Ramen-it's a confusing subject. And it's all the more confusing because it's hard to understand why it is confusing in the first place. It's just noodles, broth and toppings, isn't it? How hard could it be? But Japanese chefs spent decades learning to perfect it. It's also something packaged in freeze-dried bricks and sold for three for 99 cents. As I said, confusing. Clearly the current American ramen craze aspires to reach the Japanese chef-crafted approach. I've sampled top-notch ramen in Japan; local contenders aren't quite a match for the real thing, falling slightly short on technique and proper ingredients. Nonetheless, there are good bowls of ramen to be found in Columbus, sometimes in unexpected places.

Ramenóitís a confusing subject. And itís all the more confusing because itís hard to understand why it is confusing in the first place. Itís just noodles, broth and toppings, isnít it? How hard could it be? But Japanese chefs spent decades learning to perfect it. Itís also something packaged in freeze-dried bricks and sold for three for 99 cents. As I said, confusing. Clearly the current American ramen craze aspires to reach the Japanese chef-crafted approach. Iíve sampled top-notch ramen in Japan; local contenders arenít quite a match for the real thing, falling slightly short on technique and proper ingredients. Nonetheless, there are good bowls of ramen to be found in Columbus, sometimes in unexpected places.

Rishi Sushi

When Rishi Sushi opened in March, no small amount of buzz surrounded their ramen offerings, with whispers of noodles from David Changís supplier and of laboriously crafted house-made broth. The good news is the noodles are exceptionalóeasily the best sampled, both in flavor and texture. Unfortunately the broths never quite rose to their anticipated level, with a couple exhibiting an unexpected five-spice flavor reminiscent of Vietnamese pho broth.

BaSho

As a well-established restaurant with a dedicated Japanese clientele, BaSho might reasonably be expected to serve good ramen. Their tonkotsu (an off-white, creamy, pork-based broth) ramen is luxuriously rich and deeply porky. The noodles were cooked well, but they werenít of the same quality as the others in this group. The tonkotsu ramen didnít appear on their menu during our visit (other ramen options are listed), but the server seemed happy to promote its existence.

Jobu Ramen

Grandviewís Jobu Ramen exists to serve the dish. Their tight menu features veggie, soy, chicken and miso, each with varying homemade broths and colorful garnishes. Jobuís soy ramen broth, redolent of both pork and chicken, is exceptional. And the noodlesóa recipe created by chef owners John Franke and Michael Kopfman and also made by Changís supplieróare solid. The creamy-yolked egg is a pleasant deviation from the hard-boiled norm.

Edamame

Several months ago, when Edamame quietly added ramen to their menu, I approached it with modest expectations. I came away surprised, impressed and convinced the rich, savory broth in their chashu (soy broth-based) ramen was the best Iíve tasted in the city. The toppings were excellent as wellóthe chashu pork was delicious and tender, and the egg was the only one that had been through a proper Japanese-style, and likely soy-based, marinade.

Photo: Tessa berg