Arami Noodle Night a Monthly Date Worth Remembering

I know what I’ll be doing the last Monday of each month. Arami – which has always been in the upper tier for local sushi and ramen – has been doing a Noodle Night the past few months, always the last Monday of the month, featuring a couple of drink specials and a trio of noodle dishes. It’s a brilliant plan to get people in the door on a slow night, when diners know there probably isn’t a boatload of fresh sushi in town, and they don’t want to spend a lot of money.

Last night, the three noodles on the special menu included: wheat udon, buckwheat/yam soba and ramen. Each dish had a different texture, complexity and heat level (temperature, not spice) and each one could have been a nice, light meal on its own for about $15. My daughter and I tried all three.

The thin wheat udon noodles (pictured, above) were definitely more diminutive than their cousins appearing in giant bowls of soup around town. Ours were stir-fried with assorted Japanese mushrooms, embedded with crunchy bamboo, peppery arugula and finely-chopped scallions. Like so many dishes here, they announced their umami credentials in almost every bite; the savory, earthy ‘shrooms making it taste as if it was constructed on a forest floor.


My daughter’s favorite – the egg drop soba – had a pair of perfectly-fried shrimp tempura across the top, hiding those toothsome buckwheat and yam noodles. We were used to having them cold, but here, they are warm, swimming in a heady, rich broth, redolent of soy and dashi (again, umami bombs). Garnished with some seaweed, finely-shredded snow peas and fish cakes, we split the bowl and devoured it.


My favorite was a surprise: chilled ramen noodles (and in this case, the curvy, elbow-shaped ramen) tossed in the lightest dressing made from sansho peppers and soy. In the middle, a giant knob of chilled and freshly-picked snow crab, as well as a few scattered cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers and snow peas, and a few of the softest, greenest avocado slices I’ve seen since all Spring. The dish was refreshing – so unusual for a ramen dish in Chicago, where cooks tend to bury them in milky-white tonkotsu broth. My daughter is taking the leftovers for lunch today, and I have no doubt she’ll be the most popular girl at her table.

Incidentally, we also split a bowl of Arami ramen from the regular menu. I would put it up against the city’s best (Wasabi, Slurping Turtle, maybe even Santouka in the ‘burbs). It wasn’t the milky-white tonkotsu broth everyone else is doing – more of a shoyu – but the housemade pickles, unctuous, slow-cooked pork belly and firm fish cakes made for a bowl that was highly enjoyable, even after having eaten three plates of noodles first.


1829 W. Chicago Ave.


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