Ramen noodle houses are trendy, they pack a lot of taste into one bowl and they are here.
Mitaka Japanese Ramen House, 6749 Manatee Ave. W., in the Promenade shopping center, is the most-recent one to open in Manatee County.
Unlike the instant noodles sold in cellophane wrappers at your supermarket, there is nothing instant about these large bowls of savory noodle soup.
Nor are there any shortcuts.
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Mei Yang and her husband, chef Wei Ren, both of whom come from restaurant families, opened Mitaka on Dec. 13.
“We both had ramen for the first time in New York and we knew that it was getting trendy. We thought, ‘Why don’t we go to Japan and learn how to make ramen?’ ” Mei Wang said of the decision to open a new type of restaurant.
In preparation for the opening, Ren flew to Japan to study the art of ramen under the tutelage of a master chef. A months-long search for the right restaurant location took them to prospective sites in North Port, Venice, Sarasota and Bradenton.
In settling on a restaurant location in the Promenade shopping center, near The Fresh Market, Wang describes it as love at first sight.
“The vibe is more city, but not too crowded, and there is plenty of parking. People are more adventurous here and willing to try new things,” she said.
Thus far, the most popular offering is tonkotsu, a fragrant noodle soup with a pork bone based broth, and lots of ingredients, including chashu pork — braised pork belly, bamboo shoots, Japanese wood ear mushrooms, egg, narutomaki (cured fish surimi that presents itself in a pink or red spiral pattern), and scallion for $13.50.
Also popular is tantanmen, a spicy miso based soup served with spicy ground pork, egg, bean sprouts, wood ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots, scallion and cilantro, also for $13.50.
Other ramen dishes include shoyu, a soy sauce based ramen with chashu pork, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, corn and more. Also available are lobster ramen, vegetarian ramen and lobster udon.
Each day the restaurant starts fresh with a new batch of the pork broth, which takes eight hours to make ready.
The 40-seat restaurant serves a variety of appetizers, including edamame, shrimp tempura, pork steamed bun, fried tofu and more.
Salads and rice bowls are also offered. Beverages include sake, plum wine, Japanese and American beer, hot tea and a variety of sodas.
Reviews have been strong from the first wave of diners.
“Stopped in new place in town, delicious pot stickers and soup. Fast and clean. Will definitely come back,” one reviewer said on Facebook.
Another said: “I got the unagi-don and red bean ice cream mochi. It was amazing! I plan to go back for the tonkatsu ramen I just really wanted unagi. Prices were amazing for the quality! The inside is reminiscent of Japanese ramen houses.”
Mitaka Japanese Ramen House is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and from noon-9 p.m. on Sunday. Take out is available.
For more information, call 941-896-3552 or visit the restaurant’s Facebook page.