There is not much sound other than slurping during lunch time at Nudoru, and this is how it should be at a ramen joint — customers hunched over steaming bowls of flavourful broth, inhaling air to cool the noodles as fast as chopsticks can wrangle them into the mouth.
When it comes to ramen, slurping is part of the process.
On two visits, one during lunch and the other during dinner, the small restaurant at 10532 82nd Ave. is packed.
It's a reassuring sign, and a good indicator that Nudoru has gotten past the rocky days of its opening in spring 2016.
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The understated elegance of the room is juxtaposed with a larger-than-life mural featuring a Nike-shod Samurai warrior slaying a dragon. Perhaps it is a metaphor for the customers who raise their chopsticks in victory after conquering the spiciest item on the menu, the Dragon, a mix of noodles, pork, soft egg and pickled onions in a font of chili-laced firewater.
Thankfully, the other ramen offerings are less intimidating and easier on the stomach lining.
Where Nudoru separates itself from the pack — small as it may be in this city — is in offering diners the option to assemble their own ramen from a list of ingredients starting with four choices of broth: shio (sea salt), shoyu (soy sauce), miso (fermented soy bean), and spicy miso (fermented soy bean with chili).
A selection of proteins is on offer: chicken, pork shoulder and pork belly, and various toppings: bean sprouts, black fungus, sweet corn, scallions, pickled onion, bamboo shoots, soft egg, cabbage, shallots and nori. Add as little, or as much as you like; price is adjusted depending on number of elements chosen.
My combination of spicy miso broth with pork belly, black fungus, soft egg, roasted garlic oil and scallions was marred by reedy scallions and bland belly. The luscious, porky broth was the bowl's salvation, however, and I would have no qualms about ordering the same combination again — minus the scallions.
Of the three small plates sampled, the Kurobuta gyoza garnered top spot with perfectly pleated, delicate dough containing ground Kurobuta pork (known as Berkshire in these parts) flavoured with cabbage and Asian turnip.
Fans of ramen know, that when the hankering hits, you go for the soup, and not much else.
On that note, the tonkotsu broth impressed, as did the spicy miso. Either would have me returning without hesitation.
That Dragon, though? I won't be slaying that bowl anytime soon.