Mitsuwa’s food court is best known for Santouka Ramen, which serves one of the most straightforward and satisfying bowls of ramen in the Chicagoland area. And unlike so many of the trendy ramen joints that have opened in the city charging over $15 a bowl, you can still grab the shio ramen for just $9.95. By the way, this is not a secret. Wait times dramatically swell on the weekends.
The Japanese ramen chain is best known for its ridiculously thick tonkotsu broth, which is made by simmering pork bones for hours and hours. A number of local ramen joints also serve tonkotsu, but too often the broth tastes dull and fatty. Instead, Santouka's broth overwhelms your tongue with meatiness, like the essence of concentrated roast pork, with an appealing sweetness at the end. Hidden beneath the surface of the liquid, you'll find a tangle of wavy ramen noodles, which have real bounce and bite.
The bowl is really about the interplay of the porky broth and noodles, with toppings kept to a few flourishes. That includes a sliver of fish cake, marinated bamboo, a few mushrooms and a fat slab of pork belly, not to mention a sprinkle of scallions and sesame seeds. Even though it has been around for years, it’s still my favorite ramen around, and it’s also a hell of a deal.
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If by chance I’m ever out in the suburbs, and Arlington Heights is close, I try to stop in to Mitsuwa, but it has been years since my last visit…