The first stop in rank city: ramen edition was Meshikou. Meshikou opened in 2014 and like most good Asian restaurants, it’s located in a strip mall, sandwiched between a popcorn store and a poker club. Also there is a hockey store, because those are a thing.
What we ordered: Meshikou Karaage, Barbecue Chashu Bun, Shoyu Paitan Ramen with pork tenderloin
Appetizer: The Barbecue Chashu Bun (pork belly steam buns) and Meshikou Karaage (Japanese fried chicken) were a great start to our meal. I’ve had some misses with pork belly in the past, so am always a bit hesitant with the first bite. The pork belly had a very tasty barbecue glaze and was cooked nicely. The fatty parts weren’t gristly or chewy, which is always my fear with pork belly. The buns were slightly overdressed with lettuce; we would have been happy with just a few cucumber slices to add coolness and crunch.
I was a big fan of the karaage. Asian fried chicken, whether Japanese or Korean, is proving to be one of my favorite styles. The breading was light and crispy while the meat was still very moist and juicy. It also came with a tasty tangy sauce, and in a cute miniature fryer basket. I haven’t eaten KFC since my whole family got food poisoning when I was 10, but in the words of one diner/boyfriend, “This is like popcorn chicken for royalty.” Score: 4
Broth: Sadly, Meshikou no longer makes pork broth. Based on Yelp comments, they don’t think they can get enough quality pork to make their broth, which is hard to believe IMO, but whatevs. Instead, their ramen is served with a chicken broth. You can choose a milky or clear broth, but who wants clear broth with ramen? I was surprised by how good the chicken broth was, but it just didn’t reach the depth that tonkatsu (pork) broth gets. Score: 3.5
Protein: We went with pork tenderloin in the ramen because we were already having pork belly in the steam buns. The tenderloin was cooked nicely and soaked up a lot of flavor from the broth. The egg was cooked pretty perfectly for ramen. Firm white with a viscous yolk. Egg yolk is the best condiment/sauce you could put on anything, and this one did not disappoint. Score: 4
Noodles: We had heard that Meshikou uses the same ramen noodles as David Chang, so we had high expectations. The noodle rumors are unconfirmed, but these were delicious, in any case. Perfectly chewy and dense without being too al dente. Score: 4.5
Environment/Service: I was expecting Meshikou to be more crowded on Friday night, but we were seated immediately. There were only big tables open, so we sat at the bar. I don’t always enjoy eating at the bar, but in this case it was comfortable. All of our plates and bowls (for splitting the ramen) were warmed, which is a major point-scorer for me. There’s nothing worse than having hot food served on a cold plate. Our server was great–nice and attentive but not chatty. We also heard two Whitney songs while there, so points for that. Score: 4
Affordability: The two appetizers and one bowl of ramen clocked in at $27. Not a bad price for two people to eat dinner, but we did only have one bowl of ramen. Score: 3.5
Overall thoughts: This was my first trip to Meshikou. After reading the Yelp reviews and learning they no longer had pork broth, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was surprised by the good flavor of the chicken broth, but it didn’t hit the ramen expectations I had in mind. I never got the sated feeling that deep, fatty, super flavorful pork broth offers. Which also meant I didn’t feel that full, despite eating half of everything I described. The ramen also cooled down rather quickly; I think it was served in a plastic bowl. I will definitely go back to Meshikou and try some more things, but will probably get my own bowl of ramen. They do not serve alcohol, but the cucumber water is a nice touch.
Total score: 23.5, plus 1 bonus point for the Japanese candy we got in lieu of fortune cookies. 24.5.
Stay tuned for the next ramen stop!