The Cup of Noodles: Republic Ramen vs. Cherryblossom Noodle Cafe

In the Other Corner: 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.

​We order a happy hour California roll for two bucks and await our dish of Hakata ramen, another name for tonkotsu derived from a Japanese city north of Kyushu. A few minutes later our dish arrives. The bowl is noticeably smaller than Republic's oversized china, and the broth darker in color. Inside is a nest of homemade-looking wheat noodles topped with thin curls of kikurage mushroom that look deceptively like noodles.

"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.    

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I've been to various ramen shops in LA as well as in Japan, I've never seen Japanese ramen shops serving any types of ramen (miso, shio, shoyu, tonkotsu...) serviced with spinach and carrot.. may be some Chinese restaurants. Corn is often used with ramen from northern (Hokkaido) area. Cherryblossom offers Kaedama for very low price!

Jk Grence
Jk Grence

I do enjoy both places quite a bit. Number one in town for tonkotsu ramen is Sushi Ken down in Ahwatukee. Very delicious, and very authentic Japanese.

Dominic Armato
Dominic Armato

It's pork. The fat is the point. Which everybody in the world seems to have figured out except us. *sigh*

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