Approaching the entrance on 18th Street, we spied Ken Ken's signature red paper lantern: We were in the right place. We fell in love with the new venue. The tight space with black chairs and tables resembles ramen shops in Japan. And The Corner's waitstaff is clearly more professional and competent than the staff at Panchitas #3.
Meals start similarly, with complimentary edamame, but last night's ice-cold pods were in stark contrast to the warm, spicy garlic edamame of the old pop-up. The taste revealed that they'd been boiled in garlicky broth.
It didn't take long to get our bowl of miso ramen. Those of us who got the opportunity to taste the original version could tell right away that last night's broth was not the same. Chef Miyazaki's was similar to the gentle, balanced flavor of the broth at Suzu Noodle House (maybe he was influenced by his fine-dining experience cooking at Bushi Tei). Taka Hori's broth is closer to the style at Katana-ya: more traditional, a bit more salty.
Other changes: The two strands of thin bamboo shoots were replaced by a single strand split in half. And the mizuna had vanished, replaced by pan-fried sweet corn, a good choice since the peppery greens would have been a mismatch for Hori's subtler broth. The slow-cooked egg was just as good as before.
Hori's fatty and rich pork belly chasu was delicious, a step above the old shredded pork. But the single slice in our bowl left us yearning for more. (We believe this was a simple mistake, since test pictures show at least two.) Also missing was the ubiquitous fishcake. We attribute these mishaps to first-night glitches, easily corrected. And we kindly suggest that, in future, Ken Ken use at least three slices of chasu pork per bowl. Pretty please?
Ken Ken Ramen at The Corner: 2199 Mission (at 18th St.). Thu. (except holidays) at 5:30 p.m., until the food runs out.