It’s an unprepossessing location sandwiched between the bustling Gigio’s Pizza and a sadly empty Asian Express, but the small new storefront that is Table to Stix Ramen on Evanston’s Davis Street is poised to make a big impact.
It’s the first true ramen restaurant on the North Shore (you can find a few farther afield in Arlington Heights), and it’s very, very good — not to mention reasonably priced. So far it’s drawing a nice mix of NU students and locals, but given its proximity to the “L,” I’m expecting an influx of Chicagoans once the word gets out.
This is a pretty compact menu, with eight small bites (i.e., appetizers) and three types of ramen to choose from. Some of the starters you’ve seen before (looking at you, edamame and gyoza), but a few have a fresh spin, like the Spicy Edamame ($4) pods tossed in a thinned-out version of gochujang, a fermented Korean pepper condiment, which had us licking our fingers.
The Chicken Karaage ($5) are not your typical chicken nuggets; they are marinated and then dredged in potato starch and spices, which makes for a thick and crunchy coating. The chicken is served with spicy aioli for dipping.
Perhaps best of all were the Brussels Sprouts ($4), deep-fried and tossed with a wasabi-tinged dressing; the performance art piece is provided by the addition of bonito fish flakes. Perched on top of the hot sprouts, they wave and writhe, almost too spectacular to eat. But when you do — and you will— you’ll be rewarded with a delightful fishy funk that really adds to the dish. A winner.
As for ramen, the main event, there are three varieties of broth available: miso, shoyu and tonkotsu. Part of the joy of eating ramen, aside from reveling in a big warm bowl of delicious, is the mouth explosion of flavors and textures that you experience when eating it. Along with the deeply flavored broths, Chef Kenny Chou makes fresh ramen noodles, and they are silky and supple, with just the right amount of toothsome bite.
The Shoyu Ramen ($12) is a soy-based broth, the clearest and lightest of the three. It’s garnished with two crispy tempura prawns, half an ajitama (soy-marinated) egg, braised bok choy (menma), wood ear mushrooms, a few slices of colorful cured fishcake, and chopped scallions.
The Tonkotsu Ramen ($13) is the real showpiece, the creamy porky broth filled with soy-braised pork belly, the ajitama egg, kernels of sweet corn, menma, fish cake and fresh bean sprouts. Feel free to spice it up a bit with the chile oil on every table, or add one of the toppings (priced from 50 cents to $2), such as kimchee, fried tofu or seasoned ground beef to customize your ramen bowl.
Desserts are limited to green tea ice cream and mochi ice cream balls, but you’re not coming here for that. You’re here for the big bowl of soul-stirring comfort. Winter is coming, or hadn’t you heard?
(Note: A liquor license is currently in-process, so no alcohol available for purchase, but they have many non-alcoholic options, or just BYOB.)
Table to Stix Ramen
1007 Davis Street
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