I visited here twice; the first time I didn’t have the ramen, and since the venue is named Ramen House, I wanted to return when I wanted to eat ramen. It was much too hot that day to have a large bowl of hot ramen soup!
This is a mostly-Japanese cuisine restaurant, but one will note that there is no sushi or sashimi on the menu. There’s no hibachi tables with the juggling chefs, either. Instead, plan to enjoy foods not on the typical Japanese menu (at least here in the US). Well, they do serve miso soup, gyoza and shumai. While I do love sushi and sashimi, it is good to see that Japanese restaurants are popping up serving other aspects of their varied cuisine.
First Visit: This was only the second week of the restaurant’s operation. One of the chefs used to work at a good sushi establishment in New Milford, and he recognized me.
Appetizer: Pork soup dumplings.
Main: Crispy roast duck salad.
Second Visit: It’s nearly October at the time of this visit, and enough chill to the air that I really really want to eat a good representative sample of the dish the restaurant is named for.
Appetizer: Mushroom tempura.
Main: Tonkotsu ramen soup.
Pork Soup Dumplings
This is my second experience with soup dumplings, my first was at the landmark Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao down in Flushing, Queens, New York. No, soup dumplings aren’t a Japanese thing, but if these chefs want to add in a Chinese taste here and there, I’m fine with that. And no, these dumplings do not begin to measure up to the Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao dumplings… but I hadn’t expected that they would!
For where this restaurant is located, no where near a hub of residents of Japanese or Chinese immigrants, these were definitely good. I thought the dough a bit too thick and solid, and not as delicate as at Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao, but one does need to note, the dough needs to be thick enough for the soup to remain inside the dumpling upon cooking! I might have wanted the seasonings inside kicked up just a smidge… but I found this appetizer satisfactory, especially considering this is not actually a Chinese establishment. They’ve done well with this item. (I’m planning on making this myself down the road… I hope others will be kind to my effort…) In short, yes, I’d order again.
Crispy Roast Duck Salad
I was very pleased with this main dish. A warm serving of sliced roasted duck was served over greens, strawberry, mango, red onion and cucumber, garnished with cilantro. It was very very refreshing for a hot summer’s day. I think it would be great at any time of the year. The dressing was light, which worked well for this dish. I’m sure if I’d remembered to ask, I could have had that served on the side.
I liked the touch of mango (just right!), and wish there’d been more than one strawberry, but that’s minor. The cilantro garnish was a good idea, and as it was on a sprig, easily removed for those who genetically perceive it to taste like soap.
Sometimes Asian duck can be served very fatty — but this was not. I ended up quite satisfied. It was a cool and refreshing salad for a nasty day!
Six shiitake mushroom caps, in tempura coating, to be dipped into a sweet and spicy dipping sauce. The mushrooms were excellent, and the tempura coating not too heavy, but just right for the items this was coating. The dipping sauce had the right amount of spicy heat for this appetizer. Without the dipping sauce, the mushroom/tempura would have needed more flavor. While I am not a fan of sweet, the sweet in this case worked well in conjunction with the tempura’d mushrooms. This particular appetizer is vegan, but there are not a lot of vegetarian or vegan items on the menu here.
Tonkotsu Ramen Soup
The base of this particular ramen soup is a rich pork broth married with miso. Layered into this, is the ramen noodles, some meaty cha-su pork belly, bean sprouts, black fungus, scallion, corn, and two boiled egg halves cooked to halfway between soft and hard. I found this satisfying and tasty. The ramen noodles do not remotely resemble those I remember from the supermarket packs back in the 80’s when I’d be buying those. (A good thing.)
Other ramen soups are based on duck, chicken, or beef broth. Most do not have the miso. There’s a mushroom one I nearly got (four types of mushroom plus leek, in a chicken broth base) but I decided to go for one more defining of ramen, with the pork. Plus, I really wanted those shiitake tempura! (I wasn’t going to do mushrooms for both items ordered.)
The restaurant is located on the site of the old landmark for the area, Lavelle’s Wagon Wheel, an Italian eatery which had been a fixture for years. Eventually, it became a Mexican place (I never tried that one), then Layla’s Bakery, which served baked goods (of course), breakfasts and lunches. They especially had a mean cole slaw with the barest bit of mayo. Unfortunately due to reasons not revolving around the restaurant itself, they had to reduce hours to weekends (I’d been set to review it, but that stopped me…), and not long after, they closed.
The ramen house people have done extensive interior renovations, relocating the rather dysfunctional cramped restrooms of the old place(s) to a more functional end of the building, and making the entire inside seating area larger and airier. Unfortunately, they removed the old iconic “wagon wheel”, but yep, I could see it would not fit with their theme!
J Ramen House
316 Federal Road
Brookfield, CT 06804