Here’s an interesting little place on the west side of town. It’s a Japanese restaurant called Sapporo Ramen in a weary worn shopping center now called Chinatown.
Most Americans know ramen only as something they haven’t eaten since grad school. But this is not same as the incredibly cheap -- multiple meanings there -- Top Ramen sold as a dry noodle soup mix in the crinkly packages. This is something truly delicious.
Ramen is, indeed, a type of wheat noodle. Although it is mainly associated with Japan -- and here is served in a restaurant named for either the city or the brewery in that country -- ramen originated in China, so it isn’t so strange that Sapporo Ramen is located in a place called Chinatown (the Italian restaurant around the corner is another matter).
And as long as we’re on the name, you should know that ramen isn’t the only type of noodle available. Soba and udon noodles have their own sections. And if you prefer rice, there’s a section on the menu board for curries served with rice.
I love Japanese curries, which tend to be roux-ier than Indian curries. And in fact it was the spicy beef stew curry that was the favorite dish I tried at Sapporo. By appearance, it looked just like an American style beef stew, with hunks of carrots and potatoes with tender shredding beef in a brown gravy. But it’s that gravy that sets it apart, with the distinct flavors of spices that comprise a classic curry, though not really very spicy, in the thickened sauce.
But I also liked the tonkotsu, a classic type of ramen. Served in a large bowl, the soup consisted of a broth made of pork bone served with shreds of kikurage mushrooms, a slice of ginger and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. And beneath the slices of pork was a stash of the long noodles. The broth was flavorful with multiple layers of spicing, the meat was tender and the noodles had a perfect chew factor.
Either dish would be more than enough to fill up one person, and each was priced a more than reasonable $8.
Guests order at a counter at the back of the modest space, then take a seat to have the food delivered by one of the charmingly friendly workers. You can help yourself to a glass of water -- using a real glass -- from a pitcher on the utensil station, but heed the note on the pitcher to hold the top as you pour or it will come off.
Sapporo Ramen, which is owned by the same folks who have Sapporo Japanese Steak House in Daytona Beach, is worth a trip from the other side of town for a try. It’s a must if you live on the west side. I know if I did, Sapporo Ramen would be my go-to takeout restaurant.
Sapporo Ramen is at 5080 W. Colonial Drive, Orlando. It is open for lunch and early dinner (closes at 8 p.m) Tuesday through Sunday. There is no website, but you can download the menu here. The phone number is 407-203-6777.