Ramen vs. Pho.
The name of this new restaurant on West Shaw Avenue in the same mall as Kohl’s says it all. It serves both kinds of noodle soup – Japanese ramen and Vietnamese pho.
But the first thing you notice when you walk into this newly opened restaurant: the art. Every inch of the dining room walls are covered with murals of anime characters, the cartoonish style of Japanese movie and TV shows.
They were all painted by the father of the father-daughter team that owns the restaurant. It took Sak Singharath four or five months to paint everything.
He’s not a professional muralist or anything. He learned to paint on his own with the help of YouTube tutorials.
When he and his daughter, Keysone Hatzidakis, decided to open a restaurant selling ramen and pho, the anime seemed like a natural fit, she said. The anime is packed with epic battles, and ramen vs. pho is a debate that could get pretty epic as well.
“Food that you can eat anywhere, but I want some entertainment,” Singharath said.
The murals feature images from anime shows like Dragon Ball Z and Naruto, featuring the young blonde ninja from a show of the same name. One wall has all the villains from the anime.
Fun Fact: Naruto takes its name from the white fish cake with a pink swirl that is often found in ramen. Ramen vs Pho unwittingly opened up on Naruto’s birthday, October 10, to huge lines.
A longtime restaurateur, you can also see Singharath’s art at his wife’s restaurant, Ichiban Ramen & Poki on Shaw Avenue and First Street.
He also did the more traditional mural of koi fish in his former Asian Cafe restaurant at First Street and Olive Avenue. It is now the Thai restaurant Sweet Mango under another ownership.
The waitresses are having fun here too, dressing up in costumes like anime-style waitresses – and not just for Halloween.
Customers are encouraged to post photos and selfies with the art (seriously, there’s a sign in the restaurant that says so).
But back to the delicious part. Ramen and pho.
When the father-daughter duo were deciding what to do with the restaurant (they previously ran it as Ramen Ichiban 2), they exchanged ideas, including ramen and pho.
“One day we thought, ‘Why don’t we both do them?’ She said.
Thus, several types of both are on the menu, all at $ 12 or less.
Ramen are soft Japanese buckwheat noodles made with egg whites, usually in traditional tonkotsu pork broth.
You can also get ramen with other broths: shoyu (made from soy sauce), shio (a lighter sea salt broth that is suitable for children), miso (made from soybeans), and the popular ramen. milk, Hatzidakis said. Milky ramen uses a combination of milk and tontkotsu.
Tonkotsu pork is not easy to prepare, Hatzidakis said. It’s at least a six hour process.
His pork belly is boiled in soy sauce, ginger and garlic, then pan-fried, dipped again in the sauce, often overnight, then cut as thinly as possible.
“That way, it’s almost like a melt-in-your-mouth taste,” Hatzidakis said.
A vegan broth is also in preparation.
As for the pho, it uses rice noodles. Here, it’s a streamlined version of the pho that you can get with meatballs, steak, shrimp, or the meat lover that combines them all.
There is also a Thai boat version for meat lovers with a spicy sweet and sour sauce and fried garlic.
Giant pots of pho and ramen broth simmer on the stove. Ramen noodles cook in small wire baskets for two or three minutes. The pho noodles only need to cook for two or three seconds, Hatzidakis said.
So who wins this epic battle between ramen and pho?
While pho is probably more well-known in Fresno given our large Southeast Asian population, customers buy more ramen here.
A recent day saw 46 pho orders compared to 117 ramen orders.
Irony ? Although Hatzidakis and his father cook Japanese and Vietnamese cuisine, they didn’t grow up cooking either.
Their family comes from Laos.
This is why you will also find Lao street food on the menu.
You can get 10 fried meatballs on a stick, or a papaya salad, for example.
You can also get a grab-and-go lunch in a “hot and ready” section, like two chicken thighs, sticky rice, and a spicy sauce for $ 6.99.
Ramen vs Pho is at 3747 W. Shaw Ave., near Chase Bank. The restaurant is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday (but closed on Wednesdays) and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.