Arizona State University is home to about 90,000 students, and while they don’t all go to the main campus in Tempe, that is unbelievably massive. So, I figured they had to have some good ethnic food because when you throw out such a wide net the students can’t all be white. Thus, when given the option of a couple of different ramen spots, I picked Umami in Tempe because I thought it had a better chance of being good than one in another area. Plus, school was out for summer and that always helps.
The strange thing, though, is that Umami is park of a sort of restaurant “complex” called Shady Park. Shady Park also has a full bar (which I understand, because I assume every restaurant in Tempe becomes a bar after 10:00) and a pizzeria, which is about the furthest thing from ramen. Yet, Umami and the pizza spot actually operated out of two different kitchens, which was kind of cool.
But, to the ramen. I ordered up their Spicy Tan Tan Men, which was a chicken and pork bone broth, with garlic, ginger, white pepper, miso and strangely tahini for flavors. Plus, because it was spicy, there was some sort of chili pepper flavoring in there. I added a soft egg to the mix and eagerly anticipated my meal.
I’ll start by saying I was disappointed that there was no pork in the bowl, which I had actually just assumed would be there. Moreover, I was similarly disappointed to find spinach in the bowl, which is something I had never seen in ramen before and hope to never again. That said, a close look at the menu would have revealed these. Now, onto the good, which is that this was actually a pretty solid bowl of ramen. The noodle were cooked well, if not overly tasty. The broth was spicy and flavorful, albeit not as rich as I like. And the egg was simply perfection.
That said, while it will be hard to find ramen to compete with what I could get in the LA area, Umami could have been a whole lot worse. I know that doesn’t exactly sound like a ringing endorsement, but until I see what other ramen is in the Phoenix area it will have to do.