Issue 30

Supper Club: Ika Ramen and Izakaya

Supper Club: Ika Ramen and Izakaya

Publisher’s Note: Omega Omega Omega (Tri Omega), the culinary fraternity at the Institute for the Culinary Arts at Metropolitan Community College, strives to provide students with opportunities to apply and develop their skills through unique experiences. One of these experiences is the Supper Club. The Supper Club selects a restaurant once a quarter and works with the chef of the restaurant to provide a unique dining experience to challenge the palate and minds of the students with the unique ingredients and techniques found in that chef’s kitchen. The article and photography for this article are also done by students.

Since many of our students had never experienced ramen outside of the dehydrated noodle “bricks” you get at the grocery store, the cold month of January was the perfect time for a winter quarter supper club at Ika Ramen and Izakaya.

Ika Ramen and Izakaya is the brainchild of Chef Jose Dionicio.  The idea of a standalone ramen shop started with a limited time ramen Sunday service that Jose offered at Taita, his restaurant just up the street from the Izakaya. Ramen Sunday lunch was the place to be and it booked up quickly each week.  Diners started asking for ramen more often, setting the wheels in motion for the birth of IKA, which opened its doors December 10th, 2015.

When you step into the small, welcoming spot at 6324 Maple Street in Benson, you are transported back to the ramen and Izakaya spots in Japan. Similar to a Spanish tapas bar, a traditional Izakaya is a style of drinking establishment that serves small courses of food over a period of time and often meant to be shared with others.

Once inside, the casual, friendly atmosphere put everyone at ease, instantly staving off the apprehension that some students were feeling since they had never dined at an Izakaya. The tantalizing aroma of the rich broth floated in the air, whetting appetites. The bright, delightful mural offered an exciting and energizing backdrop to the tables, while the open prep counter allowed for the guest to watch the creation of their meal.

Our meal started with the kimchee chicharones, glazed with a fish sauce caramel and scattered with scallions. The chicharones were light and crispy, seasoned well and made a wonderful vehicle to enjoy the tart and spicy kimchee. The fish sauce caramel imparted a sweet and salty note that gave the entire dish the taste of umami.

Following the chicharones, the perfectly steamed and salted edamame pods and a jar of Togarashi allowed each diner to control the spice and heat level of the dish. A fragrant Japanese spice blend, Togarashi is usually made of red chili pepper, black pepper, sesame seeds, dried mandarin orange peel, green nori seaweed flakes and poppy seeds.

Next up were steamed pork belly buns that had a rich, braised pork belly inside a soft open bun, fresh cilantro and pickled cucumbers. Denny Nichols said they were his favorite dish and that they were, “rich, decadent, balanced and fresh.”

It was now time for the main course: the ramen. The first bowl was the Shoyu Ramen, a rich soy and pork broth, perfectly cooked noodles, soft boiled egg, scallion, pork and bamboo shoots.  The last bowl was the Tonkatsu Ramen, a rich and creamy pork broth emulsified with pork fat, filled with noodles, soft boiled egg, pickled red onion and fresh scallions, topped with toasted sesame seeds. Hearty, decadent and satisfying.

As the meal came to an end we were treated to a whimsical dessert. A green tea ice cream with green tea KitKat candy bar. The ice cream was rich with a floral note and not too sweet, while the KitKat gave it a much needed bit of texture.  It was a perfect ending.

At the end of the day, most of the students remarked that they were now spoiled ramen connoisseurs, who would never go back to their old grocery store “bricks”. Many wanted to share their experience with others.

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