Ramen is FINALLY catching on in Connecticut and I, for one, am thrilled. I can’t seem to get enough of the stuff. The other day, on my way to the Connecticut Antiques Show, I had a chance to stop at Ramen-Ya in Berlin. It was on our radar as a solid destination for the real deal. We were happy to find a spare, rather non-descript spot, just off Route 9, and couldn’t wait to dig into a steaming bowl! For those of you unfamiliar, restaurant ramen is an entirely different animal than those curly packaged noodles with that severely salty little envelope of flavoring. Real ramen is a feast for the senses. From the slippery noodles to the flavorful broth and depending on your mood, all manner of add-ins. My favorite usually involves pork, so you’ll find slabs of tender pork belly, slices of narutomaki (a seasoned fish cake) bamboo shoots, corn kernels, leeks, stewed shitakes, and a softly boiled egg that I slit open to let the yolk ooze into the broth.
The idea is to slurp your noodles (with chopsticks), take a little broth break with a couple of spoonfuls and perhaps a bite of meat, and let the flavors meld together. Once you get to the bottom of the bowl, the broth is deep and intense and bursting with umami. I can eat the stuff for breakfast, lunch or dinner and have been known to. Our experience at Ramen-ya was a delight, made even more so by our lovely waiter. Riley hails from the Shoreline and gave us quite a lesson on the various types of ramen on offer, while he served us an earthy green tea from a French press. We started with a few appetizers, a scallionish pancake and something quite like tempura. All good, but I say skip it and save room. Ramen is filling. For a treat after, have an adorable ball of Mochi, a Japanese bon-bon filled with either red bean or green tea ice cream. If you’re heading to Hartford, or just feel like a hot, steamy, slurpy pick-me-up, stop here.