The logo looks like a silhouette of spaghetti western-era Clint Eastwood with chopsticks instead of a gun. I assume it’s a reference to Tampopo, the famous (well, it oughta be) “ramen western,” a tale of a quest for the perfect noodle.
As I’ve said before, ramen-inspired geekdom before geekdom was cool, and Yoko throws down the geek gauntlet.
Yoko Ramen lives in the space that was Sage’s Cafe, then Blue Poblano. Aside from the menu change from tortillas to noodles, the Japanese place looks pretty much the same as it did when it was Mexican: There’s a blackbord menu. No liquor is served. Place your order at the back.And the main menu is starkly simple: pork, chicken or vegan ramen with a choice of add-ins—kimchi, miso butter, pork belly or chicken, egg and sauce; two kinds of gyoza; three trendy sandwiches that have nothing to do with ramen but will appeal to the same hipster audience that is currently gaga about Japanese soup: fried chicken, fried cauliflower or a “Japanese Cubano,” pigs’ feet meat, pork belly, cheese, etc., in a pressed Mexican bun. But you can also order a plate of Japanese pickles—not to mention some dishes that might be considered bar bets in Utah, like pigs’ ears and pigs’ feet. We found the pork broth to be a little greasy and the Cubano a little mushy. But the late-night hours and vegetarian options should be popular in the city of salt, where too few options exist for either. 473 E. 300 South, SLC, 801-876-5267
So I’m eating Japanese brioche in an Ogden restaurant owned by a Mongolian man named Sergei Oveson and his blond Utah wife Shani. Of course the place is called Ramen Haus and obviously, you should be prepared for some twists. Sergei and Shani met at Johnny Kwon’s late Naked Fish, an experience that ignited their passion for Japanese food and each other. They went on to work with at Tosh’s Ramen, the benchmark for ramen in SLC.
Before long the couple had their ramen restaurant dream firmly in mind. They settled in Ogden where a landlord offered to build a kitchen for them.
The result is a warmly minimalist space—the Oveson’s built the yellow-pine tables and benches themselves—cheerfully lit by midcentury-style chandeliers and centered with an open kitchen. “I don’t like to be stuck in the back,” says Sergei.
Ramen Haus has no liquor license but we loved the cold barley tea and the menu offered surprise after surprise. Lilly mushrooms, pretty little enoki mushrooms, in a light soy sauce. Housemade kimchi. Gorgeous spicy pork ramen in a 13-hour broth (beef and vegetarian versions also available) and rice bowls if you’re not a noodle lover. The salmon and avocado poke with purple rice was improved by Sergei’s favorite sriracha blend made by Tabasco.
Japanese brioche? It’s the basis for a dessert called honey toast—thrillingly new to me. Shani says she and Sunny Tsogbadrakh (acclaimed former sushi chef at Naked Fish) used to drive to Las Vegas just to eat honey toast at Ichiza. “I said if I ever opened a restaurant I’d serve honey toast,” she says. The brioche was toasted lightly, filled with scoops of vanilla ice cream and drizzled with honey. I’m glad I only have to drive to Ogden to eat it. And it makes me wish ramen Haus was open for breakfast. 2550 Washington Blvd., Ogden, 801-393-0000.
See more inside our 2017 September/October Issue.