Do you ever get one of those cravings that just suddenly pops into your head and you can’t seem to stop thinking about it until you’ve gotten what you crave? That was my situation last week and I was craving some serious ramen.
Ok, so it didn’t just pop into my head. Firstly, I had never really had proper ramen so the craving had been lingering for ages. Secondly, I had just watched ‘Mind of a Chef’ with David Chang on Netflix and the first episode I watched was all about ramen. After that, it was decided. The search was on.
Now as I had mentioned, I had never really had a good bowl of ramen before so I didn’t exactly know where to start. The only place I had ever really seen ramen on a menu was Bread Bar on Locke; but they only used to have it as a special once a week. I messaged a buddy to ask if they still had it but he didn’t think they still did it. He did mention that I should head down to James North and try out a place called Bar Izakaya. It was a relatively new joint by a group called Eat Industries. They’ve got a storefront in the Hamilton Farmer’s Market downtown but now they’ve locked down a little spot on James St N and Colbourne St. Later that week I cleared my schedule and it was finally time. We headed down to Bar Izakaya to get ourselves some ramen.
This specific Friday that we had picked happened to be the first day of Supercrawl so in the back of my mind, I had a sneaking suspicion that they could have a special ‘Supercrawl’ menu. Low and behold, when we got there, they were running a special menu for the whole weekend which DID NOT include RAMEN! We decided to check out the menu anyways and it looked absolutely wonderful. What the hell, we were here already, let’s give it a try! They also had $2 sake shots on the menu so who can say no to that?
The restaurant itself was excellent. Great interior, great bar, and excellent staff. They knew the menu through and through and they were very helpful with suggestions. They knew when to give room to relax and enjoy ourselves and when to check on us. When we had told our waiter that we had come specifically seeking ramen, he apologized and gave us a copy of the regular menu and even suggested that we check out the Farmer’s Market location. He said that they offered more types of ramen available at their booth in the market and if we wanted that specifically, that would be the best place to go.
We raised a glass of sake and prepared ourselves for some delicious eats. The first to arrive was the miso corn; two halves of grilled Ontario corn slathered in miso butter and orange zest and topped with diced scallions. The flavor was phenomenal. The light scent of orange complimented the sweetness of the corn and the rich, savoury miso flavour brilliantly. The texture of the corn was perfect. I don’t think it could have been any better. A great starting dish. Alongside the corn, we had an order of edamame tossed in a mackerel smoked sea salt. The dish speaks for itself, but the salt was on-point. Not much more to say about it, but it’s a definite essential.
Next came the two main dishes: Ginger Pork and Karaage (a buttermilk and soy fried chicken). These were both 100% flavour-town… Population: us. Incredible dishes! The pork was tender, juicy, and mind-blowingly flavourful. The dish was topped with beansprouts, burnt scallions, and enoki mushrooms and coated in a flavorful ginger soy sauce. The aroma coming off of this dish was enough to kick-start anyone’s appetite. I almost ordered another 2 plates. After sampling the Ginger Pork, we got the Karaage fried chicken. I don’t think there’s a better way to say this: this fried chicken was fucking perfect. The batter was incredibly flavourful and crispy as hell. They were boneless, deep-fried thighs topped with a healthy drizzle of both a yuzu and a chili aioli. I thought I had died and gone to fried chicken heaven. The meat was so tender that it almost fell apart when you picked it up. Each bite was crunchy, rich, and absolutely wonderful. I actually didn’t want it to end.
What an incredible experience! Immediately after we finished, I was already planning my next visit. This place is an absolute must. Excellent food and a great atmosphere make this restaurant a great spot for a night out. Do yourself a favor and head over there the next chance you get.
This still leaves the ramen issue. The craving was still alive and well. Our weekend was far too busy to make it over to the Hamilton Farmer’s Market, so we finally ended up going the following week. We headed down into the market to where the ramen booth was. The menu consisted of 6 different kinds of ramen. 2 pork, 2 chicken, and 2 veggie. I opted for the Sapporo chicken ramen with scallions, menma, cooked garlic ginger, corn, sprouts and a soft-boiled egg.
Finally… my search had come to an end. This bowl of ramen was everything I had wanted in my life for the last few weeks. Stellar broth and perfect ingredients. The broth was briny and very rich, but I have to say that the hard-boiled egg was an absolute star. I have never had such a flavorful egg in my life. If you’ve never had an honest-to-god bowl of ramen, this is the place to start. The Farmer’s Market is incredible anyways, so bring your appetite and leave completely satisfied.