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What I Ate: November 17th, 2011 (Kome Sushi Kitchen)

Posted 18 December, 2011 at 4:31am by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Dining, What I Ate)

When we lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, there were several excellent ramen shops offering different styles of ramen which we loved. After we moved to Austin, it's been hard finding ramen that's authentic - the fact is that there aren't that many Japanese restaurants offering it in the first place. When we heard that Kome (4917 Airport Blvd, Austin, TX 512-712-5700) may have Austin's best ramen, we just had to try it out.

Tonkotsu ramen
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Miso Ramen
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We tried the tonkotsu ramen and the miso ramen. Both broths are thinner (more watery - lacking richness and gelatin) than what I like. The tonkotsu broth was very white, but it didn't seem to get there from pig fat, gelatin, and bones. It was relatively bland and needed salt. It didn't taste complex and lacked a distinct pork flavor one looks for in tonkotsu broth. The pork loin served with the tonkotsu ramen was very lean and had the texture of ham. I did not like it.

The miso ramen's broth in comparison was much more flavorful and properly salted. It was also on the thin side, but by the end of the meal I enjoyed it enough to finish the broth. Ground pork instead of pork loin was served with the miso ramen which I wasn't all that fond of, but, when blended with the broth, it tasted fine.

Both broths were served warm to hot, but not as hot as I feel ramen should be served. There was no need to blow on the broth after spooning it up and no need to slurp to incorporate cool air with the broth. I never thought I would miss that aspect of ramen… but I did.

The ramen noodles were almost good. The noodles had the right texture - a certain firmness caused by the use of high protein (hard) wheat flour and alkaline salts (kansui) - and color - a yellow tone usually caused by the alkaline salts, but it lacked the flavor that I associate with ramen noodles. The alkaline salts cause the starch to have a distinct flavor (like the difference between cornmeal and masa) which I couldn't taste. They could have also used a bit of salt. There was also an extra starchiness that lingered in the mouth after eating them - as if there was a slurry of flour left in the mouth - that I haven't experienced before and did not like.

The last problem was the extremely deep bowls our ramen was served in. This made the use of the soup spoons cumbersome as we had to hold them at extremely steep angles to get them to scoop anything up (and therefore could not actually fill the spoons at the beginning of the meal). By the end of the meal, I actually was holding my spoon hand INSIDE the bowl in order to fill the spoon with soup and miscellaneous bits.

In summary, it is the best ramen in Austin overall… but I'm not sure it's good enough to satisfy my ramen cravings. The real test will be if a couple months down the line when I'm craving ramen, will I go to Kome? Only time will tell.

We also had gyoza for appetizer and taiyaki (red bean pastry) for dessert.
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