One of my latest obsessions – brothy soups. Well, to be honest, my husband and I are always obsessed with trying new Ramen’s, me especially when I can find a Vegan one. No I am not referring to the packets of instant soup you used to eat in College, but restaurant style authentic Japanese Ramen – large, piping hot bowls of noodle soup with salty, spicy broths. There are quite a few of these Ramen exclusive restaurants around Chicago, Oiistar being one of the newest.
Recently a group of our friends invited us to join them for dinner at Oiistar in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago. It was a very cold and windy Saturday night; I thought Todd and I were staying in, however cold and windy is the perfect combination for Ramen Soup. We bundled up and ventured out to the neighborhood just east of us. Immediately upon walking into Oiistar I was warmed up – the open kitchen of simmering broth and flaming grills probably helped with that. I noticed right away that the music in the restaurant was a mix of 80’s/90’s/early 2000’s rap, it was hilarious hearing some “oldies but goodies.” Between the open kitchen, cartoons being projected onto a wall and the music flashback, there was plenty to look at and talk about – overall great ambiance in this place.
Being it was a Saturday night, we were a group of 8 and we did not have a reservation we ultimately did have a long wait for a table, however that is to be expected. There was plenty of space at the bar for us to have a few seats and socialize over drinks while we anxiously anticipated our bowls of Ramen. I didn’t try Oiistar’s house cocktails, but they do have this large jar of Sangria on the bar which is one of the 2 house cocktails they offer, the other being Oiimoji. I was in a beer mood this night, so next time I will be giving these a try; the jar of Sangria was quite a sight.
I was really only hungry for Ramen, however being a large group I went ahead and ordered 2 other Vegan appetizer items to share with the table. My friend Shivani and I shared the Portobello Mushroom Bun. This was a soft taco-like bun filled with grilled portobello mushrooms and topped with micro wasabi and balsamic reduction. It was a great way to start off the meal and hold me over until my Ramen was ready.
The other item I ordered for the group was a Mung Bean Caprese salad. This was a slice of mung bean starch topped with a roasted roma tomato, edamame, kalamata olives and white truffle oil. I know mung bean can be prepared numerous different ways, but I actually had to look up this preparation as I was expecting it to be served in a paste form. This preparation had a jelly like consistency, savory flavor and the aroma of white truffle oil was amazing (as always).
And finally, for the main event – THE RAMEN. They offer one vegetarian Ramen at Oiistar called the Spicy Veggiemen. This comes prepared with tofu, bell peppers, mushroom, cucumbers, avocado and mixed greens. Important Note for Vegans – be sure to tell them you are Vegan or just order yours with the Vegan/Gluten Free Rice Noodles (as opposed to the standard Egg Ramen Noodles). Needless to say, this dish did not let me down – it was piping hot, spicy, very filling, and full of everything I love. The avocado they threw in was a nice touch, something I have never seen in Ramen before, and to my surprise was very good when warmed up by the broth.