The highly hyped Ramen Nagi from Fukuoka opened their first branch in the US this week in Palo Alto. It is said in press articles that they won Tokyo ramen of the year in 2013. We had lunch there today.
We arrived at 11:45am. The line was about 20-30 people deep. Since we didn’t have alternative options lined up, we ended up waiting for about 45 minutes. The restaurant is still in soft opening mode today so they offer ramen only but no other cooked dishes. Those would have to wait until presumably the grand opening next week.
There are 5 ramen available today- the Original King (tonkotsu), the spicy Red King, the squid ink Black King, the vegetarian Green King, and the other vegetarian Limited King. We have the first 3 non-vegetarian bowls.
The tonkotsu base is slow simmered for hours with chunks of fat floating on top. The Original is a decent bowl of tonkotsu. Good for Palo Alto proper since its not a ramen town, though there are others comparable in the Peninsula and in the South Bay. Broth is on the salty side. The Red, with a miso broth, has a dollop of pungent chili , while the Black has a dollop of squid ink garlic. The Red is alright- not a big fan of the type of chili used. The Black is the easy standout of the three for me. The squid ink adds a mild sweetness to the broth while the chunks of black squid link infused minced pork and garlic add a savory dimension. All three share slices of tender pork. Broth could be quite a bit hotter.
We got the thin noodles, cooked firm, while keeping all 3 bowls un-customized. In retrospect, we probably should have gotten the thick ones. The thin ones are thinner than typical ramen and slightly thicker than somen. The thick ones are thicker, closer to udon. Get the extra firm, as ours, ordered firm, is already past al dente.
Condiments available on the table:
The founder of the chain is in the kitchen.