A Slurping Good Time at Myzen Ramen
Owner Sterling Zhuang knows that people may wonder what a Chinese guy is doing opening a Japanese ramen restaurant.
But Zhuang spent six months living in Tokyo, learning the finer points of ramen from a Japanese friend, before opening Myzen Ramen in Sunnyvale this summer. He also hired an all-Japanese crew for his kitchen.
One top-notch ramen establishment. And that’s saying a lot, given the plethora of ramen places in the South Bay.
I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant recently. I took along my Japanese-American husband, who of course, was quite skeptical at the start. But in the end, he was won over, having eaten his words, and a whole lot more.
The brightly-lit dining room has tables packed close together. But you understand why when you see the lines at lunch-time. At dinner on a weeknight, the place was still nearly full.
Sometimes at ramen shops, it can be an almost slap-dash affair, with the food coming out quickly and little ambience to speak of. What I appreciated at Myzen were the details: Going the extra mile to offer different things. The distinctive ceramic plates that held the food. The large, light-weight, wooden soup spoons — a departure from the usual plastic Chinese ones — that accompany the ramen bowls. They take a little getting used to. But they really do the job.
We started with a dish of cold spinach ($3.99) and soy-sauce daikon ($4.99). Both were crunchy with a kiss of umami. It’s amazing how a simple dish like this spinach had me sitting up and take notice. I’ve had this dish at countless places. But this version had a vibrancy not found at other establishments. It tasted so fresh and was vividly green. I couldn’t stop eating it.
Wasabi Shrimp ($9.99) brings crisp, tempura-battered shrimp tossed in a creamy sauce of wasabi and Japanese mayonnaise. The heat is subtle, with a grassy note.
Chicken Karaage ($5.99) arrives hot, right out of the fryer. The fried chicken pieces are lightly battered, and the white meat is really juicy.
House-made gyoza ($5.99) are classic: deeply golden on top and filled with gingery ground pork.
Then, it was on to the main attraction — the ramen, itself. My husband’s Myzen Ramen ($10.95) was a brimming bowl of milky-looking, tonkotsu broth. The noodles were thick, curly and springy. In the mix were also kernels of corn, a sheet of nori, green onions, bamboo shoots, slivers of fish cake, a whole egg with a soft yolk, plus two meaty slices of pork belly.
My Curry Ramen ($12.95) had all of that — plus a house-made curry sauce stirred into it to give it a mustardy color, a round earthiness, and a little kick of heat. It was utterly delicious and satisfying.
The pork broth here is mild and delicate. It has a cleaner finish, which I like. I love ramen, but after devouring a big bowl of broth that’s typically so heavy on pork fat and salt, I usually feel the meal sitting at the bottom of my stomach for hours to come. Not so with the broth at Myzen.
It hits the spot.