By Rebecca Combs, Foodable Contributor
Ramen is often associated with the good old college I'm-On-A-Budget-And-Can't-Afford-Anything-Else days. But Teiichi Sakurai's TEN Ramen will forever change your opinion. Chef Teiichi is known for his restaurant Tei-An, an authentic Japanese Soba House in the One Arts Plaza in Downtown Dallas. Yet now, Teiichi has taken his famous soba noodles to West Dallas and people cannot get enough.
So, What is Ramen?
No, it's not the vacuum sealed package of instant soup you are thinking of. It's a traditional Japanese noodle dish that is served with wheat noodles in a flavored broth. The broth can be flavored with soy sauce or miso and you will find such toppings as pork belly, dried seaweed, bok choy, and many more. Not to mention the history that goes along with it. With each slurp, you are tasting a culture and a story. Almost every region of Japan has its own ramen dish that is unique to that location.
What's On The Menu?
The authentic ramen counter at TEN takes you straight to Tokyo. It's a standing-only bar (so wear comfortable shoes) with about thirteen seats (or spaces). You walk in, check the chalkboard for the specials, and then make your order on an iPad-like gadget. You can choose from the Tonkotsu, Shoyu, or Mazemen. What's the difference? The Tonkotsu has a thick broth made from pork bones and is garnished with vegetables like nori, bamboo shoots, and pickled ginger. Shoyu ramen is a bit lighter and made with chicken, vegetables, fish, or beef and comes with grilled pork belly. And the Mazemen is a broth-less ramen. Prices range from $10 to $12 and you can add things like a slow cooked onsen egg for an additional charge.
How About the Atmosphere?
The name "TEN" actually means heaven in Japanese. But if you're expecting a nice relaxed lunch, slowly sipping your bowl of warm ramen, then you are definitely mistaken. TEN is authentic. And in Tokyo, you do the slurp and go. If you enter at peak dining times, you may not be able to find a space at the bar to squeeze yourself and your bowl into. But, hit odd times like 11am or 1:30 and you may be in luck.
It is meant to be quick and cheap but that does not take away from the fact that the flavors are absolutely amazing. Walking in, the chalkboard is to your right, the iPad gadget to your left, and the kitchen straight ahead. The bar itself faces the kitchen so you get a front row seat to all the action.
It is definitely unlike anything that Dallas has ever seen. So, when something new pops up, the natural question is “why?” Besides the fact that it is just down right delicious, for Teiichi, it was about bringing a specific style and atmosphere of a Tokyo Ramen shop to the Big D. This type of shop is specific to Tokyo. You just do not see them in the United States. This makes it almost like a mini-vacation. A little escape to Japan.
If you are in the mood for a relaxing, slow, and peaceful Japanese meal, then Tei-An is the perfect spot. But, if you are looking for an authentic Japanese experience – food, culture, and cuisine all in one – then pop into TEN on your lunch break or on your way home for dinner. You will be pleasantly surprised, leave extremely full and satisfied and longing for more. It's a quick trip to Tokyo - no passport needed!