This summer's special at Ramen Halu is another amazing combination: Shio Ryan Men (salt-flavored cold ramen). It was introduced this month and I don't know how much longer it will run. I ordered it on Monday and hope I can get back there before it's gone.
Here's the description from Halu's website:
Thank you very much for your visiting Ramen HALU.
Sweet, Sour & Spicy Cold Broth Noodle
SHIO RYAN MEN $10.30
Our new summer special is finally here!
Using a blend of AKOH salt and OKINAWA sea salt our new broth is packed natural sea minerals, Perfect for those hot summer days, our SHIO RYAN MEN is a chilled shio broth with a silky tecture abundant with collagen. Our special made jalapeno oil drifts on the surface for a spicy kick. The noodles are kneaded with spinach and topped with a generous amount of our thick & juicy fatty cha-shu that will melt in your mouth. So come by and cool down with our summer limited time SHIO RYAN MEN!
Lunch and Dinner only 20 servings available."
After reading this, I still didn't know quite what to expect. The price seemed high to me, and I had thought it would be a pile of noodles served separately to be dipped in the stock. Also, Halu's stocks are fatty and I wondered how this would translate into a chilled version.
I was suprised when a bowl of noodles in soup was served. The broth had a few beads of grease on the surface, but was relatively fat-free. That's not to say that it wasn't rich. The flavor was quite intense, tasting mostly of chicken highlighted with a gentle salting, a brisk tartness, minimal sweetness, and a faint green chili note but not enough to register as spicy hot or even warm. Served cool but not icy refrigerator temperature, the stock was thick and glycerined. A few degrees colder and it would have been jellied. I loved how it united and brightened all the flavors in the bowl: fresh compressed spinach, extra toasty nori still crisp and not steamed soft, perky cilantro, sake-sweetened fermented bamboo shoots, deep-fried garlic and scallions, the pale green noodles, and the special pork. The cool stock was very refreshing and cleansing, yet I didn't enjoy it on it's own at the bottom of the bowl. It was a touch too acidic and zingy without an accompaniment for plain quaffing.
The noodles tasted faintly of vegetables, not speaking strongly of spinach, with a pleasing toothsomeness and very chewy bite. They married well with the many tones in the shio stock.
The fatty roast pork was fantastic. Halu makes the best cha su of the local ramen-yas, and this was even better. From a fattier cut than the usual fare, it seemed like it was seasoned a little more and had a more carmelized crust for extra flavor punch against the cold and tastebud-numbing serving temperature. This was a larger portion of cha su than normal here, and completely justifies the extra cost. Halu's artistry and attention to small details of presentation comes through here, as the pork slices were warmed enough that the meat was buttery tender and the fat was clear. In fact the last piece, on the bottom of the shingled stack cooled off too much by the time I got to it and was not as enjoyable as the first three pieces. Next time I would lift all the pork slices up on the rim of the bowl so that they retain their heat and perfect texture longer.
Another wonderful creation from the mighty Halu - if only Halu execute as well with every bowl. I was suprised that restaurant was not full at the peak of the lunch hour. The inconsistency reported here may have taken its toll. I noticed that frequent buyer cards were being handed out, indicating that business must be down. I hope that Halu can pull it together because when it's on its game, there's no better around here.
375-M South Saratoga Ave.
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