The Cup of Noodles: Republic Ramen vs. Cherryblossom Noodle Cafe
914 E. Camelback Rd. in Phoenix
|Cherryblossom's Hakata ramen needs some veggie love.|
We pull up to Cherryblossom Noodle Cafe for a weeknight dinner and walk in to an almost packed house. The place is small, but warm and comforting, with faux brick walls and a shiny red telephone booth reminiscent of the muggle entrance to Harry Potter's Ministry of Magic. In the open kitchen, Asian chefs laugh and banter in their native tongues whilst churning out endless batches of noodles, sushi and even Italian pasta. A dessert case beckons with colorful cakes and silky chocolate mousse -- a favorite with local food blogger JK Grence.
"The broth is warm and savory," says my volunteer taste-tester. "But this pork has way too much fat." The broth is less creamy than its counterpart, with a smoky pork flavor and a strange bitter undertone I can't place. It's so heavy, I can only stomach a few mouthfuls before I need a palate-cleansing bite of California roll.
I barely touch the pork, leaving my companion to down the bland, fatty strips. The noodles in Cherryblossom's ramen are glutinous and heavy, but taste fresh. Overall, that's a good description for this ramen dish: heavy. Kikurage strips lighten it with earthy flavor, as well as a much needed crunch. The mushroom was a nice touch. But while corn or carrots aren't commonplace in most types of authentic Japanese ramen, I miss the texture of the fresh vegetables slowly steeping in the broth.
The Winner: Props to Cherryblossom for their authenticity and warmth, but Republic Ramen & Noodles is where I'll go for a delicious bowl of noodles.