Ramen originated in China but its popularity around the world borders on obsession. In Japan, for example, where the noodle dish has been universally adopted and refined, there is even a Shin-yokohama Ramen Museum where fans can go to wax rhapsodic about the its many forms. Here in the United States, ramen aficionados are nearly as passionate. As for here in Denver, well, just drive to Aurora and join the lengthy line of fans outside the brand-new Katsu Ramen.
Owned by Chang Lee and his wife Yumi Ogai (who also run Sushi Katsu nearby), the tiny noodle shop has been swamped since opening three weeks ago. Shinsuke Hirao, a chef from Osaka with years of experience making ramen in Japan, turns out spot-on versions of miso, shoyu (chicken, pork, and soy), tan tan (spicy chicken), hiyashi chuka (chilled), and tonkotsu (pork broth) ramen. Rice bowl entrées, specialty salads, appetizers, and dessert round out the menu, but it is the ramen that steals the show.
Don’t miss the heavenly tonkotsu (pictured), a specialty of Japan’s Kyushu region. It arrives in a properly cloudy base that has been carefully tended for 18 hours to bring out the rich, porky goodness. The rich, almost buttery broth bathes fresh (though not made in-house) noodles that are thinly cut and perfectly cooked. The noodles are tossed with pickled bamboo shoots, julienned pickled ginger, bean sprouts, and chopped scallions. The soup is then topped with tender slices of chashu pork, steamed bok choy, a soft-boiled soy sauce egg, chile paste, and slices of Kamaboko fish cake.
Tip: Katsu’s doors open at 11 a.m. but plan on arriving early (10:15 to 10:30 a.m.) if you want a seat for lunch. In the evening, the busy kitchen often closes early.
1930 S. Havana St., #4, Aurora, 303-751-2222