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Broth Star: Kizuki Ramen and Izakaya

Real-deal ramen was clearly the culinary trend local diners were pining for, because recent attempts to fill the void have ranged from clever chefs riffing on curry- or jalapeño-spiked fusion versions to a new Japanese-owned noodle bar (Ramen Ray) opening to unprecedented lines. Such was our hunger for arguably the world’s most satisfying soup. The latest contender for ramen authenticity, Kizuki Ramen and Izakaya, opened a Carmel shop in April, only its second location east of the Rockies. A hit when it arrived in the Seattle burbs in 2012 and in Portland last year, Kizuki wears a sometimes clunky corporate polish—as in American staff shouting Japanese salutations when diners enter and leave. But the chain’s meticulous, multistep approach to ramen will have aficionados ranking it among Indy’s best.

Kizuki’s menu offers a primer to ramen’s subtly divergent varieties, but first-timers (and likely repeat customers) will want to head straight for garlic tonkotsu shoyu ramen, which, like most of Kizuki’s ramen, is made from pork bones slow-roasted at a central kitchen in Chicago then simmered in house to a rich and beguiling broth both buttery and aromatic. Springy, chewy noodles accompany bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, a perfectly gooey “half-boiled” egg, and a slice of the most deeply roasted pork shoulder you’ll find outside of a Memphis smokehouse. For contrast, yuzu shio (“salt”) ramen offers brighter, citrusy undertones, and chilies in spicy ramen (available at three heat levels) build to a slow burn.

Among the tapas-like sides, try the crispy chicken karaage with spicy mayo and deliciously simple boiled spinach gomae tossed with sesame dressing. Takoyaki octopus dumplings are a novel savory treat, though the octopus is masked by too much exterior. Pork gyoza, while respectable, merely distract from the star bowls. For a grand noodle meal, upgrade your soup instead with garnishes like fish cakes and pork belly. 2450 E. 146th St., Carmel, 218-3553, kizuki.com

A graduate of IU’s Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing, Terry Kirts hails from a town in Illinois so small it didn’t have a restaurant until he was in the 8th grade. Since 2000, he’s more than made up for the dearth of eateries in his childhood, logging hundreds of meals as the dining critic for WHERE Indianapolis, Indianapolis Woman, and NUVO before joining Indianapolis Monthly as a contributing editor in 2007. A senior lecturer in creative writing at IUPUI, Terry has published his poetry and creative nonfiction in a number of literary journals and anthologies, including Gastronomica, Alimentum, and Home Again: Essays and Memoirs from Indiana, and he’s the author of the poetry collection To the Refrigerator Gods, published by Seven Kitchens Press in 2011.
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