Umami v. Republic Ramen: Chow Bella's Ultimate Battle of the Ramen
Last week we kicked off our Ultimate Battle of the Dishes ramen bracket that pits some of the Valley's restaurants against each other in a tournament-style match up to find the city's best ramen spots. In our first throw down we put Phoenix's Hana Japanese Eatery against the Clever Koi and in the end it came down to a preference for simplicity over Clever Koi's modern take. You can recap the play-by-play for yourself here.
This week we're taking the action to Tempe to see which ASU-adjacent ramen shop will move on to the second round of our Ultimate Battle of the Ramen.
In this corner: Republic Ramen & Noodles
Lauren Saria Republic Ramen's Tokyo Ramen
The Setup: For years Republic Ramen, located just south of ASU's Tempe campus has been the student's go-to spot for ramen with flavoring that doesn't come out of a packet. It's a trendy sort of scene with nice-looking (but pretty uncomfortable) wooden booths and red light fixtures that give everything an eerie glow by night. In addition to ramen they also offer boba drinks, beer, and sake. Because, college kids, duh.
At Republic you get your choice of toppings on your ramen -- either "original," which includes spinach, sprouts, scallions, and carrots; or "traditional," which includes memma (bamboo shoots), nori (seaweed), naruto (fish cake), and scallions. Both also include your choice of meat.
The Good: Republic offers nine different types of broth, which means that there's something to appeal to everyone. We tried the Shio, sea salt, and Tokyo, a spicy Tonkatsu borth, on this recent visit. The shio was lightly salty and perfectly enjoyable, but completely out-shined by the flavorful Tokyo broth. The pork-based dashi broth offered nice body and richness, in addition to just enough heat to get your nose running by the end of the meal. Dashi broth is traditionally made with dried smoked bonito flakes and sea kelp, so by combining dashi with pork broths you get a unique hybrid that's relatively light but still gives a a bit of that ideal meaty-ness.
The Bad: Republic's noodles were overcooked, lacking the firm texture of authentic and properly cooked noodles. We also didn't particularly love their pork, which was dry and a little too tough for our taste -- despite being soaked in ramen broth.