Saturday, March 30, 2013

Muku Japanese Ramen - Calgary, AB

On a cold winter's day, there is nothing more satisfying than a good bowl of noodle soup, whether it’s chicken noodle soup, Vietnamese pho, Chinese wonton mein, or Japanese ramen. Some people dismiss ramen as nothing more than "instant noodles," but when you get that perfect mix of soup, homemade noodles, and carefully chosen toppings, it can't be beat. I’ve spent many a vacation chasing down delicious bowls of ramen, dragging along whichever unfortunate soul happened to be with me. Having never visited Japan, the best ramen I've ever had was at Ippudo in New York. After a two hour wait (do NOT go at peak dinner hours) I was rewarded with the most delicious broth I have ever tasted. My favorite broths are creamy, rich, and hearty, with flavors so well developed you can almost taste the hours that went into making them. I’m not a huge fan of the clearer broths like shio (salt) or shoyu (soy sauce), so I’m definitely a bit biased when it comes to the places I prefer. But after tasting ramen in New York, Toronto, and Vancouver, one thing is clear: it’s just not the same in Alberta. When I need my ramen fix, though, there are some reliable alternatives.

In Calgary, my go-tos are Shikiji and Muku. Shikiji serves four soup bases: soy, miso, salt, and chili sesame. I’ve only tried the soy, miso, and salt, but the miso is definitely my favorite as I find the soy and salt bases too one note (salty). I like that Shikiji offers a choice of lean or fatty pork to top your ramen. Despite the deliciousness of fatty pork, I usually end up choosing the lean pork. At Shikiji, a bowl of dinnertime ramen will run you from $11.60-$15.60. Last time I was at Shikiji, it was about $2 cheaper per bowl at lunchtime, but I am not sure whether this is still the case. Shikiji also serves decent sushi, so if you are craving both ramen and sushi, this would be the place for you. 

The more I visit Muku, though, the more I prefer it. It’s a small restaurant located next to Globefish Sushi, and is nothing special in terms of décor. Muku has a much larger selection of ramen types than Shikiji, and the prices are also lower (most basic bowls of ramen are under $10). For an additional $3, you can make your ramen into a set menu, with the addition of a salad and a rice bowl. Since I prefer the creamy broths, my regular order is the kuro-ton ramen. It's a deliciously garlicky pork soup base, rich, fatty, and full of flavor. As you can see, the toppings are nothing special but it is a satisfying meal nonetheless. I've ordered different ramen bowls from Muku in the past, but I always come back to the kuro-ton.
We also ordered the takoyaki on this visit. Although it came out steaming hot and nicely plated, the balls were mushy and doughy, without the crisp exterior that I love about takoyaki. Not a dish I would order again.

Overall, Muku is a great place to go for an inexpensive, flavorful meal when in Calgary. Now if only I could find a good option for ramen in Edmonton. 

Top Pick of the Night: kuro-ton ramen


3/5 Erics

Muku Japanese Ramen on Urbanspoon

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