Umami Ramen Restaurant

Tonight! Madison's first ever Ramen restaurant has its grand opening to the public. It's located on 923 Willy Street, and leading up to its grand opening, they've been having a couple "soft" opening dates this week. Along with Kyle and Skatje, I attended their soft opening last night, and tried a couple of their dishes.

The crew of Umami converted an old house that had been on the 900 block since the 1880s into their restaurant. The outside still has the structure and look at the original house. But inside is very different. Inside eminates the feeling of a trendy restaurant you'd find in the downtown area of any urban sprawl. Piano music plays in the background. Solid colors of maroon, yellow, and white splash the walls. The entire place is very clean, stoic and prestine, but the colors bring life to it.

It's actually nothing like a Ramen restaurant at all. It's what I'd expect some trendy American Sushi place to be like. The only Ramen restaurants that I've been to in America have been Japanese owned and operated. They were ethnic through and through. This place is just a little too good for Ramen. Ramen is basically junk food. Delicious, Amazing junk food. It's designed to give you a shit load of calories FAST so you can return to work full of energy. (Or a fantastic drunken snack.) It has the same status symbol as a Hot Dog. It's not some delicate menu item, like Sushi.

This just feels... wrong. And the menu prices compliment the trendy nature of the place. They serve 3 types of Ramen at Umami: Vegetable, Miso, and Tonkotsu, which are $10, $10 and $12 respectively. It's really the most I've ever paid for a single bowl of Ramen in my life. Mitsuwa's Ramen restaurant charges $8 that comes complete with a bunch of other delicious goodies.

I tried their Miso Ramen, and was rather underwhelmed. This wasn't really Miso Ramen. They used chicken stock rather than an actual miso base. Also, the noodles tasted undercooked, but they weren't terrible. If I made Ramen from stratch, this is probably what it would taste like. Definitely not authentic, but good enough. Unfortunately, "Good Enough" does not warrant a $10 price tag. It don't really care if it's authentic, but it should taste just as good.

In addition, to the Miso Ramen, I had their Vegetable Dumplings, which were pretty good. I think they were filled with carrots, bamboo shoots, and ginger. They provided dumpling sauce which reeked of vinegar. Way too much vinegar :( For dessert, I had the Green Tea Creme Brulee since I'm a huge fan of Green Tea Ice Cream. This was actually quite delicious. (Though, I would have preferred Ice Cream) Also, their beer is expensive.

I had being negative about the place. Ramen is one of my favorite foods on earth. Unfortunately, I feel like they're trying to capitalize on the trendy nature of Japan, and the void of Ramen representation in Madison. I would rather my money go toward how the food tastes, rather than how the restaurant looks.

Hopefully, I'll make it back there sometime this weekend to give it another try. Especially the Tonkotsu Ramen, which looked like it had the correct ingredients, anyway.

Check out their website for a history of their renovations to 923 Willy St.

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