I dipped my spoon in a matte red pepper broth, pulled out a perfectly soft boiled egg and thought – this is absolutely amazing ramen.
I was at Kazu R, which opened in February in a small Gilbert storefront inside a sprawling shopping mall filled with The usual suspects, like Trader Joe and Cold Stone Creamery.
Like most great ramen shops, the menu at Kazu is small, with five different types of ramen, including exceptionally clear chicken-based ramen, plus some bowls of donburi rice and a short list of sushi and appetizers. The dining room is plain and simple, so as not to be distracted by the intricacies of the exciting Japanese noodle soup in front of you.
I enjoyed tonkotsu, a strong ramen from pork brothAnd the Often during a casual dinner with a friend, I had to take a return trip to try more.
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Great ramen starts with a great broth
Each ramen excels in a different way, but tonkotsu kazu is all about the broth.
Kazu is one of the best slow-cooking tonkotsu pork broths I’ve tasted in recent memory. Kazu Ramen’s signature spice broth is better than the lighter tonkotsu that blew me away during my first visit. Every ingredient is in balance: the broth is cloudy and thick with delicious pure pork flavor and accentuated by a rich peppery kick.
Kazu offers a side of Sriracha’s homemade hot sauce for $1.50, but with a broth that’s so flavorful it’s barely touching.
As usual, pork-based ramen dishes are served with a variety of wheat noodles that are thinner and straighter than those found in miso broth. And although they did pull together a little on my second visit – a common ramen sickness – the first time I had them, they were neat and filling.
The pasta tastes best when balanced with a crunchy bite of raw bean sprouts or woody ear mushrooms, which also come in the bowl. If you get tonkotsu ramen, they will serve it with traditional slabs of fatty chacho ham. But the signature queso ramen comes with roast pork and chicken, along with a dash of black garlic, adding an earthy flavor to the broth.
Kazu also does a great job with soft boiled eggs mixed with soybeans, which are served open to reveal a custard yolk inside a firmer white. Pork chachoo could have been juicier, but I enjoyed the distinct bitterness of its edges.
Spicy kazuo and tonkotsu ramen have the strongest broths, but my favorite was the noodles The thickest and most curly ramen noodles to come in Katsu-Men, a chicken-based ramen featuring a delicate broth served with fresh corn kernels and a crunchy layer of Katsu-Fried Chicken, which became tender and juicy as it was drenched in a delicious liquid.
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Skip Ramen in Kazu
Ramen is the main draw, but the sushi rolls and appetizers are all excellent side items. A must for every meal in Kazu Start by arranging takoyaki, tiny dumpling balls of octopus tentacles deep fried in egg pancake batter.
A Japanese street food in keeping with coastal flavours, this takoyaki was the perfect size and texture and was expertly crafted with just the right amount of sweet Worcestershire sauce and salty bonito chips, quivering like fishy flower petals.
Karaage fried chicken thighs were professionally prepared, but memorable, and the same can be said for the salmon rolls, which did the job, but not much more than that.
The most interesting thing was gyudon, our server’s favorite that made my Japanese American girlfriend’s eyes light up when she saw it on the menu.
Made with thin slices of ribeye, this thick rice bowl is a rare find, so you should jump in when you see it. I ended up ordering it on every visit, only to enjoy another bite of meat and sweet onions mixed with delicious scrambled eggs and delicious white rice.
It’s all so soft and comforting until you hit it with an exploding sprig of pickled ginger. Wow. I can see why my friend kept this to herself and left me for ramen on my first visit. But no complaints here, my first impression of Kazu Ramen is that very few on this list will disappoint you.
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where: 1849 E. Williams Field Road, Suite 105, Gilbert.
hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closed on Sunday.
priceAppetizers: $4.50 to $9.95; ramen $12.95 to $16.50; rice bowls from $12.95 to $13.50; Sushi rolls from $5.50 to $10.95.
details: 480-687-2319, kazuramen.com.
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