Game Changer: Qui's Ramen
The hype is real and the hype is well-deserved. Qui Tran, the smiling face of Mai Lee, is about to rain authentic Japanese ramen down over St. Louis. Earlier this summer, Qui brought in ramen expert Shigetoshi Nakamura and Sun Noodles representative Asako Ochiai to workshop all aspects of the ramen making process with himself and Mary-Anne Velasco, executive chef of the ramen shop. I was lucky enough to get to hang out and steal food when no one was looking. Gregg Goldman, stud food photographer and occasional writer, was also there. He wrote a great summary of the weekend—a must read; I'm just here to be the hype man.
Whatever you think is good ramen in St. Louis currently is not. In fact, when comparing it to real ramen, it's downright bad. Ramen isn't just one type of noodle soup either. Going to Japan and proudly professing "I LOVE RAMEN!" is not unlike someone standing up and yelling "I LOVE SOUP!" in the US.
Educate yourself: ramen is regional and varies hugely. The big 4 are shoyu (soy), shio (salt), tonkotsu (pork bone broth), and miso (fermented bean paste), but there are tons more. Chicken ramen is becoming more prominent, some with thin broths and some with schmaltzy, unctuous bases. Some ramen isn't even a soup - it's noodles dipped into broth as you eat. Spend some time reading Lucky Peach's Regional Ramen Guide.
If I sound smug or arrogant, like some kind of ramen elitist, it's because I am. I lived off that shit in Singapore. Kara (spicy) miso ramen coursed through my veins.
Here's a glimpse of the madness that went on that weekend: egg making, pork tasting, broths galore, noodle measuring, and, finally, ramen eating.
What Nakamura and Qui made that weekend was on par with any ramen I've ever had before, whether in the US, Japan, or Singapore. We still have a ways to go before it opens - Qui says Q1 2016, I'm hoping for Q4 2015 - but you can rest assured that when it opens, you'll be getting the best ramen that's ever been made in St. Louis.