Flavor // Ramen done right

moto-i’s ramen is not your typical cup o’ noodles

There is one dish that epitomizes the need for speed and ease of preparation, necessary frugality and nutritional nonchalance of college cuisine: ramen.

Purchased for a few dollars a dozen and prepared with little more than a bit of water and a heat source, the simple broth and noodle soups have been a source of (dubious) sustenance for generations of undergrads. Little more than a MSG-spiked salt lick in its instant form, ramen is often put aside as soon as one gains a steady paycheck or some rudimentary kitchen skills.

Which is too bad because real ramen, the kind that can’t be purchased in the lunchroom vending machine, can be a wonderful thing. You’ll find it on the menu at Lyn-Lake sake spot moto-i.

The braised pork ramen started with a steaming tangle of noodles. Glistening beads of chili oil floated on a pool of mahogany broth.

Arrayed around the bowl were a small pile of sliced pork, several strips of nori, a little nest of slivered scallions and three coins of fish cake, pearly white with a swirl of pink. A gently fried egg rested on top of the noodles.

While instant ramen can deliver a TNT blast of salt to the tongue, moto-i’s ramen broth was light and subtle, with balanced salt and sweetness. The slightly al dente noodles, mixed with a bit of yolk from the fried egg, tasted rich and creamy and unlike any that come ready-to-nuke in a Styrofoam cup.

The other ingredients, like the sweet and briny fish cakes and the chewy nori, could be mixed in at will.

A vegetarian broth for the mushroom ramen was even richer tasting and slightly peppery, a meatless option does not sacrifice flavor.

This hardly needs to be mentioned, but both go well with one of the house-brewed sakes.

Food writers and bloggers spilled gigabytes of digital ink over the sake when moto-i opened a year ago. There’s little left to add, except that those who haven’t been or haven’t visited in a while should know the initial line of three sakes has more than doubled.

Recently, moto-i even introduced sake served warm, something for the adventurous — or those not turned off to hot sake after having one of the typically low-quality and harsh-tasting versions at another restaurant — to try on a cold winter evening. Or, you could just stick with the ramen, a perfect dish for the cold season.

2940 Lyndale Ave. S.