Last Saturday, I dragged Sharon up at the crack of dawn (that’s 11am people) to Yuzen in St. Albert for their Saturday-only ramen. Ramen is one of my all time favorite foods. It’s a shame that, at the time of writing, I only have one post tagged as ramen in Edmonton. We just doesn’t have a lot of options! And although we have no designated ramen houses, we do have Japanese restaurants that serve ramen. Most notable is Nomiya‘s ramen on Calgary Trail, a go-to place for Joe and I when we’re craving noodles other than pho or bun bo hue. So when word started spreading that Yuzen’s ramen was better than Nomiya’s… well you know what happens next.
Most important to note, the restaurant doesn’t open until 11:30am. So although I told Sharon we needed to be up and at ’em for 11am, we ended up patiently waiting in the parking lot for the that signage to light up with the beautiful words, “open”. We weren’t the only ones. Our car neighbors, also of the Asian sorts, were also waiting for this once a week ramen. That’s a good sign? I wonder how far they traveled! Saturday lunch at Yuzen is ramen only! No sushi orders and no other menus aside from their ramen menu.
I was expecting only one style of ramen, so it was a surprise when five options were available. That’s like a full ramen house! Nice to see the traditional four broths plus a Tantan-men. All bowls are served with cha-siu (sliced BBQ pork), menma (bamboo shoots), negi (green onion), nori (dried seaweed) unless otherwise stated. Extra toppings could also be added on and if a bowl of soupy noodle goodness just didn’t cut it for you, traditional sides are available, such as: gyoza (Japanese pork dumplings), ebi shumai (shrimp dumplings), rice bowls, or fried rice.
Sharon initially wanted to order the Tantan Men, a sesame paste based broth that’s actually a Chinese dish (also known as dan dan noodles). I’ve had some experience with tantan ramen before and it is just not my style. Rich in flavor, creamy, thicker sesame-based broth, and sometimes with a hint of peanut sauce, I find it overpowering and hard to finish a whole bowl. Don’t get me wrong, it’s delicious. But not what I think of when ramen comes to mind. Having expressed my opinions, Sharon ordered the Tonkotsu, a pork bone broth. Her bowl came out as a thickly clouded white broth, creamy, and traditional of that style. That’s what happens when bones, fats, and collagen are boiled over a long period of time! The standard toppings completed her dish, creating a homecooked meal look. Sharon enjoyed it although couldn’t compare it to Nomiya’s, believing that either would be good and you’d have to do a side by side comparison to really point out a winner.
I decided to order my standard fare that I usually get at Nomiya, a spicy miso. Miso broths use a ton of miso paste and blended into chicken or fish stock, and even sometimes crossed over with Tonkotsu broth. The result is a slightly sweeter, nuttier? flavor, and not quite as thick as the Tonkotsu or Tantan-men. Instead of cha-shu, my bowl came with ground pork and beansprouts. If you know me at all, you know I cannot eat ramen without a soft-boiled egg.
A ajitsuke tamago, a soft-boiled marinated egg, is what makes a ramen dish complete to me. Without it, I’d have to deduct at least two stars out of five. The menu states just tamago, which most will associate as a sweet egg omelet found on sushi, but in general it just means egg. First, I will say the egg is approved. Perfectly cooked so that the whites are solid and the yolk a molten lava-like consistency. There’s been so many times when I get an overcooked egg and I just want to cry. I actually always have to ask Nomiya to undercook my egg… for fear of such a thing ruining my bowl of ramen. A sliced egg would have been A+ for presentation though! Anyways, moving on from my egg problems. The broth had depth, was full of flavor, and not overly salty. Definitely felt like a homemade meal. Heat level could have been amped up a bit, but the ground pork was soaked in a spicy marinade as well.
Overall thoughts? I would return here. It’s not the best ramen I’ve ever had (oh, far from it!), but it’s as close as Edmonton can get. Both Yuzen and Nomiya have comparable ramen, none of which are made in house. Some ramen go-ers would turn up their nose to that fact alone, but I don’t mind the store-bought noodles. Cooked to the right consistency and combined with a flavorful broth, it’s enough for me to return. I did enjoy the fact that a bowl at Yuzen wasn’t overly seasoned as with Nomiya’s, but if you’re going for portion size, Nomiya’s is bigger for very similar pricing ($12 at both locations, after additional charge for my egg). I appreciate Yuzen’s efforts in making their broths the night before and focusing on only ramen for the lunch period. If only they can make this all the time! For those of you who want a lighter option, go with the Shio (salt) broth, as it’s not as fatty or rich as the others. Shoyu (soy sauce base) is still light on the palate, although more savory. So if you’re in the area, or craving some ramen, and it happens to be lunchtime on a Saturday… give Yuzen a try! You won’t be disappointed. Traveling north on St. Albert Trail, it will be on your right hand side after you pass Superstore and Safeway, same parking lot as a Petro Canada.Yuzen Japanese Restaurant
127 – 1 Hebert Road (St. Albert)