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June 28, 2010

Alice Eats: Sumo Ramen

1007 boulevard St-Laurent, Montréal, Québec 514-940-3668

IMG_0992Think "ramen" means dehydrated bachelor food? Try experiencing the real deal at one of the new ramen restaurants north of the Canadian border.

Just a few months after Ramen-ya opened in Montréal's Chinatown, Sumo Ramen followed. The restaurant doesn't serve chanko, the protein-rich soup enjoyed in massive quantities by sumo wrestlers, but these are hearty meals nonetheless.

At Sumo Ramen, there are two soup bases available — shōyu and miso. The shōyu is about what one would expect of ramen broth: savory and salty, but not much else. The miso broth is slightly thicker and tastes as much like sesame as bean curd.

The standard bowl comes filled with two kinds of seaweed, bean sprouts, corn, half a hard-boiled egg and a blob of butter in the middle. From there, diners can choose versions with kimchi, leeks or even wontons. Of course, there are noodles too, delightfully elastic ones.

I tried the beef ramen in shōyu. The thin, fat-addled strips of brisket were unctuous in a way similar to well-prepared pastrami. They also shared the taste of a light cure. They were fried with onions, which added sweetness.

I also tried a bowl of cold noodles with the aforementioned accompaniments and miso dipping sauce on the side. The hot, melting fat from well-seasoned rounds of pork belly gave sex appeal to an otherwise somewhat austere dish.

Ramen itself is fun food. Sumo Ramen has bubble tea to make the experience even more exciting. My small cup of the milky watermelon smoothie was as big as a large at most places and only cost $3. I chose the standard tapioca balls; the milk teas can also be filled with lychee, mango or rainbow jelly. Next time I hit Sumo Ramen, I plan to try the lunch special. Between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. you can order any bowl, and for just 99¢ more, you get an imperial roll and drink. I'm ready to throw some salt in the ring for that deal!

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