When most people think of ramen, they often think of a dried noodle brick, boiling water and a sodium heavy packet of seasoning. In Japan however, ramen is not the go to staple food of broke college kids; it’s a respected and revered art form; and for good reason, real ramen is AMAZING!
Fortunately for those of us living in or around Chicago, we have several authentic spots to indulge our noodle cravings. I've not tried them all but I am working my way down the list. The first one I'd like to call out is Wasabi in the Logan Square neighborhood.of the city.
They bill themselves as a Japanese comfort food restaurant offering several great options beyond the ramen. For example they claim that their seafood is flown in fresh on a daily basis from all over the world, including from Tsukiji market in Tokyo. I can't say for sure if that's true or not. It sounds expensive as Hell to pull off, but I can tell you that the sushi is fantastic.
Despite all of that, my favorite menu item is the Tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen. They use a laborious cooking process for the broth that takes more than 45 hours to prepare and results in a rich and creamy white broth that is seriously delicious.
They also use Bershire Pork (for the broth and in the final bowl of ramen as well) which is a rare breed of pig originating from the English county of Berkshire and is also bred in Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. You may have heard of Berkshire pork, it’s on the menu of many fancy restaurants, such as Spago’s in Beverley Hills or Chef Thomas Keller's flagship restaurant The French Laundry. It's also referred to as Kurobuta which means black pig in Japanese.
Berkshire Pork is the most highly sought after pork in the world. Berkshire pork looks and tastes like no other pork. Unlike commodity pork or “The Other White Meat” Berkshire pork is visibly different. It has a darker richer color with an abundance of intramuscular marbling. Its flavor is distinctive with an unparalleled juiciest and tenderness for pork. BTW, you can purchase 100% certified Berkshire Pork for your own personal cooking pleasure at Green Valley Farm in CT.
Wasabi is located at 2115 N. Milwaukee Ave. Chicago, IL 60647 (773).227- 8180 They do not take reservations and they get pretty busy but it is worth it. Also, It's BYO.
For those of you in other cities, here is a list of ramen locations from across the United States, curated by Thrillist.