The ramen shop is perfect for these times
It’s late, or early, depending on how you look at it. And we need noodles. We step off the street and pass through a deserted lobby. A flight of red stairs and a quick bend, and we’re passing under the hanging red fabric marking the entrance.
The staff are heard, but not seen.
We find ourselves in a room, not more than 500 square feet. What jumps out immediately is the absence of tables. And people.
Instead, straight out of a credit union or DMV. A series of small cubicles, each wide enough for one customer, partitioned by thick wood barriers, perfectly designed for social distance. Each cube backed against a hanging curtain of bamboo, separating customer from server.
We sit at two adjacent slots. For a moment we’re not sure what to do. That’s when the curtain slides up and a faceless arm attached to a faceless torso slides over a small slip of paper.
And that’s when the fun begins.
Circle your preference
Dashi (seasoning stock): light, medium, strong
Richness: none, light, medium, rich, extra rich
Garlic: none, drop, medium, half clove, 1 clove
Green Onion: without, with
Original Spicy Red Sauce: none, mild, medium, spicy, 3~10x
Noodle texture: extra firm, firm, medium, soft, extra soft
There is nothing on this sheet that is not my preference.
So I stick with the chef’s recommendations, but ramp up the garlic and spice.
For immunity, natch.
I complete the order, present it to the faceless torso.
He returns minutes later. The steam bounces, Original Spicy Red Sauce lays in wait atop a bed of medium-firm noodles, green onions floating at the ready.
I pause. Mix. Inhale.
And bring the first taste of noodles to my lips.