Between slurps of delicious tonkotsu ramen at Menya Noodle House, our critic mused: "This is ramen as ramen was meant to be."
This is ramenas ramen was meant to be, I thought to myself as I slurped another delicious spoonful of tonkotsu (pork bone) broth, redolent of black garlic and spice, at Menya Noodle House in Dublin. This plain-looking strip-mall ramen house is the real deal.
If you are already familiar with traditional ramen, you will be comforted by the quality and quantity of the steaming bowl delivered here, classically garnished with sheets of dark-toasted nori, scallions and, of course, two halves of an egg in which the bright orange yolk is barely cooked. If you're not familiar, go and learn why even the denatured and packaged versions of this dish became a famous college staple. (The heavily salted, dried packets are to Menya's ramen as Busch Light is to Guinness Stout.)
Several different ramen varieties are served here, and all are good. The classic pork broth is deep and rich-tasting. There are also soy sauce-based and fermented miso broths for your noodles, all tasty and comforting. My favorite was that pungent black garlic tonkotsu, which comes with a few slices of soft and not-too-fatty pork belly, as do most of the bowls, along with the usual accompaniments. It is slightly spicy but can be kicked up a notch with the hot oil or chili flakes offered on the table.
Though ramen is the reason to come here, there's plenty of other goodness, too, including steamed rice with cod roe or shredded pork belly. The ubiquitous edamame and gyoza dumplings are on the menu, and trust me, try Menya's gyoza-the little packets, crisped in oil and filled with a fragrant melange of ground pork and vegetables, reminded me of why the things are so popular.
You know right away this is a place for families, because just inside the door is a little play area with a rug, toys and games to keep small ones busy. In keeping with the family atmosphere, the service is friendly and quite helpful. Furthermore, no alcohol is served at Menya, though you won't miss it while drinking the excellent green tea.
And compared to the dried packs of Maruchan sold in the grocery, which sell for pocket change, an $11 bowl of ramen may seem a bit excessive. It's not. From where I sat, I call it a bargain.