On Sunday, April 13th, two of Fort Worth’s highly talented chefs – Jesus Garcia of Little Lilly Sushi and Kevin Martinez of Tokyo Cafe – hosted a Wramen Pop-Up at the Culinary School of Fort Worth. Pronounced double-u ramen, Wramen implies westernized ramen, or a version you wouldn’t expect to see in Japan. The term originated in Seattle when food writer Jay Friedman called for “a change in nomenclature”. He proposed that authentic Japanese ramen continue to be called what it is (ramen) and anything else that is not authentic should be termed “Wramen”.
If you think he’s being a food snob, I’d urge you to think about what passes for Mexican or Chinese food in your neighborhood. I was lucky to grow up in the big melting pot of Houston, where friends taught me the distinction between authentic and Americanized versions of their cuisines. Since ramen in restaurants is still relatively new to many Americans, I’m happy that someone hopes to maintain its integrity, much like we Texans differentiate between Mexican and Tex-Mex. So I guess to me it makes sense that two Mexican sushi chefs from Texas would understand and want to promote the Wramen naming concept.
Double-u ramen, ramen, whatever you want to call it, these guys do it well! Some of the Wramen we sampled was relatively authentic and some was definitely unconventional, but it was all outstanding. I completely respect what these guys are doing … for themselves, the restaurants they work for and our city.
Lucas and I arrived at the Culinary School around 5:30, grabbed some wine glasses (byob!) and sat at a table for two. Many of the tables were large enough to accommodate bigger groups, but as we watched people make their way inside it appeared most came in pairs. We weren’t certain what would go best with each course so we showed up with some belgian beer, a bordeaux and a bottle of champagne. I sipped on the champagne while waiting for our meal to begin, since I knew from some pre-dinner snooping that our first course would be light. Also, this was my birthday dinner so I felt like celebrating.
The first course was Branzino (European sea bass) seasoned lightly with salt and pepper, a perfect small yellow tomato sliced in half and placed between it and some rocket salad with a hint of lemon and remarkably good parmesan.
Next was the Bao Bun Duo. One was filled with savory duck and figs, reminiscent of five spice, topped with pickled cucumbers. The other was full of moist, tender Miyazaki Beef, sprouts and spicy chile oil. L.O.V.E.D. both of them.
The 3rd course was our first bowl of Wramen! Continue reading