SATO Ramen opened its doors in September in the heart of the University Heights. The simplified, Ramen-focused menu and brightly lit, Japanese-influenced interior transposes the trendy looks of SATO’s Elmwood Avenue location to its newly opened restaurant.
OK, confession time.
My knowledge of Ramen extends no further than those cheap, iridescent orange bricks of Maruchan Ramen that every college student has dropped into a pot of boiling water when laziness trumps the desire for an actual meal. So in the absence of any real experience with this Japanese soup, I could only base my expectations for SATO Ramen’s namesake on hearsay: authentic with a twist, hearty, handmade and unique to Buffalo.
I ordered the Yuz’ Not That IPA, Okonomiyaki Fries and the Regular Sato. If you’re a fan of citrusy IPAs, you’ll love this unique collaboration with Buffalo’s own Community Beer Works. The sharp bitterness of the hops along with the creamy malt works great with the sweet but tart yuzu, a Japanese fruit that resembles a lemon but tastes more like a grapefruit. I would come back just to have a few more of the Yuz’ Not That IPA.
Okonomiyaki is a dish commonly found on the streets of Japan. This heaping street-food is usually structured over a pancake-like bottom with flaked nori – seaweed – a mayonnaise-like sauce, pickled ginger, bonito flakes – a type of dried fish – and okonomiyaki sauce – think sweet and thick Worcestershire sauce.
SATO Ramen replaces that pancake-like bottom with French Fries and it is awesome. The smorgasbord of toppings tastes like a deconstructed sushi roll dropped over fries. Sounds strange but it works extremely well.
In good time, the Regular Sato arrived. This massive soup sits in a light-brown pork and chicken broth. Usually a soup broth just tastes like chicken or pork – whichever it’s derived from. This is the first time I could taste the roasted nature of the meats that were used. Unique: check. Hearty: check.
The bottom of the bowl was home to SATO’s handmade – check – Ramen noodles. These noodles offered a foreign, doughy texture. I definitely enjoyed it, but it was strange at first. Floating in the broth are bean sprouts, pickled ginger, chashu pork, and because I ordered the Regular and not the Simple, a soft-boiled egg and bamboo shoots.
Besides the blending of simple flavors, my favorite aspect of Asian cuisine is the wide variety of textures that you can find in a single dish. This soup absolutely embodies that. The doughy nature of the noodles, the smooth and hearty broth with the crunch of the bean sprouts and pickled ginger highlights the entire spectrum of texture.
SATO Ramen granted me the best Asian dish that I’ve eaten since my weeks spent in Southeast Asia. The authenticity of the soup along with the unique Yuz’ Not That IPA and Okonomiyaki Fries gives you the feeling of a Japanese eatery with a twist that I would only expect if there were a number of Ramen joints available to Buffalonians. Unfortunately, there aren’t. SATO Ramen will shine as a beacon for those of us searching for authentic Asian food.
If you’re looking for a step up from the brick of noodles and rice, this is the fancier version of the otherwise cheap and efficient college student meal. SATO Ramen’s authenticity is what sets is apart from others in the area and the work put into the crafting of the food is evident in every aspect.
Tyler Walters is a contributing features writer. Features desk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.