It was a hot day, and I was craving an even hotter bowl of soup.
Specifically, a bowl of ramen, filled with complex shoyu broth and those signature chewy, pale yellow noodles.
I was in Tampa a few weeks ago around lunchtime, and I made my way to Ichicoro, the hip Seminole Heights restaurant that opened last year.
What followed was not a pretty sight. As a relative ramen novice, I am not yet totally skilled in the art of twirling the noodles with a pair of chopsticks in one hand, scooting them onto a large spoon with the other, scooping up some of the sumptuous broth in the process and somehow getting the whole thing into my mouth.
But with patience and tenacity, you can conquer the bowl without much experience — and it's worth it.
Just last week, a new addition to the growing Tampa Bay ramen field opened: Buya Ramen, on the 900 block of Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg. The restaurant focuses on Japanese izakaya-style dining (think Japanese gastropub), featuring ramen bowls and small plate items. Times correspondent Carlynn Crosby was there on opening night, and in addition to trying the crispy duck ramen bowl and pork belly buns (delicious, she says), she noted the 2,500-square-foot space's exposed original architecture and Japanese charred wood walls; mai tais that came in chilled tiki glasses; and wall murals made by artist Michael Vahl.
If you're planning a visit to Buya, or any of our local ramen joints, here are some basic noodle-slurping tips I could have used at Ichicoro, courtesy of food critic Laura Reiley, who sat down with Ichicoro head chef Masa Takaru last year:
• You get a wide, often wooden spoon and a pair of chopsticks. These work in tandem: For a right-handed person, put the chopsticks in your right hand and the spoon in your left. You can pick up a few strands of noodles with the chopsticks and hold them from below with the spoon so they don't make big plops of broth everywhere as you suck them in using lung power. Then take a spoonful of broth alone.
• There's a lot of bad posture in a ramen house, everyone hunching to more effectively suck in noodles. It's also a speedy affair, maybe 10 minutes, with everyone diving in as soon as the bowl is set in front of them. As an etiquette thing, don't mix in all the toppers, eat them individually, and it's fine to put a bitten piece of pork back in the bowl.
• Once you're near the end, pick up the bowl and drink the dregs.
Contact Michelle Stark at [email protected] or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17.