The ramen fad and how we choose restaurants to review.
Q: WHEN THERE ARE SO MANY RESTAURANTS OPENING AROUND TOWN, HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHICH ONES TO REVIEW?
A: That’s an excellent question! As a culture, we’re conditioned to prick up our ears when we hear about something new, so coverage of the new and noteworthy is a major component of my job. That said, the latest arrivals often need time to iron out the kinks, so if I don’t cover a restaurant right away, that might be the reason. But I also like to revisit restaurants, particularly when I’m doing a roundup on steakhouses, pizzerias, tacos or Thai food. Ultimately my focus is to bring readers a mix of restaurants, new and established, each month.
Q: RAMEN HAS BEEN A TREND ON THE COASTS FOR YEARS. WHY IS IT JUST TAKING OFF HERE NOW?
A: It’s been 13 years since NYC chef David Chang opened Momofuku Noodle Bar. But that wasn’t the start of ramen – which came to Japan (reportedly from China) in the early 20th century. Ramen hit the American mainstream in the 1970s with instant ramen noodles (a staple of poor college students). You could certainly find ramen in Asian-American restaurants in Milwaukee before Ardent’s Justin Carlisle started his pop-up Red Light Ramen in 2014, but it wasn’t particularly memorable. Or perhaps Carlisle’s own growing acclaim helped spread this trend, which, with his brick-and-mortar ramen place next to Ardent, seems to be peaking here. The local bandwagon has a few other riders, some that extend the noodle gimmick to burgers or offer it in tandem with sushi or other fare. Interest, in general, in Japanese food is spiking in 2017; however, Vietnamese pho is also reported to be coming back. ◆