In Italy, it’s considered rude to slurp your noodles. In Japan, it’s totally fine.
I learned that from Tampopo, a cult Japanese flick from the ’80s about a struggling ramen shop owner who decided to master the art of noodle soup. As an Italian-American, I’ve been told not to slurp my noodles since I was old enough to twirl them around a fork, so that’s one reason I love ramen – childish desires fulfilled.
But I love them much more for the fact that a bowl of hot, flavorful broth, chewy, filling noodles, and a plethora of toppings is just good, honest food.
I’m happy to say that although they are still far outnumbered by places selling spaghetti bolognese, Columbus is home to several fine establishments where I can slurp to my heart’s content.
1439 Grandview Ave.
Recently opened in Grandview, Jōbu is small, dark, and streamlined, with a counter inside where you can watch the chefs work and a row of tables outside where you can watch the neighborhood go about its business. Although Jōbu has a handful of appetizers and salads on the menu, the main focus is on the ramen. They feature veggie, chicken, soy, and miso (the last two include roasted pork and take their name from the flavoring of their broth). They can turn up the heat for you with a house-made chili oil or even hotter red chili pepper threads. The bowl of chicken ramen featured beautifully flavorful broth and silky pieces of chicken; the miso had a delicate broth base and savory pork belly strips.
114 N Third St.
Open since March, Rishi Sushi is a bright, energetic Asian concept downtown featuring a large and playful menu that also includes apps, burgers, and sushi. I laughed when the big (and extremely hot) stone bowl with a wooden base and dipper-sized wooden spoon was brought to the table – it reminded me of a bibimbap bowl. But it perfectly matched the vibe of the restaurant and the noodles inside were excellent. With all the standard toppings of egg, scallions, bean sprouts, corn, and fish cake slices in the chicken bowl, there were also chicken patties, a cute deviation of standard sliced chicken. Besides several bowl choices, you can also get plain noodles in broth, a super spicy “Good Luck Ramen Challenge,” or a build-your-own option.
1159 Old Henderson Rd.
Tucked inside the Japanese grocery store Tensuke Market on Old Henderson Road, Tensuke Express is a casual little quick-service place where you can eat around the big central aquarium or take your order to go. Run by the same local company as Akai Hana, which is right across the way in the Kenny Shopping Centre, Tensuke has been a well-loved fixture of the local ramen scene for several years. For such a small place, they manage to pack a lot onto the menu, including side dishes, curry plates, and udon or soba bowls. Their ramen comes in shio, shoyu, miso, or tonkatsu flavor, and is topped with a variety of proteins. The fried pork cutlet bowl came topped with hard-boiled eggs, bean sprouts, and fish cake. Next to the counter where you order is a small table of seasonings including soy sauce, white pepper, and shichimi, or Japanese spice blend.