A modern take on a Japanese classic creates the perfect spot for quick eats in Boca Raton –review of the Restaurant in Boca Raton
Tucked away in the corner of the quaint plaza at the end of Mizner Park hides Boca Raton’s best kept secret: Ramen Lab Eatery. Opened just over half a year ago and steadily gaining steam ever since, the authentic Japanese-style noodle restaurant prides itself on being the first authentic Ramen eatery in Boca, and for good reason.
Fresh is the Name of the Game
Everything is made fresh on the spot, owner Louis Grayson reveals, from making the noodles to the painstaking process of boiling the broth every morning. “The soup…is the most labor intensive. Its all bones and veggies only, no preservatives, no salt, nothing like that, just stewed for hours and hours” he explains. Their tonkatsu broth, for instance, needs to be boiled for a minimum of four hours, separated from the pork bones (the meat of which is then ground up and put back in the broth), filtered and re-boiled before it is ready to be served. The gyoza dumplings are hand rolled and pressed by a team lead by Louis’s grandmother, and their sauces and pickling processes are all done in-house. They even make sure to source all of their ingredients from local farms and butchers to ensure only the freshest food makes it to your plate. The restaurant also offers fresh craft beer from the hottest local breweries in the area, as well as authentic, difficult to find Japanese Sake.
Fast Meets Fashionable
Unlike most eateries in the area, where the guests come in, sit down, and a waiter comes out to take their order before delivering their food, things work a bit different here. In order to ensure the freshest feasible fare, and that you get your food as fast as possible, the guests here order at the front counter and the food is brought out to you after you sit down. Having seen this system in action (in the number of times I’ve came here before this, I received my food in less than ten minutes,) I can definitely say it works wonders, especially during the lunch rush when you have to get in and out as quickly as possible. The restaurant consists of an inside area with a few tables and a ramen bar, as well as a covered outside area with more tables and a beautiful mural on the side of the building to ensure every guest has a seat to their liking.
Raging for Ramen
Louis was inspired to open up such an unconventional restaurant in the middle of a place that was unaccustomed to change for one simple reason. “Nowhere had a Ramen place,” he says, “When I go to New York or DC I always get my ramen fix and nowhere around here had one.” When his mother, who owned the sushi and Thai restaurant that used to be in the same location, told him she wanted to retire, Louis saw the perfect opportunity to fill the ramen void in our area. He also wanted to make sure to add a variety of items on to the menu, including cold ramen and Poke bowls, to combat the sweltering Florida heat and ensure the menu something everyone can enjoy.
While I was there, Louis was kind enough to let me try a few of the dishes from their kitchen, including two of their ramen bowls, the Tonkatsu Ramen with Pork Belly and the Miso Ramen with Short Ribs. The Tonkatsu broth was rich, creamy, and full of flavor, which made a perfect compliment to the delicious pan-seared pork belly marinated with their in-house seasonings. The Miso ramen, on the other hand, was a bit saltier and spicier, (perfect for people like me who put soy sauce on everything), and the seasoned, shredded short ribs that were served with it made the dish taste out of this world. The marinated eggs (often the hardest part to get right) were cooked perfectly, with a fully cooked yet still soft center and marinated for the perfect amount of time.
I was also able to try two other dishes, made with colder ingredients to help battle the balmy Florida climate. The Pork Belly Bao Bros Bun was a delicious, taco-like creation with a soft steamed bun serving as the taco shell. Inside was an in-house mix of semi-pickled cucumbers, carrots and leeks, as well as a generous helping of Pork Belly, although you could get replace that with your meat of choice (or mushrooms, if you would rather opt for a vegetarian option.) The buns were a sublime twist on an old classic and made an impeccable appetizer. The second dish I was able to try was a Tuna Poke Bowl. Consisting of a bed of rice topped with avocado, raw tuna, spicy crab and edamame, as well as a tangy Yuke sauce, the dish was perfect for fans of sushi that wanted to eat something different without eating a hot soup in this climate. The tuna was marinated just right and the sauce went perfectly with it, and I loved being able to eat the fresh edamame without having to pick it out of the shell like most places. The combination of ingredients made a concoction of flavor quite unlike anything I’ve tasted before.
Overall, I would say Ramen Lab Eatery is not only one of the best and unique restaurants in the Boca Raton area, I would have to say they are the best Ramen restaurant in Palm Beach County and I cannot recommend them highly enough. I will definitely be coming back again and again, and can’t wait to try their handmade Gyoza the next time I go.