial enough to enjoy all by itself, and lots of good stuff riding on top, each its own little pleasure. The standard comes with bamboo shoots, softboiled egg, sliced chashu pork and bean sprouts.
Chef Satomi Smith learned her ramen in her parents’ ramen shop in Fukui, Japan. She simmers pork and chicken bones with ginger, garlic and onions for six hours or so to make the broth.
Both the noodles and the broth are important to the overall ramen experience, she said. “You take a sip, and you eat some noodle, take a sip and eat some noodle. A lot of people have broth left when they’re finished. You can drink it, if you’re not full. Some people order more noodles if there’s broth left. But there’s no rules.”
There also is a vegetarian version. The vegan broth is made with caramelized vegetables and konbu, which is a kind of seaweed. It’s topped with snap peas, mushrooms, carrots, bean sprouts and scallions. There is a bit of egg product in the noodles, making it not strictly vegan, but Smith is searching for completely egg-free noodles she likes.
“In Japan, when my parents make it, they get it fresh daily from a noodle maker,” Smith said. “Around here, that’s impossible.” She uses a fresh frozen noodle from the downstate area. At $1 to $3 a throw, add-ons allow customers to alter their soup to taste, with things like pickled shiitake mushrooms, garlic and kimchi.
The standard soup costs $14 at dinner, $2 less at lunch. That’s a lot of money for a bowl of soup in Buffalo.
It’s big enough for a meal, but you get more than nourishment for that $14. You get the chance to reflect on how awesome your life is. A great bowl of soup can do that.
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