Last week, Nombe Restaurant added lunch service, featuring a unique beef ramen from their new chef Noriyuki Sugie. This ramen is also the star of Nombe's Dine About Town lunch offer -- beef ramen, mini donburi and choice of drink: Japanese beer or housemade soda -- which started Tuesday, January 17. The combo meal is a good value for $17.95, or you can get the beef ramen only for $10.
SFoodie sampled the Bay Area's first beef broth ramen last week. Except for packets of beef-flavored instant ramen, you will not find beef broth in any South Bay ramen shops. Mostly, because prior to 1868 eating beef was officially prohibited in Japan, for religious and political reasons.
Chef Sugie developed his beef recipe for his Iron Nori Bull Ramen pop-up dinners in Los Angeles. (That might sound like a reference to Iron chef, but it's simply Nori spelled backward.) He applies the cooking methods for tonkotsu (pork bone broth) but uses beef bones instead, including the bone marrow, which he simmers for 10-12 hours.
This base broth is then mixed with a housemade miso paste and accented with his own mix of chile spices. The robust broth is flavorful, but not too beefy nor spicy. (You can request for extra spicy for $1 more.) The last special ingredient is a white spoonful of Umami foam, which provides a nice color contrast, but not much discernible taste difference.
This beef ramen is a simplified version of Nori's original L.A. recipe. Here, there's no ginger garlic oil, no different types of noodles, no meat basting in gravy, no red pepper threads for decoration, no side orders of extra meat, less foam, and the bowl includes scallions. Other toppings cost extra (egg and kikurage not included). Most of these changes were made mainly to accommodate the DAT price point.
The menu lists four meat choices (oxtail, short rib, beef tongue and beef cheeks) and one veggie version. The beef tongue is cut super thin, and our waitress -- perhaps fearing disappointment -- tried to steer us toward the meaty beef cheeks or the oxtail versions. She confirmed that there's no option to add more meat.
We knew that the beef cheeks had the most meat, but we were inclined to get Nori's signature item, the oxtail. To this we added corn and an egg. The boiled meat was fall-off-the-bone tender, and enjoyable. Had this been basted in a rich gravy similar to an Italian or Chinese oxtail stew (like the L.A. original), perhaps we would've been distracted licking the bone and our fingers, instead of realizing that we had only gotten four bites worth of meat.
Choices for additional toppings ($1 each) are limited: extra spicy sauce, fungi (kikurage), scallions, corn, nori (seaweed sheets), extra noodles, and a soy marinated egg. And the topping portions seem inadequate -- our bowl had barely a teaspoon of canned corn kernels. In short, the only topping worth ordering is the egg (hanjuku tamago, a soft boiled egg marinated in soy sauce and mirin).
Despite the few concerns described above, we really did enjoy this beef ramen. The noodles were perfectly cooked, and the broth was very flavorful. Also, it's the first local non-veggie ramen that's safe for people who don't eat pork.
Other items from Nori's original LA.. menu are housemade sodas -- hibiscus and ginger lime spritzers ($5 each). Nori's beef ramen is only available Tuesday thru Friday 11:30am - 2pm.
2491 Mission Street (at 21st)