Just as we thought we were done with all the ramen bars in Calgary, Ikemen joined the bustling neighborhood of Kensington with its competitors Muku and Menyatai. Emphasizing on using chicken broth instead of pork broth, this newly opened ramen bar quickly became the talk of the town.
The use of Japanese minimalist design and open-concept interiors created an unrestrained, zen feel. Far inside the restaurant, you could find that day’s special and dessert menu written on the chalkboard.
Aside from ramen, Ikemen also serves classic Japanese appetizers, sushi and sashimi. Since it was our first visit, we wanted to try if their chicken-based ramen suit our palate. Just by looking at the menu, you could tell that their ramen are far from being authentic. The fact that their shio and miso ramen included unusual ingredients such as kale and chicken char siu made me nervous… (I would like to clarify here that there is no such thing as “chicken char siu”. The name “char siu” is derived from the Chinese word for roasted pork. So by saying “chicken char siu”, it literally means “chicken roasted pork” – which does not make any logical sense).
Anyhow, we plucked up courage and ordered something from the menu, hoping that their unusual noodles might be surprisingly delightful. Kev ordered the shio ramen ($11.95) without kale. The broth was clear, thin and a little too lightly flavored (more shio please!). The noodles had been cooked to an unacceptably soggy level. On a more positive note, the chicken was tender to the bite, even more so than the pork.
Given my adventurous spirit, I picked the most atypical ramen option- roasted tomato seafood ramen ($14.95). The bowl of noodles was made with roasted tomato base and prepared with toppings such as mushrooms, kale, prawn, mussels, scallop, basil oil, avocado, garlic chips, sesame seeds and green onion. Unarguably, the soup was naturally sweet, light and packed with flavors. The seafood was super fresh! However, the mushy noodles were again the biggest issue that completely ruined the experience for me.
I must say I’m a little confused about the type of cuisine Ikemen is trying to deliver to its customers – authentic OR creative modern Japanese ramen? If it is the former it certainly fails miserably. If it is the latter, it has to do a lot more to make an impression. But first, it must make improvements on the noodles, making sure they are bouncy and able to cling to broth.