With more ramen in town comes different kinds of ramen. Musashi Ramen & Izakaya is a new restaurant in Plano that has two unique things going for it: a chef from Japan, and an approach to ramen that is both uncommon and authentic.
Their ramen selection is limited to two basic varieties: one made with chicken broth and another made with miso, the flavorful fermented paste. Like some of the newer ramen places emerging in places like Los Angeles, Musashi does not do the tonkotsu ramen made with pork broth found most commonly around DFW, says co-owner Rieko Nakamoto.
"Tonkotsu is popular here, but we do it with chicken broth, because we find the pork bone soup to be too oily," she says.
There's a chicken ramen with fish oil, and a miso butter ramen sprinkled with sesame seeds. But the ramen is generally served simply. If you want more "toppings," such as corn or a boiled egg, you add those on separately.
Head chef Chinatsu Tanabe moved to Texas from Osaka and brings with her traditional Japanese techniques.
For example, her gyoza dumplings are served like a large pancake, with the individual dumplings connected in a circle via a light, crispy, eggy "web." You break the dumplings apart one by one.
In addition to ramen, there is the izakaya side with a menu of casual dishes and snacks. Teriyaki chicken is not covered with the usual brown glaze but is instead sautéed with chunks of chicken served in a small ironstone skillet. There is fried karaage chicken with cabbage slaw; pork belly buns; marinated jellyfish; and black edamame, prized in Japan for its sweet flavor.
One cool dish has smoked salmon over rice, sprinkled with seaweed shavings and a dollop of wasabi, like sushi in a bowl form. There are salads including mixed greens topped with slabs of sushi-grade seared tuna. Steamed vegetables are an artful assortment of carrots cut like flowers and slices of lotus root, almost too pretty to eat.
Desserts are unique, as well, including a green tea ice cream sundae topped with red-bean paste and chewy rice balls, aka tang yuan.
The restaurant, located at 8200 Preston Rd., has a clean, minimal decor, with slats of unfinished wood serving as a room divider, and a bar that runs along the front of the kitchen.
The owners are new in the restaurant business and received some mixed reviews in their early days of service, but seem eager to learn the ropes. "We had a relationship with the chef, and felt that we wanted to have a restaurant here with food that's authentically Japanese," Nakamoto says.