Food Porn: NoNoo Ramen

****Update: Unfortunately NoNoo Ramen has closed.

To say people were excited for the opening of NoNoo Ramen would be an understatement.  Any new restaurant on Elmwood will get some additional buzz but a restaurant offering a more traditional version of Japanese Ramen will really raise the expectations and build some hype.  NoNoo just opened their doors two days ago (in between Pasteurized Tee’s and Bistro Europa).  They still aren’t accepting credit cards, selling alcohol or offering take out (they should be sometime next week) but you can still enjoy their menu of 4 types of ramen as well as several small and large plates.  The crowd luckily doesn’t seem to be too crazy yet but if all of the tables are taken you can give the hostess your name and cell phone number and they’ll send you a text/call when your table is ready.  Alli and I were told it would be a 20 minute wait so we got a drink next door at Faherty’s and waited for the phone call.

This is the part where I normally say “we won’t be making any final judgements.”  The restaurant has been open for 3 days and the menu and staff will mostly likely change and improve over the next couple months; it’s a given that it’s way to early make a verdict.  However, I will say that most of the food really impressed Alli and I and I can’t wait to go back.  Here are some first impressions we had from our dinner two nights ago.

Quick Info:

  • Restaurant Type: Casual
  • Location: Elmwood
  • Cuisine: Japanese
  • Prices: Bowls of Ramen $11-14, Appetizers $5-7

We started our meal off with a couple of small plates.  Alli was really excited about trying their Crab Rangoon Rolls ($7), which were surprisingly impressive.  We’ve eaten a lot of Crab Rangoon but never in the form of a sushi roll.  The rolls were filled with rice, crab and cream cheese but were then tempura fried and then covered in eel sauce.  Don’t be scared away because it includes the word “eel”, the sauce was a really nice touch and is basically a sweeter, thicker soy sauce.  The warm fried exterior played nicely against the colder/chilled filling of cream cheese, crab and rice.

I also ordered their small plate offering of Tsukemono ($5, jars of pickles) that came with homemade pickled cucumbers, daikon and some kimchi (pictured in gallery).  The cucumbers were lightly pickled and still had a firm bite and subtle dill flavor, the daikon had a really strong sour kick and the kimchi wasn’t overwhelming but still had a good kick of heat.

I ended up ordering their Chuka Ramen Bowl ($11, called YesYes Ramen on their website, pictured top) which included pork broth with large pieces of roasted pork, bok choy, steamed shrimp wontons and I added some kimchi for an extra $1.50.  The broth was delicious and the pieces of pork were very tender and had a nicely seasoned skin.  The bok choy had a subtle bitterness that worked well with the savory pork broth.

Alli ordered their Bacon Ramen ($11, pictured above).  This bowl had smoked chicken bacon broth and two large pieces of crispy bacon on top of noodles, garlic chips, pork rinds and two eggs (I ordered an egg with mine but they gave Alli an extra instead).   The biggest difference right off the bat was the broth, we noticed a general “bacon” taste but it was very subtle and when compared to the pork broth, the broth in this bowl was a little lacking in flavor.  When Alli broke the eggs the flavor definitely improved and for a moment it reminded her of a bacon and eggs breakfast.  I recommend eating those pork rinds quickly because they started to get soggy if you focus on the bacon/broth/eggs for too long.  Alli seemed to like my Chuka bowl better than her Bacon Ramen but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was bad, just a different taste that might not appeal to all people.

My experience with ramen pretty much starts and ends with one trip to NYC and sampling a fish ramen from Rai Rai Ken, so I certainly can’t say with any confidence that NoNoo ranks with anything from NYC, Toronto or any other large city.  What I do know is that I really liked my meal and I’m excited that people in Buffalo are buzzing about Japanese ramen.  It makes me hopeful that we’ll eventually see restaurants serving Shabu-shabu or Yakitori in the near future.  I’m not saying that one ramen restaurant is going to change the course of Buffalo’s dining, but if NoNoo can succeed (while serving a good product) then hopefully some more restaurants owners can start taking some chances and offering more diverse cuisines.  I just know that I can’t wait to go back and get another bowl of Chuka Ramen, hopefully before they sell out (which reportedly happened after our meal).

Photo Gallery:

NoNoo Ramen on Urbanspoon

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