Short Order: Slurping Ramen at Meshikou

Beth Stallings

I'm a messy eater. If there's something to be spilled on my shirt, I will inevitably do just that. That ramen is a dish with which slurping and splashing while trying to gobble up every bite is socially acceptable-well, that's just one reason I love it. The other is the tradition. You don't just whip up a pork broth and toss in some wavy noodles. Great ramen requires finesse.

Mike Shek, co-owner of Meshikou in Bethel Centre opened in October, knows this. He's been obsessed with ramen for years, traveling all around the country to slurp at some of the best noodle houses and spending months learning the craft from an NYC chef (whom he is not allowed to name). Shek's devotion was obvious from the first sip of the house tonkotsu (pork) broth that takes 15 hours to make. It's rich and velvety smooth and served hot, but not scalding.

First-timers should sit at the long counter with a view of the kitchen action and start with the Shoyu Tonkotsu ($13), a pork broth base thickened with soy tare. It comes with al dente wavy noodles, thin slices of kikurage mushroom and sliced fish cake. A creamy soft-boiled egg, slightly purple on the outside after marinating in a soy-based sauce for hours, adds more richness. And I admired the way Shek serves pork belly-straying from the typically fatty slices, his is meatier after a double-braising process that takes 20 hours.

It's just one way Shek has added his own touches to the tradition and, he admits, tweaked a few things for the local palate. For example, he added spice to his miso ramen ($13), playing down the fermented flavor and riding the spicy foods trend. His Jedi mind tricks worked on my dining companion, who typically shies away from miso-forward dishes but can't resist anything with hot chilies. He finished every last bite of pork belly, corn, white scallions and kikurage mushrooms.

If you have room, order the crispy karaage ($7)-Japanese-style popcorn chicken that's been flash fried and served with a side of citrusy and spicy sauce. Dip generously.