FIRST LOOK – Yokoso Ramen
I like soup more than most people. At least most people that I know. I would be perfectly content to have a cup/bowl for lunch most days. I’m really not all that particular either. When it comes to soup, I pretty much love it all!
The thing about soup is that it comes in an endless array of styles, flavors, and tastes. It can be super simple or super complex. Every culture has its unique version. That’s one of the things I like about it.
Let’s take a quick run around the planet for some examples, shall we?
- Gazpacho – Spain
- Pho – Viet Nam
- Tom Yum – Thailand
- Minestrone – Italy
- Goulash – Hungary
- Borscht – Russia
- Caldo Verde – Portugal
- And finally… RAMEN – Japan
It’s our last entry, ramen, that we are here to talk about today.
Taking up residence in the northernmost corner of the Beneva Village Shoppes is the newly opened Yokoso Ramen (3422 Clark Rd. (941) 265-1600).
I had been waiting patiently for this opening for some time now. The sign (and FB page) went up early. But it all seemed like just a tease. Was that noodle-slurping cat in the logo just taunting me?
There were times that I even questioned whether this was legit or just a cruel noodle mirage. That bowl of delicious, flavorful goodness appeared SO close. But it also still seemed so unattainable. Something had to give…
And then, at the beginning of August without warning, it finally happened. The doors of Yokoso swung open to an eagerly waiting, noodle-loving Sarasota dining community. And we have been filling the place ever since!
I popped in for my ramen slurping on a Mid-October Friday afternoon. It’s “off-season,” so I expected to be greeted by an almost empty restaurant. Not the case. This place was bustling. Pretty impressive for a spot that’s only been open a short time and hasn’t spent on adverting or PR.
You have choices in the dining room, table or ramen bar.
It’s a clean, bright, and busy restaurant. Things are moving fast here too. It might not be the best choice for a candlelit romantic dinner, but it is a fantastic place to meet up with a group of friends to eat, laugh, and of course, slurp noodles.
Menus at these kinds of places can be a little on the intimidating side. I’m not Japanese. I’ve had some limited ramen-eating experiences. I know that I love it. But I’m not sure which version of it I love (does that make any sense?)
The staff at Yokoso will hold your hand and walk you through the options if you’re a novice ramen eater. If you’re a pro, then by all means, just dive right in.
They’ve got a nice assortment of starters. Everybody loves Gyoza ($7); they’ve got that. The Yokoso Steamed Buns ($12) are light and come branded with the Yokoso logo on each one!
Those appetizer options are tasty, but I’m here for the main event. Yes, that would be the ramen.
There are choices to be made; and I made mine. This ramen lunch would be the Tonkotsu ($18). It’s listed on the menu as:
Pork bone broth, pork chashu, straight noodles, egg, bamboo shoot, nori, green onion, kikurage mushroom, red pickled ginger.
Here’s how mine looked when it came to the table.
OK, first things first. They give you a bunch of different ways to attack this bowl of soup. There is the ladle/spoon. There are chopsticks, and there’s a fork.
In the end, I’m not sure that there is a right or wrong way to go about eating this. I used all three. And yes, sometimes, in some weird and awkward combinations. But I did manage to get the job done!
A LOT was going on in this bowl. All of these flavors came together so nicely and in such a complimentary way. Of course, everybody loves the soft-cooked egg that just floats lazily in the broth. All you have to do is decide the perfect time to eat it!
I can imagine this place will be buzzing on that first cool “winter” Sarasota day. This will be the perfect stop for a warmup meal for lots of people.
OH, they’ve got a nice assortment of milk teas too. You can pick your flavor AND choose your toppings! If milk tea isn’t your thing, they do have more traditional non-alcoholic beverages.
THE BOTTOM LINE – Ramen is delicious. If you’ve never had it, you’re in for a real treat. Yokoso Ramen has exactly the right mix of ramen options for beginner and expert slurpers. The service is quick, helpful, and friendly. I asked how busy they had been. My server told me that most days they have a wait. I’m certain that once people discover this newly opened Sarasota restaurant gem, it will only get busier!