You rolled with us down the Donut Trail, elbowed your way through the Mac & Cheese Trail, and picked the bones clean on the Fried Chicken Trail. Now, 614NOW takes you on a new culinary excursion dedicated to the city’s best offerings of that trademark dish from the Land of the Rising Sun. Welcome to the 614NOW Ramen Trail!
More than just a college dorm room staple, ramen holds a special place within the rich culinary traditions of Japan. Originating from noodle soups brought to the island nation by Chinese immigrants, ramen has evolved into one of the country’s most prominent national dishes, second only to sushi.
With many unique regional styles in its home country, ramen has transcended borders to become a global phenomenon. Prepared slowly but devoured ravenously, this is one of the few dishes for which slurping is not considered impolite, but mandatory!
For the first stop on our ramen adventure, it’s only right to begin with the OG of noodles in Columbus: Tensuke Express. Located in a mini-mall-style complex of Japan-centric shops on Kenny road, Tensuke is the first place in the Columbus that I can recall seeing ramen done with care.
When I arrived around midday for a recent visit, Tensuke was bustling with a lunch crowd of the noodle faithful. At the counter, I placed my go-to order: Tonkatsu Ramen—noodles served in a delightfully cloudy slow-boiled pork bone broth— topped with thinly-sliced chashu pork.
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Living up to the “express” part of the restaurant’s name, my ramen came out in no time, and I dived right in.
The deep, subtly earthly flavors of the broth in this dish are complimented by a smoked hardboiled egg—a ramen staple. Like the egg, The toppings in Tensuke’s offerings stick to the traditional: tender pieces of bamboo, spinach, sliced mushroom, and chopped scallions, which ride atop the broth like little bombs of flavor. Sometimes, the old ways are best.
Great broth and toppings can only take a bowl of ramen so far. As essential as properly prepared rice is to quality sushi, so are those singular alkaline noodles to the foundation of good ramen. Without a doubt, the noodles at Tensuke Express are everything they should be. Springy and not at all soggy, these strands are the perfect vehicle to send the flavorful broth speeding into your mouth as fast as you can slurp.
With a hearty broth that reminds of the slow-cooked flavors of home cooking, paired with first-rate noodles, it’s clear why Tensuke Express remains a hit with diners year after year. The only problem with this ramen? Finding the willpower to return to work after polishing off a bowl instead of curling up for an afternoon nap.
The Verdict: 🍜🍜🍜🍜🍜 (5/5 Bowls)
Next week, 614’s Mitch Hooper expands his horizons beyond the instant stuff with North Market newcomers Satori Ramen Bar.