In this season of cold (well, not quite) and homecoming (well, mostly); there’s a Snow Patrol lyric that’s never been far from my mind: this could be the very minute I’m aware I’m alive; all these places feel like home.
The song speaks more to relationships, perhaps, than jetsetting and moving away, but I found myself craving comfort food from another home even as I adjusted to being on Mountain Standard Time for the holidays. As such, my sister and I all but pulled an U-turn on 109th Street to re-route for a nifty, new-ish ramen bar on Calgary Trail that had caught our eye.
Nomiya welcomed us in warmly. Menus appeared almost immediately in the hands of our charming but bashful server, who ran through the list of ramen and various toppings that you could add in; some of the items puzzled my sister, a ramen newbie who passed me her nori (much to my delight), declared the tree ear mushrooms exempt from her general dislike of all mushrooms, and smiled quizzically at the pretty naruto fishcakes. Still, she declared the curry ramen delicious, and enjoyed that the broth was not too spicy, while being well-spiced (I think she’d been bracing for a more fiery experience, but Japanese curry tends to run on the milder side.)
We’d started with an order of the yaki gyoza; at $5.95 for five, the price seemed a little steep (and odd numbers of appetizers is one of my eating-out irks) but they were tasty, and good to nibble on as we waited for the ramen and caught up on seven months of stories.
It was a while before our ramen arrived, but our server (and the others in the restaurant) had their hands full; I don’t think there were more than two empty tables at any point during our meal. My miso ramen was worth the wait, piping hot and piled high with pleasantly chewy noodles, nori, five or six thin slices of chashu pork, bamboo shoots, green onion, tree ear mushrooms, and kernel corn (which never ceases to make me smile; it’s always seemed a curious addition.) The broth itself was sumptuous and filling, and I enjoyed that it was peppered with white sesame seeds – different, but nifty.
My experience with ramen is limited – during my year in Japan, I spent a handful of nights at our local ramen place (which, awesomely, was called “Ramen Stand,” spelled out in katakana) where the chef would create and ladle out broth from a massive metal container that seemed part pot, part keg, and part cauldron. Memorably, my fellow JET, T, who introduced me to the place, recommended the negi chashu ramen and told me not to think too hard about the process of making the broth or its sodium count in the same breath. I also wandered Sapporo’s Ramen Alley on a freezing February night with friends, but as that night also held a tabehoudai/nomihoudai…
That all said, Nomiya’s ramen held its ground – savoury, comforting, filling, a little nostalgic, and ultimately yummy. It was worlds ahead of anything I’ve tried to make since my year overseas, and as ramen places of any stripe are fairly challenging to track down in either of my most recent homes, a pleasant surprise! I’d like to return, but not tomorrow. Sadly, one can’t ignore things like sodium levels forever. But perhaps I can until the holiday season is over… ^___^