11181 Westheimer Rd.
The tonkotsu ramen at Ramen Jin on Westheimer at Wilcrest doesn't come with the milky white broth most ramen aficionados look for in this style.
Instead of a rich reduced pork-bone taste, it has more of a hearty roast pork flavor. The chashu pork is excellent. The noodles are firm and thin, the mushrooms are nicely crunchy, and there's a very cool tattoo on the coddled egg. The Japanese symbols on the egg are the same as the ones on the sign, so I guess they spell Ramen Jin.
In a long piece on ramen last Friday, my colleague Kaitlin Steinberg at the Houston Press generously credited Houstonia's story on ramen and addressed the popular opinion that the Houston ramen trend is more food-writer hype than reality. Kaitlin ticked off a list of ramen restaurants slated to open this year, but she evidently has yet to dine at a dedicated ramen restaurant in Houston.
So I thought it might be a good time to check one out. Ramen Jin is one of two ramen restaurants in town; Tiger Den is the other. Both restaurants report that their soft openings were mobbed. Chef and owner Brian Chen of Ramen Jin explained that he closed the restaurant for a week after the chaotic soft opening to retool the kitchen. Even with a short menu, the small kitchen struggles to turn out the volume of noodles required.
Expect long waits at both places. I arrived at Ramen Jin at 5:05 p.m., five minutes after the restaurant's opening time. That wasn't early enough, as I was already number 12 in line. My bowl of ramen arrived a 5:45. (No wonder they aren't open for lunch.) The restaurant offers six kinds of ramen: tonkotsu, tonkotsu shoyu, sesame (cold), miso, curry, and veggie. There are also a few rice bowls and snacks on the very short menu.
I'll try the tonkotsu shoyu ramen next time. And I'll get there at 4:45.