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Strings Ramen Stands Out In Chinatown

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Mar 14, 2014 7:30PM

For a city with sections dedicated to Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese cultures and the culinary traditions that come with them, Chicago is woefully lacking in ramen shops. In fact, before Strings Ramen opened in Chinatown last month there wasn't a restaurant dedicated to ramen in a city swimming in pho, guk and hot and sours.

Chef/designer Kee Chan (recently of Lure Izakaya) and chef de cuisine Matt Nakano have put together a small menu of ramen, chazuke and other snacks and sides and are dedicated to turning it out the best they can in a beautifully designed space from Chan's design firm KeyConcept Design.

I raved about Strings' chazuke kuro buta sausage bowl earlier this week. Green tea is poured into a mix of sausage, rice, and vegetables, cooking everything slightly while keeping the individual flavors of each ingredient intact. The spicy scallop bowl was another winner, with the freshness of the scallops cutting through the tea to provide an almost transcendent dish.

Nakano has four different ramen broths on Strings' menu, the clear standout being the Tonkotsu ramen, a hearty broth made from boiling black boar bone for 48 hours and served with black garlic oil, fresh crushed garlic, sesame seed, scallion and fermented bamboo shoots. Duck breast is a winning ingredient here and holds up well to the flavors of the broth. The miso ramen, made from pork bone broth and served with miso, butter, corn, scallion, beansprout, sesame seed, chopped garlic and white pepper, is best served with snow crab, scallop, shrimp and kuro buta sausage.

The true star of the show at Strings is the noodle. Made fresh daily from an imported Japanese mixer and noodle maker, they take as little as 15 seconds to cook in the broths yet hold up well to extended baths, maintaining their firmness and the sweetness of the flour from which they're made.

Strings also has a small selection of sides including oden, skewered snacks on sticks simmered slowly in a dashi stock. You would do well here to stick with the spicy toasted garlic, which is so tender you could spread it on bread. Take a bit of it and add it to the miso or shio (turkey) ramen broths.

Strings Ramen Shop is located at 2145 S. Archer Ave., 312-274-3450. They're BYOB.