Slurp Down Some Noodles At These Las Vegas Ramen Shops
For those cool desert nights.
The concept of "Vegas cuisine" is inextricably tied to the Strip, and that's unfortunate: some of the most interesting restaurants are located off the Strip, and some of Vegas's best restaurants are the unassuming Asian joints located in strip malls in and around our woefully underrated Chinatown. There is a huge Asian presence in Las Vegas, and not just in the Asian whales keeping this city's gaming industry afloat -- we're basically a suburb of Los Angeles, after all. You can find a plethora of various Asian cuisines all over the Las Vegas Valley -- places that specialize in pho, ramen, udon, sushi, bibimbap, bulgogi, galbi, dim sum, teppanyaki, curry, pad Thai, and just about everything else you can think of. Here, we're focusing on ramen.
This was a tough year for restaurants, and that is a grotesque understatement. But as restaurants all over the country have shuttered permanently, including many in Las Vegas, the Downtown Las Vegas Arts District has absolutely exploded with new openings this year, which included the long-anticipated YU-OR-MI Sushi & Sake Bar located just across the street from the always-bustling Esther’s Kitchen. This is a wonderful spot, and a welcome addition to the Arts District, which did not previously have any kind of Japanese restaurant. Though the focus here is primarily on sushi, sashimi, and hot small plates, like their take on takoyaki with truffle oil and their outstanding bluefin tuna caprese, the one ramen dish on the menu is worthy of your attention. A shoyu ramen with choice of chicken or chashu pork that like all other menu items, is only available in limited quantities each day. Warm up with a hot bowl and enjoy some sake or a skillfully crafted cocktail made with one of their many Japanese whiskeys while you’re there.
Now open inside the bajillion-dollar brand-new Circa Resort & Casino on Fremont Street (okay, billion-dollar, but close enough), 8 East is a pan-Asian concept from Chef Dan Coughlin of DTLV’s Le Thai fame. “Inspired by metropolitan Asian food markets,” 8 East covers a LOT of culinary territory, with fusion-minded interpretations of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Thai dishes. There is only one ramen dish on the menu, but it’s one worth noting: the “8 East Ramen” is made with osso buco, wild mushrooms, soft-boiled egg, shredded bok choy, nori, and kimchi mirepoix.
On the Strip
Located at the Grand Bazaar Shops at Bally’s, Ramen-ya is maybe/probably the first and only ramen shop (we’re talking places specifically dedicated to ramen) on the Strip. It’s a small space, as ramen shops tend to be, in what is basically a strip mall ON the Strip (once again, for those in the back: Vegas loves its strip malls). While there are indeed better bowls of ramen to be had off the Strip, if you’re ON the Strip and looking for some hearty broth and noodles to fill your belly, this place will do the trick. They mainly serve simple, classic ramen but also try to cater more to the American palate with options for beef and fried chicken ramen (beef definitely being an oddball offering). Just note, you will pay the tourist tax here, but if you’re a tourist then it comes with the territory!
A ramen bar geared to the student crowd conveniently located literally across the street from the College of Southern Nevada's Charleston campus, Moko is a casual but modern and stylish space open for lunch and dinner. They’ve got some fun ramen specials, like the Rib Tonkotsu Ramen made with tonkotsu broth, two pieces of pork ribs, kikurage, black garlic oil, half an egg, nori, shredded cabbage, and green onion; and the Yellow Curry Ramen made with Japanese curry, veggie broth, thick noodles, chicken katsu, spinach, shredded cabbage, relish, and green onion. The non-ramen rest of the menu is a bit of a grab bag of Japanese and Korean items, but they seem to have a good grasp of their college student demographic and the dinner menu is surprisingly sophisticated.
From the same folks behind the popular SOHO Japanese Restaurant and Soho SushiBurrito, Sojo Ramen pretty much immediately became the new favorite place of all the local ramenistas when it opened in 2019. There are a variety of ramen options available, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free (noodles can be made with tofu or rice). But as much as people love their ramen, Sojo also has a devoted following for their appetizers, and they're all under $4. Order the pork chashu tacos and chicken karaage to start and try their signature "Black Garlic Tonkotsu," made with 30-day house-roasted black garlic.
South Fort Apache
It's a ways off the Strip in one of Las Vegas's many, many boring strip malls (we do not so much have neighborhoods here as we do collections of strip malls with names) with its closest landmarks of significance being Lowe's and Home Depot, but rest assured that Ramen Arashi is one of Las Vegas ramen devotees' favorite spots, arguably more so than some of the better-known joints on Spring Mountain. Get the rich, creamy tonkotsu ramen with a choice of thick or thin noodles (also available gluten-free).
It would be easy to miss this place entirely since it's not visible from Sahara, the Palace Station dominates this corner, and dodging the clusterf*ck of traffic from east of I-15 tends to be the priority. All that said, this place is worth seeking out. It's one of the hipper/trendier ramen joints in town—clearly operated by younger folks who know how to 'gram, and there's a prominent Korean influence throughout. Plus, there are some playful menu items to match the atmosphere, namely the "Naruto Ramen" (pork and chicken) with bulgogi fries.
Even in all this COVID weirdness, Izakaya Go is still open until 2 or 3 am daily. Despite being located in yet another soulless strip mall, the interior design is actually quite fetch. The menu at this “Japanese tapas bar” is extensive, with ramen being only one small part of their inventive fusion and traditional offerings. But this is a list about ramen, and here your choices are shio (soy), shoyu (salt), or miso ramen, all spicy and all made with a chicken broth base. (If the different broth options confuse you -- hi -- read this). If you’re going slightly left of center of traditional ramen, you can try their ramen burger with braised pork belly, egg, and vegetables sandwiched between ramen noodle “buns.” If you’re going totally off-script, their sea urchin pasta is kind of a must. They also have an excellent booze selection, if that is a concern of yours.
Most restaurants in Vegas are imports from elsewhere—LA and NYC, mostly. Ramen Sora is also an import, but this one hails all the way from Sapporo, Hokkaido—the northernmost main Japanese island. Helmed by Japanese chefs Tomio Takada and Yoshinari Ichise, the ramen can be quite a bit more unique than at other places. Try the rich Corn Butter Ramen or the aptly named and VERY spicy Killer Spicy Umami Ramen for further proof of that.
KoKoRo is another of the hipper and trendier ramen joints in town, also located in a soulless strip mall because, again, pretty much everything not on the Strip is. Order its unique signature midori basil or black garlic ramen, and be sure to start with the takoyaki—crispy, ample-sized fried balls of octopus.
Billing itself as more of a Japanese-style ramen house, Ramen Hashi features a long bar where patrons can fill out a form selecting their desired ramen options. The kitchen is open, and everything is made here from scratch without MSG (That means it might not be as noticeably salty as other places, which may or may not matter to you). They also provide hair ties to further facilitate your slurping, which is both hilarious and incredibly practical. The chashu is the real standout here, and the tantanmen ramen is a customer favorite. Also worth noting: the non-vegetarian broths are made with a chicken broth base rather than pork, which may be welcome news to semi-observant kosher and halal ramen-lovers bored of miso broth (there is also miso broth available).
When Las Vegans talk about ramen, they talk about Monta. In this intimate, wood-paneled space, you can choose from tonkotsu, shoyu, tonkotsu-shoyu, and miso ramen. Cold noodle ramen is also an option. This place is a great spot for ramen noobs to be introduced to the different styles of ramen, as the menu gives thorough descriptions of what each style is, what it's made from, and the flavor profile for each. In most other places, you kind of just have to know what you're ordering. If you're out on the east side, they've got a location in Henderson called Monta Chaya. If you’re on the west side, there’s Ramen Kobo.
One of Ichi's biggest selling points is that it's one of the only options for ramen in the northwest 'hood of Centennial. Ichi is definitely solid, with a menu of standard ramen dishes that stacks up to most other ramen joints in the Las Vegas Valley, plus a few non-standard options like tomato seafood, black garlic, curry, and vegetarian ramen. Ichi prides itself on using fresh noodles, authentic ingredients, plus long-simmering broth varieties that each take three full days to cook.
Ohjah Noodle House is a cult favorite in Las Vegas (although locals should note that their Henderson location has closed). Get the Ohjah House Ramen with oxtail, beef, egg, bean sprouts, seaweed, and wood ear mushrooms—it's the specialty and this is one of the few places around town where you can get oxtail in your ramen.
Flamingo and Decatur
JINYA is a ramen bar chain with locations throughout the US and Canada—basically trying to be the Chipotle of ramen, but it's still a favorite in Las Vegas. "Have it your way" customers will appreciate the level of customization available, although that number of options can be a little overwhelming. Considerations include a variety of tonkotsu and chicken broth ramens, as well as vegetarian and vegan options. If you’re more of a ramen traditionalist, you can stick with one of the more standard flavors, but they've also got unique choices like spicy umami miso, and, shall we say, more "marketable" choices, like wonton chicken (ramen with dumplings), and chef's specials like karaage chicken (ramen with fried chicken).
You will either like Ramen Tatsu's deconstructed ramen presentation, or you will not. The specialty here is tsukemen ramen, which basically means the broth is dense (for dipping) and served separately from the extra-thick chewy noodles and toppings. If you're not into that, no worries, the menu is full of all the standard ramen options as well, and if you like your ramen real spicy, they offer broths made with their homemade habanero sauce. And if you hate your digestive tract, they also have a homemade habanero and ghost pepper sauce for “Jigoku Style” up to spice level 18. *cries just thinking about it*
Another well-known late-night ramen joint, Ichiza has its die-hard devotees as well as its die-hard detractors. Love it or hate it (and probably it's one or the other), Ichiza has a massive menu with a LOT of options, of which ramen is a fairly small portion. Definitely something for everyone here, at least, and they have some good offers for pickup and delivery during these COVID times.
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