Chicken paitan ramen, Ramen Takeya
  • Mike Sula
  • Chicken paitan ramen, Ramen Takeya

Back in the Stone Age—December 2010—when Wasabi opened its first Logan Square location, it was riding the crest of a ramen wave that was soon to swamp the city. Long before High Five Ramen, Strings, Ramen-San, Oiistar, Slurping Turtle, Furious Spoon, and all the others, this little pan-Japanese spot was winning a following for its milky Berkshire pork tonkotsu broth. It was a polarizing place. I for one was no great fan of the ramen—those were the days when Santouka in Arlington Heights ruled supreme as far as tonkotsu goes (still does). But Wasabi later relocated to a new spot, refocused on its strengths, and cemented its fan base.

The landscape is much changed now, but the unhappy fact is, with a few exceptions, most of the new ramen places still aren’t very good. And most of them could probably learn a thing or two from Wasabi, whose owners figured out that focus is exactly what a good ramen shop needs.

That’s demonstrated by their new spot, Ramen Takeya, located on prime restaurant real estate in the Fulton Market District, neighbored by Publican Quality Meats and Cemitas Puebla. They’ve made the smart decision to specialize in the heretofore nonexistent (in Chicago) chicken paitan ramen. Paitan is nothing new—that just refers to bone-based broths that are boiled furiously to extract maximum collagen, yielding a milky, sticky body (like tonkotsu). Chicken is what’s new here. In the rear of the restaurant you can see huge stockpots full of cage-free birds, simmering away. They produce a cloudy, relatively dark broth that doesn’t approach the unctuousness of a proper tonkotsu, but it’s plenty rich and substantial in its own right. My only hang-up is that the imported noodles—which are long, straight, and nicely firm—really dominate the bowl at the expense of the broth, crowding out a textbook half-molten honjuku egg, a couple slices of pork belly chashu, cloud ear mushroom, pickled bamboo, and, unusually, diced raw onion ($12). For an extra half buck this signature bowl can be amped up with chile oil. Takeya offers a vegan buckwheat noodle variety, a spicy miso, and a somewhat flat wavy noodle shoyu as well, but the chicken paitan is the way to go.

There’s also an auxiliary selection of steamed buns, donburi, and snacky things like fried brussels sprouts, takoyaki, gyoza and chicken karaage, plus a few cocktails, a half-dozen Japanese brews, and seven pricey Japanese whiskeys, but if you’re not concerned with such distractions Takeya has many of the makings for a classic in-and-out ramen experience.

Ramen Takeya, 819 W. Fulton Market, 312-666-7710