I was really, really looking forward to Sanpachi opening since first reading about it over on Foodosophy. For whatever reason, the construction seemed rather slow and even after checking on the site in the middle of February, the building was soon opened and re-branded as Nomiya -Tapas Sushi Ramen. Wondering if Edmonton’s first real crack at ramen would be lost in the new venture, I decided to wait a few weeks before attempting a visit. So even though it was a bit earlier than originally planned, Sarah and I headed over to Nomiya to meet with The Captain and BP when our first option was closed.
The small, clean space was relatively empty when we walked in, which meant we had our choice of tables. Taking a spot along the wall, across from the kitchen, we scanned through the diverse menu. And diverse it was, with everything from ramen, to creamy new-wave sushi, to skewers of various meats. As our pot of tea and glasses of water arrived, we slowly debated our options. Sarah was quick to settle on ramen (which reminded her of those iciban packages from her youth), while I hemmed on hawed on testing their sushi. The problem with this for me, is that even the sashimi offerings came with some sort of dressing (creamy dressing, mayo etc). Nothing says a good time like covering fresh fish with some combination of sweetened sauce. So in the end, I went back to ramen. The Captain and BP decided to sample some of their maki.
Sarah went with the above bowl of ramen; Tan Tan – Authentic thick tonkotsu pork soup seasoned with house made spicy sesame and peanut flavour. Served with kikurage fungus, spinach, minced pork, green onions, and topped with crushed peanuts. As someone who isn’t a ramen expert, I’ve heard that there can easily be a lot of depth with a tonkotsu broth, something I think was missing here. It was definitely a flavourful broth, but I found it rather one sided. The mushrooms and spinach were um, non-existent. What gives with that I wonder. At least the soft, seasoned minced pork contrasted well with the crushed peanuts and left Sarah with an solid level of approval.
Pictured above is the Unachi Roll – Asparagus, unagi, cucumber, avocado, cream cheese, then deep fried to a crispy finish. The fish thing I noticed was the light touch of the fryer, which definitely lets the other elements shine through. I’m told it was quite good. The next arrival was the Tropical Roll – Tempura shrimp, unagi, cucumber & avocado, topped with mayo, atlantic salmon, avocado & sweet mango. There seemed to be a trend here with the internal components, but this was considerably lighter than the first roll. The fish were fresh and the mango and avocado were perfectly ripe. What more can you ask for.
The third and final sushi plate to arrive was the Paradise Roll – Sweet mango, cucumber, shrimp, crab stick, sweet mayo dressing, then deep fried. Just like the first, this roll was fried perfectly; no heavy batter here. From the response, I think The Captain and BP were really happy to finish with this. If you notice in the second picture, each slice was nestled in a squirt of mayo that I’m told was fantastic! All three rolls, which were filled with mayo, deep fried, or both, were definitely not traditional, but I think that is exactly why The Captain and BP enjoyed them so much.
With a table full of food, I took delivery of my bowl, or make that two. Tsuke-Men – A fine specialty served with a side of miso soup to dip the ramen before your savory bite. Served with chashu, green onions, shredded carrots, cucumber and miso soup. You can see below that the description didn’t exactly fit what arrived. There were no carrots or green onions on the plate, but in there place was a hard boiled egg and a pile of kimchi. The noodles were quite warm when they arrived and remained tightly intertwined during the meal. This meant it took a lot of work to get a manageable mouthful. The pork, which arrived both lean and fatty, was rather boring in it’s cold state and need to be dipped in the warm broth to really shine. The broth had a bit of kick, and unlike the clear miso you might find in a Japanese restaurant, this was fatty, thick, filled with bits of ground pork and what I think was bean paste. This dish was good, but wasn’t enough on its own sell me.
Maybe not Sanpachi, but as we paid the bill, it was hard not to appreciate what Nomiya has brought to the south side. Located in a small box store epicenter between two Calgary Trail and Gate Blvd, this mixed up restaurant has just about something for everyone. Which is exactly why I wouldn’t have a problem giving this spot another go. If not for the other ramen options, then for the skewers of beef tongue, or the sides of pickled vegetables, or the curry dishes, or the….I think you get the point.