If you’re like me, you’ve spent many hasty meals hovering over a sad bowl of warm, flaccid ramen noodles. At times, you might have gotten creative and swirled in an egg, or topped the bowl with some bean sprouts. You might have even fancied yourself an expert at making what you thought were good noodles. However, no matter how good you think you are at making ramen, chef Patrick Lynch has you beat.
Lynch and his co-owner, Sterling Grice, first opened Foo Ramen Bar in April but it already seems to be booming place eat in Victoria. The noodles here are a world away from the Sapporo Ichiban packages you ate in university.
Located at 762 Broughton, the new ramen house is only a few blocks away from Foo’s original location, which has been serving up Asian street food since 2009. The original Foo is where I first tasted their pork belly steam bun sandwich, which is in my opinion just about the greatest thing you can hold in one hand and stuff in your face. Their new noodle house has a cozy yet trendy feel to it that is reminiscent of their previous location. It features Japanese art posters, wood paneling, and soft hanging lights. Also, a full view of the tiny kitchen is available from most seats, which is always a big plus. The menu here is humble to start, containing only nine items: three noodle bowls, three rice bowls, and three salads.
I love Foo and I love ramen. Naturally, I couldn’t wait to try the two together. My choice, the $12 Pork (Tonkotsu) Noodle Bowl, was a no brainer for me given my obsession with Foo’s pork belly. There were also some gluten-free options (minus the soy sauce which has gluten) for my celiac friend who landed on the Tofu Rice Bowl for only $9. We were still taking in the new surroundings when our food was delivered.
My noodles turned out to be everything I hoped they would be. The pork belly was cooked to a beautiful tenderness that melted in my mouth with a umami flavour like no other. The plethora of toppings: the soft boiled egg, shiitake mushrooms, and toasted nori were all delicious. The oven dried tomato and thinly sliced jalapeño, however, were a playful and welcomed addition. Unfortunately, the rice bowl was a bit wanting in size and the marinated tofu, though very tasty, was a bit salty.
The manager of Foo Ramen Bar, Greg Aarons, told me afterwards that almost all their ingredients are from a local source. My beloved pork belly is from the Village Butcher in Oak Bay, and even their noodles are custom made to be the perfect ramen noodles from Bagga Pasta in Esquimalt.
Aarons said that the philosophy behind ramen is that it inspires you to get creative and top it with whatever you feel fits. Suddenly I don’t feel so bad about some of my own creations. Still, next time I have a hankering for ramen, I’ll leave the cooking up to Lynch and his team.