Sunday, September 11, 2016

Kanji Ramen - Restaurant Review

I've been looking for a new ramen place in Austin. I know, everyone says that Ramen Tatsu-Ya is so good, but it's just too salty for me and I've never had good service there! I've tried both locations and I just can't enjoy it when I feel that my veins are being coated with sodium as I ingest the broth. Yep, gross. Also, I can't stand being rushed out because there's a line outside. Even if they didn't make it explicit that they want you to eat as fast as humanly possible, I would feel bad making others wait outside while I lingered over a bowl of noodles. No, it's just not the right fit for me.

Michi Ramen started out great, but over the past year the quality of the ramen has gone downhill and I can't bring myself to go back. It doesn't taste freshly-made anymore. I've had sub-par ramen there twice since last October, so I'm done. I'm so sad, too, as this was our go-to place for my favorite comfort food.

Enter Kanji Ramen. It's not nearly as hip or cool as the other two, but there's a lot to like about this new little place on Research and Jollyville Road.

Sassy Wine Belly - Kanji Ramen

First, the good! Extremely friendly service, very clean with cute decor, and delicious ramen!

Sassy Wine Belly - Kanji Ramen

I ordered the Kanji Ramen for $11 a bowl. It was a substantially-sized serving, although not as large as Michi used to make theirs. I was pretty full after finishing it.

The broth was delicious without being too salty, the egg was nicely cooked, and I loved the mix of all of the ingredients. The pork was a little dry, which means that they pre-sliced it then reheated it, but they do the same at Michi. It tasted okay, but I've had better. The noodles are not made in-house, but they are fresh and taste great!

Water is self-serve out of a water dispenser, which is just fine.

Now for the things that need improvement (and I would love to see improvement because I want this place to stay!). 

First of all, the restaurant smells too strongly of plug-in air freshener when you first enter. No restaurant should ever smell like an artificial vanilla Glade Plug-In - makes me think that they are trying to cover up a foul smell from the trash or sewer. Restaurants should smell like good food, period. After checking out the bathroom, though, this place looks very clean.

Second of all, the ceiling fans running on high cool the ramen too quickly. My steaming-but-not-scalding bowl should retain its heat so that I'm still enjoying a very warm mouthful of broth and noodles towards the end. With the ceiling fans on high, the bowl was downright cold just halfway through.

Lastly,  the music choice could be better to help with the ambience. When we visited, the restaurant was playing what sounded like Asian pop with Asian rap and Asian ballads mixed in. Better to exclude the latter two and keep the upbeat tunes.

That being said, I'm interested in going back to Kanji for another excellent bowl of ramen!

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