Ramen is experiencing quite the boon right now. It’s trendy, it’s hip, it’s hot (pun intended), and according to the tag line for Jinya Ramen Bar, “Ramen is all the craze”.
I’ll say! Ramen bars/shops/restaurants seem to be popping up all over the place, and I, for one, am not complaining.
Nowadays, ramen does not mean Top Ramen, or Cup Noodle, or even Justin Timberlake’s hair in the 90’s. If you think that all you need to make a bowl of ramen is $0.20, the international section of your grocery store, and a dorm room microwave; well, you’re not wrong, but you’re definitely not right either. A bowl of ramen from a shop like Jinya costs 50 – 75 times more and tastes 50 – 75 times better. The point I’m trying to make is this: ramen has come full circle back to how it was intended to be. Sure it’s more expensive than dehydrated noodle and a packet of flavor, but ramen is supposed to be so much more than that. Ramen is simple, but it’s also complex. It looks like nothing, but it tastes like everything. Kinda like sushi; imagine that.
A co-worker of mine recently discovered and recommended Jinya (a national chain, of which there are two locations in Georgia) as a great ramen place for lunch. I love ramen just as much as the next urbanite that has realized that there’s more to Japanese cuisine than California rolls and Benihana, so I bellied up to the ramen bar at Jinya and pretended like my hand wasn’t cramping from my lack of chopstick use.
If you read the first line of this post and thought to yourself, “Nah, ramen isn’t all that popular.”, the dining room at Jinya respectfully begs to differ. The small restaurant tucked in the back corner of a shopping center was absolutely packed at lunchtime. Every barstool and table inside and outside was full and people were waiting. Ramen really is all the craze.
I was lucky enough to score a spot at the bar with my brother, and although the menu offers more than just ramen, we were each able to quickly make our selections. Jinya serves three types of ramen (vegetable broth, chicken broth, and tonkotsu – pork broth), with multiple options under each category.
I went with the Premium Tonkotsu White (pork and chicken broth, pork chashu, kikurage, green onion, seasoned egg, fried onion, and spicy sauce) while my brother opted for the Spicy Chicken Ramen (chicken broth, chicken chashu, spinach, spicy bean sprouts, and green onion).
I liked the Premium Tonkotsu White a lot. The broth was rich but light, each ingredient was distinct but not overpowering, and everything worked together.
One thing that I found interesting about the Spicy Chicken Ramen as well as with all of the other spicy offerings on the menu, was that you have the option to choose your spice level; mild, spicy, or hot. My brother, true to the name, ordered his Spicy Chicken Ramen spicy. At the end, my brother, who has an affinity for heat and spicy foods, did not finish his last bit of broth because it was too spicy. What a wimp says the guy who’s ramen only came with a minuscule dollop of ambiguously named spicy sauce!
Another thing that I haven’t seen at any other ramen shop was that Jinya offers thick and thin ramen noodles. My Premium Tonkotsu White came with thin noodles while my brother’s Spicy Chicken Ramen came with thick noodles. I did not see any advantage to having one size of noodle over the other, though I will say that I did enjoy the thin noodles in my ramen more than I was expecting to.
The final aspect of eating at Jinya that really made an impression on me was that, of all of the ramen that I have ever eaten, I think that Jinya had the best ratio of noodles and ingredients to broth. It sounds strange, I know, but the right ratio makes a huge difference and it’s a lot easier said than done. Sure, there was some broth left in the bowl after I had finished fishing around for any stray noodles, but there was not so much broth left that I felt like I had a cup of soup sitting in front of me. As the notorious home burglar Goldilocks said about the 3rd thing she tried, it was just right.
I like Jinya Ramen Bar. I would absolutely go back. It has a great atmosphere, quick service, decent prices, and serves a solid bowl of ramen; and not a microwave or flavor packet in sight.