Hanabi Ramen Flourishes With Flavor
Anytime a new restaurant opens in Denton–especially if it’s on that dreaded corner of Carroll and Hickory–a front of nervous energy comes into town. The community waits with bated breath: will this business succeed? Are they any good?
With the opening of Hanabi Ramen, Denton has been gifted with something that’s heinously under-represented in a town replete with world flavors - ramen. Let’s settle everyone’s minds–and stomachs–with a look at the many tastes of our latest addition to the family.
Tokyo Tonkatsu Ramen
First off, the classic Tonkotsu Ramen. From first bite, the noodles immediately punch me with a creamy fist of flavor: perfectly cooked, delicate, but hardy. The pork falls apart with little chopstick effort, which I honestly love to see in a good ramen. The broth is creamy, but with that perfect umami oil within to fill a empty gut or a cold soul.
This appetizer comes beautifully presented in a small, covered pot, and the flavors of the dish itself are no let down to the visual. The broth is savory, but sneaks in a saccharine sweetness–like tangy, starchy barbecue, which is complemented by the earthy, homely goodness of the potato noodles. You get a nice neutral, custard-smooth soy treat in the form of tofu, balancing out the savory, steak-like texture of the mushrooms - all of which works wonders in this soy and mirin based broth. Throw in the marinated beef, and you get a truly hardy dish that one would hardly call an appetizer, for all that you get.
If potato pancakes and a griddled hashbrown had a globular, seafood-stuffed baby, this deliciousness would be that prodigy. The bready texture gives way quickly at first, but the octopus bits stand out with chewy rigidity as a nice complimentary texture. It's slightly briney with only a lingering ghost of umami–the rest is a rich, tangy sauce that tops each morsel, with dried bonito flakes adding a seaweed-esque crunch that adds a last textural note to this well-rounded snack.
An Kake Seafood Ramen
Like a seafood paella, this dish beckons with a medley of consummate coastal aromas and inland spices. There are several varieties of aquatic fauna in this dish: squid and octopus that add a delectable chewiness, which works well with the many slow-burn spices that explode seconds after you've begun to chew, little neck clams which melt butter-like in a few quick chews, wood ear mushrooms which add a nice chewy crunch to the dish that is otherwise largely light in texture, and the shrimp is something that’s more familiar, a classic seafood flavor that anyone can get behind. With so much intensity in spice and such a variety of flavors, the added quail eggs are perfectly creamy, neutral palette cleansers that balance this dish’s orchestra of flavors.
This is classic Japanese chicken: a nice spicy, piquant sauce that blends sweet orange, soy, and peppers into a cocktail perfect for tossing fried chicken in. It's an ambient sort of spice in this dish; the sort of slow burn that takes up residence in the corners of your mouth, burning lightly enough to be unobtrusive towards other flavors but brightly enough to remind you it's still there. There’s nothing overly complex about this dish–it’s a classic chicken dish that’s perfect for stimulating your appetite.
In opposition to the An Kake Ramen, the Veggie Ramen is made with a light, inoffensive broth with hardy but unobtrusive flavors. The wood ears, again, are a nice chewy protein, presenting very simple, earthy tones to a similarly flavored dish overall. It’s extremely well-balanced, bright, with delightful vegetal notes and a lot of crunchy textures. Whether you’re trying to settle a stomach, cure a hangover, stick to your choice of diet, or simply have yourself some easy-eating - this is the dish for you.
At the start of this tasting, we were also presented with a selection of beverages that we found paired very well with particular dishes, and definitely elevated the experience overall. First and foremost was the Kirin Ichiban beer, which paired perfectly with the two share-style appetizers - the Karikara Chick and the Tako Yaki. For the bright, tropical and often spicy flavors found in the An Kake Ramen and the Veggie Ramen, the Mango Calpico lent a subdued-but-decadent fruit flavor. And for two of the hardier, more savory dishes–the Tonkatsu Ramen and the Beef Sukiyaki–we felt that the sweet, carbonated fruitiness of the Strawberry Ramune gave a sweet relief to the palette.
So there you have it, Denton: Hanabi Ramen is the real deal. Let’s keep this business going, y’all. Grab your local ramen-lovers, and get to slurping.
Photos by Garrett Smith
Header image layout designed by Christopher Rodgers