Sushi Ken v. China Magic Noodle House: Chow Bella's Ultimate Battle of the Ramen
We caused a few waves last week with the second matchup in our Ultimate Battle of the Dishes ramen bracket, during which Tempe's Republic Ramen came out ahead over new kid on the block, Umami. Eventually, Republic will be facing off against Hana Japanese Eatery, which beat out Clever Koi for a spot in round two.
This week, we're heading to the East Valley to see whether Ahwatukee's Sushi Ken or Chandler's China Magic Noodle House will be moving forward in our ramen tournament.
In one corner:Sushi Ken
Lauren Saria Tonkostu ramen from Sushi Ken.
The Setup: You might say Sushi Ken has cult status among Japanese food fans in the Valley. The restaurant isn't anything special to look at from the outside -- just your typical strip mall joint -- and on the inside, you'll pretty much find more of the same. The staff probably won't be super-friendly (or friendly at all), but if you're here, it's not because you're looking for an exceptional dining experience. No, you come to Sushi Ken for the lengthy menu of Japanese eats. It covers everything from sushi to ramen to hard-to-find desserts such as mitsumame, a cold, sweet jelly served with fruit. When it comes to ramen, Sushi Ken offers 13 different types including tonkotsu, miso, shio, wonton, chashu, and chicken.
The Good: For $8, you get a nice-size bowl of ramen, three pieces of California roll, and a small side of either edamame or a salad, which makes ramen at Sushi Ken a hot deal. We ordered the tonkostu ramen, which came loaded with all the traditional toppings: bean sprouts, memma (bamboo shoots), fish cake, scallions, seaweed, pork, and half of a hard-boiled egg. The highlight of the dish was the char siu pork. It was tender and flavorful, definitely the best we've had so far during our city-wise ramen battle.
The Bad: We've heard some great things about Sushi Ken's tonkotsu ramen (including from some of Chow Bella's own) so to say we had high expectations might have been putting it lightly. Overall, we're disappointed to say we weren't bowled over by the broth, which we found to be mild in the flavor department. We would have liked a little less salt and a little more pork. We were even less enthusiastic about the spicy miso ramen, which tasted like pork broth flavored with Sriracha. In both bowls, we also thought the noodles were cooked too soft.