I know, anecdote isn’t evidence. Over dere by this week’s review of Chicago Ramen I may have made a reckless implication about the antiviral properties of the tsukemen broth at Chef Kenta Ikehata’s new ramen-ya.
One should always strive to communicate responsibly, especially in the fog of pandemic panic. The fact is I finally put my disease—Influenza A (lab-verified)—to bed, two days after my curative bowl of tsukemen, with a curative bowl of tan tan men at Menya Goku in Lincoln Square/North Center.
In my Chicago Ramen review I also went on about how the best ramen remains in the bowls introduced to the suburbs by outside forces (Santouka, Misoya) and that most Chicago-born ramen concepts are basically selling wolf tickets. One of the exceptions of course is Logan Square’s Wasabi, responsible for the first tonkotsu ramen anyone in the city took seriously, and Satoko Takeyama and Jee H. Kim’s follow up Ramen Takeya, responsible for the first chicken (paitan) ramen anyone took seriously.
Menya Goku is the pair’s third ramen-ya, this one specializing in tan tan men, the ramenified descendent of Sichuan dan dan noodles, featuring an almost tsukemen-thick pork ragu, buzzing with ma la, and thickened and enriched with sesame paste.
Takeyama told me the partners have been sitting on this Lilliputian spot (located next to the best carne asada tacos on the north side) for years while getting other projects in order, and it’s something of an experimental station. There’s a tonkotsu on offer, but it’s more like the lighter Hakata Classic they serve at Wasabi. They also do a more intense shoyu here than the one at the mothership, chicken broth with a dashi built on four different kinds of dried fish, topped with sous vide pork and chicken; and also a vegetable-miso vegan “tonkotsu,” the milky-white bone broth sent up with a shot of Oatly.
There’s a lot going on for the relative size of this space: a bunch of izakaya-style snacks (onigiri, takoyaki, karaage) and a full bar program with cocktails and a decent selection of Japanese beer, whiskey, and sake.
But Menya Goku could skate by on the tan tan men alone, featuring a thin, almost snappy noodle from the Ippudo chain. These don’t have much on the popular Sun brand sourced by many spots, but they’re almost inconsequential amid the nutty powerfully soporific broth, whose heat, electrified by both sansho pepper and Sichuan peppercorn, amps up the deeper one descends into its depths. Tan tan men isn’t the rarity that tsukemen is in Chicago, but this is the first one I’ve taken seriously. I’ve been touching my face with abandon ever since. v
Menya Goku, 2207 W. Montrose, 773-942-6701