Ejji Ramen gives preview of menu, set to open Oct. 26

Ejji Ramen (pronounced "edgy"), the much-anticipated ramen shop we previously reported would be opening this fall in the Belvedere Square Market, is now set to open its doors for a soft opening starting this Sunday.The shop, which also features Malaysian specialties (the owners' original home), won't have full table service yet, but customers can still sit at the 10-person ramen bar or take their food to any of the nearby communal market tables to enjoy. A liquor license is in the process of being acquired, which the owners expect in November or December, but until then we recommend grabbing a beer or wine at nearby Grand Cru, which you can take with you to accompany your noodles.We recently stopped by for a (full disclosure: complimentary) preview of their menu, and while everything wasn't a full-on hit, we came away pretty impressed for a place that's still ironing some things out.The menu is split up into create-your-own ramen (more on that in a bit), izakaya, ramen, coconut rice bowls, and brunch. We started with items from the Izakaya, including a vegetable gyoza ($5) and pork belly yakitori and chicken and beef satay ($8). The gyoza—pillowy homemade dumplings filled with cabbage, shitake mushrooms and smoked tofu—could have had dough that was a tad thinner but were otherwise fresh and tasty.We were surprised to hear that the pork belly yakitori was actually cooked the traditional way, over Japanese white binchotan coals—the first we've seen in the city—which was noticeable in the smoky, charred flavor. The chicken and beef satays, a Malaysian appetizer, were tasty with their accompanied peanut sauce but seemed a bit dry at times, possibly because of the smaller sampler sizes.The ramen on the menu is set up to order in two ways: You can create your own style where you pick your broth, noodle type, toppings (13 options including tofu, bamboo shoots, and the like), and sauce, or you can choose a pre-set traditional bowl of miso, tonkotsu, or laksa.We were started out with the miso corn ramen ($10), a vegetarian broth made with vegetable stock, corn, and some butter, that on first sip tasted like an August corn harvest in liquid form. Accompanying the thick noodles, sourced from the ever-popular Sun Noodles, were thin enoki mushrooms, a charred bamboo shoot (something we’ve never tried that was quite good), scallions, and a poached egg. For a vegetarian ramen, it still had a bold flavor that told us this place may not be messing around.Next up was the traditional tonkotsu (pork) ramen ($11), which we're told was made through a 24-hour process of soaking, blanching, and simmering pork shin bones ("that’s where the most marrow is," chef Ten Vong explained), resulting in a clean and milky broth that's not overly fatty but definitely still shows off that porky flavor. Nestled into the broth was Japanese fried pork belly—a nontraditional method they say is an example of their "ramen with an edge" concept—pulled pork, black sesame oil, scallions, thick noodles, a miso egg, and a sheet of nori. I could eat a whole box of that fried pork belly Chick-Fil-A-nuggets-style, they were so tasty, and the rest of the bowl was on point, except for the egg, which we thought was a bit overcooked.Last up was Ejji's nontraditional Malaysian take on ramen in the form of a seafood curry laksa ($15). With a way-thicker and boldly spiced broth than the previous two, the laksa was made with shellfish stock, coconut, milk, and yellow curry. We found it to be way heavier than the traditional ramen, and aren't even sure it should be considered a ramen—which isn't to say it wasn't good, especially if you're looking for comfort. Shrimp tempura, surf clams (the kind you get at sushi joints with red tips), crab, bean sprouts, bonito flakes (katsuobushi), thai basil, and a lime wedge accompanied the broth and noodles. Overall it was a hearty bowl and each component was well-executed and tasty.It was a mostly impressive preview of the ramen and Asian eats Ejji hopes to add to the Baltimore scene. And while we left wondering if they can keep the quality to the same standards once the masses start showing up, we're thinking we may have to start planning trips up York Road a bit more often.

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