I first heard about Ikemen Ramen Bar when I saw it pop up on my Facebook feed, and discovered that it was opening very soon. We don’t have a lot of places for ramen in Calgary, so I was very excited when I learned that a new contender was entering the market. Situated in Kensington with its other ramen neighbours Muku and Menyatai, Ikemen is located on 10th Street NW in the space where Tandoori Hut used to occupy. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was how much they opened up the space, which now sports a clean, minimalistic interior of white walls accented by wood furnishings.
The menu is relatively simple, and comes on a flat sheet of wood with text-only descriptions of each item. Appetizers and ramen appear on the first page, and the prices are generally comparable to the handful of other ramen shops in the city. In contrast to its competitors however, Ikemen doesn’t offer a plethora of extra topping options and instead opts for only three: Soft Boiled Egg for $2, and Avocado or Cheese Curds for $2.50 each. That’s right, you can add avocado or cheese curds! To ramen! I like avocado, but I couldn’t imagine how you could possibly go wrong with cheese curds and knew I had to try this option out.
Herbivores can rejoice that there’s a Mushroom Ramen and a Roasted Tomato Veggie Ramen available, both made with kombu shitake broth instead of the usual chicken broth. Sushi and dessert options appear on the second page, but this was Ikemen Ramen after all, and I was not going to leave here without having some ramen. I shared the Green Tea with Honey, which we were told was made in house. I’m happy to say that it was not overly sweet and definitely hit the spot for a hot summer day.
Poutine is a great appetizer for sharing, and I’m quite pleased with the trend of restaurants taking on this dish with their own twists and unique toppings. Ikemen’s variation throws unagi, mayo, and seaweed powder into the mix for a melty, savoury combination that works well together. Bonito flakes are sprinkled on top, and they can be observed moving about in their (not so) natural habitat.
The rest of the food took a little while to come out despite the restaurant being less than half full. It was only their fourth day of business however, so this was pretty excusable and we were also a fairly large table. I was starting to get hungry, but didn’t mind the wait since it was a gorgeous friday and I had very good company. 🙂
I was debating between the Cold Ramen Noodle and the Roasted Tomato Seafood Ramen, and opted for the latter because I really wanted those cheese curds and imagined it to work much better in a hot, steamy broth. The noodles were a good springiness and the soup was rich in tomato flavour with seafood notes. It came with mushrooms, kale, avocado, prawn, mussel, and scallop which provided a good mix of toppings.
The cheese curds were chewy in the way that cheese curds should be, but they didn’t melt very well and thus didn’t satisfy in the same way that they do when they’re all stringy in poutine like a hot mess. I still enjoyed their presence however, and love the fact that it’s available as an option when dining at Ikemen. My only disappointment was that this particular ramen did not come with an egg by default, and $2 to add one was a bit steep considering Menyatai down the road offers it for only $1.
My friends tried some of the other menu items and I was able to gather some feedback:
Beef Tataki: Mixed responses; some thought that it was good, another group that tried it a different instance the same day felt that it was sliced too thin and the sauce lacked flavour.
Shio Ramen: Pretty satisfying; nothing unique but was enjoyable nonetheless.
Miso/Spicy Miso Ramen: Doesn’t really compare to the other Miso offerings in Calgary unfortunately; the broth was very one dimensional and lacked depth. Primarily just salty flavour.
Green Curry Seafood Ramen: Creamy and slightly spicy in a good way; lime zest was a good touch. (I think I’m going to try this the next time I’m here!)
I did manage to come back another day to try the Cold Ramen Noodle, which doesn’t come with a broth and should not be confused for Tsukemen, where cold noodles are served separately and dipped into soup upon eating. I would describe this entree as more of a ramen salad, with mixed greens, cucumber, avocado, tomato, shiso leaves, char siu, sesame seed, sakura ebi (cherry shrimp), and a soft boiled egg. I asked the waitress what was in the sauce since I thought that it complemented the dish very well, and while she didn’t know, she came back promptly and told us that it was a combination of sugar, garlic, soy sauce, and sesame oil. The char siu was delectable, and I would suggest trying the Cold Ramen Noodle if you’re looking for something cool and refreshing.
I’ve actually been to Ikemen three times already due to circumstance, and the service has been friendly every time. English is the not the first language for some of the waitresses, but it’s clear that they want to do a good job and I haven’t had a negative experience because of it. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that Ikemen opens till 11pm (!!) every night with the exception of Sundays where they close at 9pm. (Hurray for more late evening food options!)
Ikemen will need to iron out some minor kinks as they settle in, such as not having a physical drink menu or running website yet, and perhaps step up their marketing efforts as many people aren’t aware that this new ramen shop has opened up in town. (Maybe ask Hard Gay?) Overall, I’ve had good experiences with my meals at Ikemen and enjoy their more streamlined approach with their menu offerings. Calgary’s weather has been treating us very well so far this summer, and Kensington’s latest features a patio that’s worth checking out. The number of ramen shops in Calgary have more than doubled over the past 2 years, but there’s still lots of room to join in on the fun; with a great location and some unique offerings, Ikemen Ramen Bar is a very welcome addition to Calgary’s ramen scene.
Ikemen Ramen Bar
217 10 St NW – Calgary, AB