Forget cup o'noodles, people. Real ramen has made an official stand in South Florida.
Although this isn't the region that comes to mind when you think of the Japanese noodle soup, there are quite a few places down here that connoisseurs of the popular comfort dish frequent for the rich, bone-fat broth and long, crimpy noodles.
Across the country, especially in cities like Los Angeles and New York, ramen has been elevated to cult status, with critics parsing the pros and cons of authentic Japanese soup and its many New Age takes. Here in Florida, a handful of restaurants are taking the art of ramen-making seriously, with spots from Palm Beach Gardens to Hollywood offering some authentic takes.
From the traditional pork-bone broth tonkotsu to hearty miso, and even a vibrant, orange-tinged kimchi version, here are the best bowls of ramen in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
1. Shimuja. You'll want to order the Kagoshima special ramen at newbie ramen spot, Shimuja, in Davie. It may be pricey at $20 a bowl, but it's worth it for this souped-up — pun intended — edition of their ramen options. For $5 less, the 48-hour tonkotsu broth is prepared from a whole pig and specialty imported soy sauce direct from Japan. No matter which of the various iterations you choose — there's a vegan soup broth and one infused with Key limes for a Florida twist — this is as authentic as you get. The owner has several locations including his first that opened in 2011 in Shimuja City, Japan. 4921 SW 148th Ave., Davie; 754-200-8941; shimuja.com.
2. GoBistro. If cup o' noodles instant ramen is all you've ever known, it can be difficult to understand how anyone can care so much about ramen. But the ramen at GoBistro in Hollywood is different: It's something to get excited about. All good ramen — be it shiyo, shoyu, or tonkotsu — share a few basic characteristics: a dense pile of chewy, crimped noodles; a meaty, opaque broth; ribbons of slow-cooked pork; a pile of bean sprouts, green onion, and possibly a soft-boiled egg with a molten golden center. GoBistro ramen adheres to these requirements, and its tonkotsu ramen is still some of the most breathtaking after all these years. The broth is made from scratch, a golden-opaque kotteri packed with emulsified goodness from long-boiled pork bones; the result of a two-day cooking process. Fat-laced and fragrant, the surface is like an oil slick that leaves a gelatinous sheen on your lips as you slurp away, revealing firm, crimped noodles and succulent slices of pork belly. 2035 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; 754-263-2826; eatgobistro.com.
3. WoodOne Ramen. Just four weeks old, WoodOne Ramen is already offering some of the best ramen in South Florida from a small stand in Hollywood's Yellow Green Farmers Market. A small restaurant space feels like you've been spirited away to Japan, although the couple serving you will make you feel right at home. The chef's tonkotsu is rich and silky, a perfect balance to the dense pile of chewy, crimped noodles. A lighter option, shoyu, is tangy with a depth of flavor only kombu (kelp) can offer. And a tomato-based curry is as vibrant as it is fragrant. But it's their growing assortment of vegan options, including a curry-free tomato broth and a Sapporo miso broth (pictured here), that's worth trying on your first visit. Just as savory and rich as the stand's signature tonkatsu, it features tofu in place of chashu pork and vegan-friendly noodles. Keep an eye out for the new soon-to-be-unveiled creamy vegetable broth — the owners say it will be just as indulgent as a bone-based broth. Yellow Green Farmers Market stand No. 245; 1940 N. 30th Rd., Hollywood.
4. Nori Sushi Thai Ramen. At Nori Thai, the ramen isn't just soup — it's a meal, served in giant white ceramic bowls topped to the brim with a pork- or seafood-infused broth and mounds of chewy-soft crimped Japanese noodles. Ramen options include the basic tonkotsu, a sesame-and-garlic-oil-infused broth topped with fatty chunks of chashu pork, large cuts of broth-infused bok choy, tender tendrils of bean sprouts, sheets of seaweed, corn kernels, half a boiled egg, and flavorful slices of kikurage mushroom. A Thai green curry ramen means noodles are simmered in a fresh basil and fish-infused green curry sauce before serving, then paired with bamboo, zucchini, red bell peppers, and the fresh catch of the day. A spicy version marries a Thai broth with lime, fish sauce, fried garlic, crushed peanuts, cilantro, and scallions before it's topped off with shrimp, scallops, squid, and mussels. The best ramen Nori produces, though, is its spicy miso ramen, a tonkotsu broth flavored and thickened with a spicy bean paste for a kick of heat, then finished with all the appropriate tonkotsu accouterments. 217 E. Palmetto Park Rd., Boca Raton; 561-392-2999; noriboca.com.
5. Ramen Lab Eatery. The brainchild of the family of establishments that also owns the Lemongrass Asian Bistro chain and the Sea Asian Bistro in Delray Beach, Ramen Lab Eatery — now with several locations across Palm Beach County — is the answer to your ramen dreams. The hardest part: deciding which one to choose. Miso ramen with Korean short rib offers a chicken-based broth piqued with miso, egg, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, corn, and mushrooms, while a five-spice duck ramen features sprouts, bok choy, garlic oil, and micro cilantro. Tom Yum seafood ramen is rife with calamari, shrimp, King prawn, and scallop bobbing in a tomato-based broth infused with lemongrass. Offerings include a vegan shoyu and traditional tonkatsu. Broth spice levels can be ordered to taste while a substantial side menu of extra toppings allows diners to customize any bowl. 100 NE Second St., Boca Raton; 561-750-4448; ramenlabeatery.com.
6. Fyr & Ice Asian Fusion And Drinks. If you like options and a hip, casual vibe, then Fyr & Ice should be your go-to ramen spot. This Coral Springs restaurant is an Asian street food lover's paradise, fast-casual style. Start out with yakitori — skewered and grilled vegetable, meat, and seafood — and then wash it all down with one of several Asian bottled beers or a bubble milk tea with tapioca pearls. The real focus here, though, is the ramen: There are seven options total, ranging from traditional tonkotsu and a sweet and sour tom yum Thai seafood broth to shoyu chicken and a spicy kimchee broth with beef (pictured here). 10371 W. Sample Rd., Coral Springs; 954-688-9078; fyriceasianfusiondrinks.com.
7. Mikan Japanese Restaurant. After 17 years running a business in the heart of Miami, last year Seiji Ikemizu moved his Mikan Japanese Restaurant (named for the honey tangerine) to Pembroke Pines. And we're thankful he did. Originally from Tokunoshima, a small island in southern Japan, Ikemizu's cooking is authentic, and certainly some of the best around. Word is that he works with a local Japanese supplier to order his fish, so checking the daily specials is always a good idea. But it's the soup we're talking about here, with several styles and takes including a curry, vegetable, or nabeyaki udon — big fat noodles bobbing in a flavorful broth. The ramen comes a number of ways, as well, from traditional tonkotsu and miso to our personal favorite, the kimchi ramen (pictured here) a spicy, orange-hued broth that's packed full of slow-roasted pork and homemade kimchi. 12502 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines; 954-471-2719; mikansushi.com.
8. Oka Sushi. A quaint, tiny eatery off Lake Avenue in downtown Lake Worth is offering ramen alongside sushi.
You'll get just the basics here: a shoyu or tonkotsu with your choice of chicken, pork, or beef and tom yum Thai-style with seafood. But the broth is good — better than your average ramen-serving sushi joint — and has all the right qualities to make it a hearty meal. A table at the outdoor sidewalk seating makes for a perfect night out whether you're slurping soup solo or with your favorite dining companion. 817 Lake Ave., Lake Worth;561-429-4112; oka-sushi-thai.com.
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9. BC Cafe. This food truck turned brick-and-mortar — now with two locations including its newest Coral Springs outpost — is best known for its gourmet tacos. But the one thing foodies may be missing at the six-year-old Davie establishment is the ramen. It's a special on the menu every Friday from 5 to 10 p.m., when executive chef Paul Litwin prepares several takes on ramen from pork belly and Korean short rib to sweet and sour chicken or seafood with scallops, shrimp, and mahi, mushroom or Japanese beef meatball. There's even a make-your-own option where you choose your broth, protein, and an assortment of over ten add-ins. The broths and stocks are made in-house and noodles are prepared fresh from an Asian market around the corner. 4801 S. University Drive, Davie. Call 954-801-4123, or visit bctacos.com.
10. Kapow! Noodle Bar. This well-known Boca Raton Asian gastropub has noodle in its name for a reason: they make some pretty amazing noodle soups. Their ramen starts with roasted pork neck and back bones which help to deepen the porky flavor and add color to the soup broth. From there, the chefs add smoked pork trotters and beef femurs to enhance the richness, all combined with a kombu mushroom dashi and slowly simmered for 48 hours. From there they throw in some taré — a soy-based seasoning — along with sautéed garlic and ginger, deglazed with sake and chicken stock. All of this hard work comes together in a bowl with the restaurant's house ramen noodle, garlicky bok choy, soft boiled egg, mung bean sprouts, and scallion. Each ramen can be topped with your choice of protein, including steak, sweet soy glazed all-natural chicken, or sustainably-sourced shrimp and mushrooms. Boca Raton and West Palm Beach locations; 561-347-7322; kapownoodlebar.com.