If your memory of ramen is limited to those cups of instant noodle soup you ate in college, you are behind the times. Those salt bombs are a thing of the past. Ramen is the latest food to be adopted by the hipster crowd and artisanal noodles and gourmet ingredients have elevated this once-pedestrian dish to haute cuisine.
While the ramen trend has long been established on the West Coast and NYC, you can now find a few places in South Florida offering you a chance to partake of this latest food trend. One of the best is right in the middle of downtown Hollywood. Go Bistro is a tiny storefront that brings together all kinds of folks. Hipsters, families and hipster families. Foreigners, tourists and foreign tourists. Gays and seniors and gay seniors. It seems everyone loves Go Bistro’s inventive takes on classic Japanese comfort foods, and not just ramen, but sushi, and fusion dishes that will blow your mind.
Start with the appetizers. Sure, there’s gyoza (pork dumplings) that are perfectly crisp. But, there’s also another new trend; poke, as well as tuna tataki, yaki tori (skewered meat) and Chinese bao buns stuffed with a panoply of Asian fare (pork belly with pickled onions & scallions, fried chicken in a choice of ginger soy or spicy sauce with cilantro, tomato & kewpie mayo, soft-shell crab, or a shrimp po' bun). For a real treat order the panko-crusted avocado fries or sticky-sweet and spicy Korean-style chicken wings.
For dinner or appetizers there are the usual maki rolls, as well as more inventive combinations of sushi, but you MUST try one of the six ramen options. The most popular version of the traditional Japanese noodle soup is tonkatsu. The $13 meal in a bowl features rich pork broth, pork belly, scallions, bamboo, nori (a sheet of dried seaweed-easily removed for those who are squeamish) and a runny soft-boiled egg. If you prefer your egg cooked a little more, just shove it down into the hot broth and in seconds it will be perfectly cooked.
Other options include pork belly in either a miso or a soy-based broth, vegan miso broth or vegetarian soy broth with tofu and vegetables, a spicy curry broth with pork belly or, for a few dollars more, order the Thai-influenced tom yum version. All contain a healthy serving of slightly chewy ramen noodles.
Finish off your meal with a stack of mini-donuts. One order is easily enough for 6-8 people and provides just the right touch of sweetness to end the meal. There is an extensive menu of sake and Japanese beers. I plan to stop by one weekend for brunch. Dishes, such as cheesy fried rice, tuna poke over furikake rice and green tea matcha French toast are just too tempting. The Hangover Ramen seems perfect for the titular ailment with a spicy broth, egg, ground pork and spam.
Hipster places like this usually place more emphasis on the attractiveness of the wait staff than the service. At Go Bistro, not only are the servers gorgeous, but they are flawless in the performance of their duties. We merely had to think of something and it appeared. It was spooky, as if the staff was reading our minds.
It is truly difficult to write a review when everything is perfect. Luckily this visit wasn’t without its drawback. There was a drunk sitting at the sushi bar, talking too loudly on his phone. That is truly the only negative thing I could find, even the children in this place were perfectly behaved! BTW, the drunk left after only a few minutes, no one said a thing to him. I think it was the staff playing a Jedi mind-trick on him. “These are not the hipsters you seek.”
2035 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
Use your noodle and check out the ramen at these places:
Ramen Lab Eatery
100 NE 2nd St., Boca Raton
In addition to tonkatsu and miso (with a choice of either char sui pork belly, ground chicken or Korean short ribs), this popular spot offers five-spiced duck, vegan and a tom yum flavored seafood version of the classic dish.
Temple Street Eatery
416 N. Federal, Fort Lauderdale
While there may be other ramen specials from time to time, you can always order the pork miso broth with meaty pork belly or the vegan shoyu versions.
Kin Asian Street Food
143 SW 6th St., Pompano Beach
Yes, there are tonkatsu, spicy miso and shoyu versions, but branch out and check out the kim chee flavored broth topped with Chinese BBQ pork, corn, soft boiled egg, and of course, the namesake pickled veggies.