A bowl of tonkotsu ramen.

Raleigh is noodlin’ around

The noodle soup cognoscenti in town have news to be excited about: Raleigh is getting more ramen-yas and noodle shops.

The News and Observer reported recently that two ramen shops are entering the downtown Raleigh scene. Kaiju Bowl and Bao will open up on Davie Street, sometime possibly late this year or next year according to its owners, and will serve Asian-influenced dishes that include ramen and bao (steamed buns).

Tonbo Ramen will open up nearby at the end of this year on South Wilmington Street and will be a two-story noodle shop with an upstairs bar. The new ramen shop will be owned by the owners of Kanki and Torii, another noodle shop located inside Crabtree Valley Mall.

In North Hills, CO, a contemporary Vietnamese and Asian restaurant, is set to open later this year in the bottom level of the AC Hotel.  It will serve banh mi and pho, as well and dumplings and ramen.

Farther up north in Raleigh, Pho Sure is now open at the Celebration at Six Forks shopping center. It serves pho, banh mi and sticky rice.


Yet, still in the Triangle area, really good authentic ramen still remain elusive in my opinion and experience.

I’ve tried halfway decent ramen at Raleigh’s Sono Sushi, Thaiphoon Bistro and Buku. Torii’s ramen is entirely forgettable (which doesn’t bode too well for Tonbo unless its ramen improves dramatically).

In Cary, decent bowls of ramen can be had at Noodle Boulevard, a small noodle soup outpost off North Harrison Avenue. Nearby, at H-mart, the Korean grocery chain, Korean noodle soup like soondubu jjigae noodle ramen is offered, as well as Japanese-style ramen, in the store’s Asian food court. It’s fairly decent as well considering it’s fast-casual style and from a grocery store.

Ramen in Durham is especially trendy with Dashi, Basan, Rose’s Meat Market and Sweets, and M Kokko all serving bowls of the Japanese comfort food in a glitzier, downtown ambiance that seems to attract a more hip, young professional swath of folks.

In RTP, the best kept secret in noodle soups can be found inside the humble confines of China Express, where bowls of Korean and Chinese-style jan pong made with hand-pulled noodles are offered at a reasonable price.

I’ve had really good ramen in Tokyo (see my recap here and here) and in San Francisco in places like Mensho and in New York City (Ippudo, Momofuku, Totto Ramen, Momosan, etc.) and I haven’t found anything in the Triangle that even compares in authenticity when it comes to depth of flavor in broth and good quality, toothsome noodles.

But, perhaps, with more competition, the ramen quality will continue to increase as expectations and familiarity with the dish accelerates as quickly the number of ramen shops in the area that continue to pop up.

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