The dominant force of ramen consumption in Atlanta met up with me at RAKU for lunch last week, and even though this post is riding on her coat tails, I thought it was worth sharing. Located in Duluth in the Super H shopping center on Pleasant Hill, RAKU took over the Shabu King space, which I thoroughly enjoyed and was bummed I didn’t go to more often after hearing of their closure.
The menu is limited (apparently they are going to expand later), so right now it’s mostly various versions of ramen and tonkatsu, fried thin pork cutlets. I often mix up the words tonkatsu and tonkotsu when speaking them aloud, the latter being a reference to the style of pork rich broth that crazed ramen-heads crave. Creating a fine tonkotsu broth is not like making a simple stock, it takes great care, the milky rich broth is pretty much an emulsion of soup broth and pork fat and collagen. Everyone does it it a little different, but the end-goal is the same. You can check out a great detail of this process at No Recipes.
I found the tonkotsu ramen at RAKU to be excellent. While not as deeply opulent as the most tantalizing of this style of ramen, it was very balanced, and not overly salty, a problem I’ve run into at Haru Ichiban. The thin strips of fatty pork were also excellent. I liked the shredded pickled ginger topping (Chloe did not), but I agreed that the excess of bean sprouts was unnecessary and sort of dirtied the taste of their wonderfully clean broth. The noodles themselves were quite fine as well.
Dumplings are often…dumplings, so surprisingly I though the gyoza were drool worthy. They were plump and juicy and day-dreamingly flavorful.
They also had an excellent sear, and they have these sheets of something I can’t identify attached to the bottoms. It’s as if they pour a layer of batter in the pan, than set the dumplings in it to cook. I saw this recently at a Tibetan restaurant too and would like to learn more about this. My guess is it allows them to fry the bottom of the dumplings properly, while allowing an easy release from the pan.
The space is open and simply elegant, and they also had a ton of fresh flowers around. I was told that the other business owners in the complex drop them off when a new restaurant opens, a kind and classy tradition.
True to form, right now Chloe is working her way around San Francisco looking for ramen. Based on her twitter picture below, it looks like she tried some Hapa Ramen; the tell-tale pork belly gives it away. Their artisan style of ramen (local greens, sous vide egg, slow simmered pork bellies) haunts me, I hope someone in Atlanta attempts this one day soon. In the meantime, I continue to be tortured from afar by Hapa’s twitter feed.