NOTICE: Satisfy your hunger for ramen at Tomukun Noodle Bar, Ann Arbor
A restaurant review for ramen lovers and noodle newcomers
by JAMES CASON
What comes to your mind with the words – ramen noodles? A white polystyrene mug in the kitchen cupboard filled with a block of pre-cooked and dried noodles, along with a sachet of seasoning? Or authentic ramen noodles complemented with fresh vegetables, tender protein in a hearty broth served at a local noodle shop? I recently took a trip to the Tomukun Noodle Bar in downtown Ann Arbor on an empty stomach to speak with the owner of his restaurant and try some of his recommended dishes for a ramen newcomer.
Opening of the noodle bar
âI kind of took a leap of faith and opened a restaurant,â said Tom Yon, owner of Tomukun Noodle Bar. âIt’s pretty good to be young and naÃ¯ve, not to really understand the risks involved. (There was) a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, but I got it to work.
Yon, 38, graduated from Michigan State University in 2004 with a degree in economics. He worked in the finance industry but burned out and considered taking over his family’s dry cleaning business for 25 years. In April 2010, Yon decided to open Tomukun Noodle Bar after seeing some of his college buddies launch a successful Thai restaurant chain. He saw a need for good Asian food in the region.
In 2014, Yon opened his second restaurant, right next to the noodle shop – Tomukun Korean BBQ. Yon remains busy juggling his job, his restaurants, his marriage and the education of his three-year-old son.
Located in the heart of the U of M campus on East Liberty Street, college students, staff, and city residents can dine on site or choose to perform or have Tomukun delivered. The restaurant’s oblong interior is sleek with dark wood seating and floors, recessed lighting, and oversized framed artwork. It projects a relaxing vibe for working from a laptop, talking with a friend, texting over a meal, or sitting and listening to cool music from Yon’s Spotify playlist, like Childish Gambino – Redbone .
Yon’s passion project started out as a business idea to incorporate part of his life and Korean culture – growing up with noodles. Yon says noodles have always been a comfort food in the Asian community, much like mac-n-cheese for many others.
The ramen noodle experience starts with the right noodles, and Yon imports fresh ramen noodles made with wheat flour from Japan. Next comes the broth. There are several typical broth flavors in the ramen world, including Shoyu (soy sauce), Shio (salt), and Miso. These are well-developed and complex broths! The selection of spices and secret recipes is up to each ramen chef; No two are the same.
âIt takes about 10 hours to prepare the broths each day,â Yon said.
Protein selections for noodle dishes at Tomukun include roasted pork belly, crispy chicken, grated roast duck, seared ground pork, marinated roast beef and various types of seafood. interchange menu items and meet customer preferences.
Get set, get set, eat!
Yon asked me about my food preferences and quickly picked out an appetizer and ramen dish that I could swallow!
- Tempura shrimp buns ~ fried crispy shrimp, spicy coleslaw mayo, cilantro, red onions, thinly sliced ââjalapenos and fresh lime juice [$8]
Oh my! These little delicacies brought me together! The spicy mayo coleslaw and jalapeÃ±os hit me well, and the flavor was to die for. The fluffy bun meeting the crunchy shrimp sprinkled with lime juice was the right galactic combination. This is a “must try” item.
- Tomukun Ramen ~ Roasted pork belly, spinach, bamboo shoots, scallions, naruto fish cake and hard-boiled egg in rich pork broth (I replaced the pork belly with beef) [$13]
The beef was tender and sweet, but tasty – like your grandma’s roast but in a bowl of soup. As I requested, the flavor was spicy plus a delicious homemade chili oil poured over the delicious broth; it added a tangy kick to the adorable and hearty noodles.
U of M student Anthony Tricano sat at the bar with his headphones on as he ate his noodles. He mentioned that he liked pork buns and spicy beef ramen and that he dined at Tomukun once or twice a semester.
âI really want to try their kara-age and their rice with fried chicken,â Tricano said. âBack home where I’m from in the Philippines, we usually have ramen with a side of gyoza, Japanese dumplings, or kara-age.â
The final verdict
The food, atmosphere and service are well worth a visit for lunch or dinner. I left Tomukun super full, the bowl half empty, and asked the waiter to make my remaining noodles to go.
âNo worries, most people don’t finish their bowls. There are a lot of noodles in there, âsaid a waiter from Tomukun.
- Tomukun Noodle Bar is named after Tom Yon; his former Japanese employer respectfully called him âTomukunâ. The name stuck with him.
- Yon’s business partner named Dan is his young cousin. They are like brothers.
- The price of ramen at Tomukun is $ 13- $ 15 (whole menu).
- here is a Beginner’s Guide to ramen styles before your next visit.
- Yon’s desire is for everyone to leave Tomukun with a smile; and if nothing else, a new experience.