by Zach Redwood
On a cold day in Tulsa, the popular choice of food is slowly changing from a hearty potion of biscuits and gravy to a hot bowl of ramen noodles.
It might be hard to imagine paying more than 45 cents for a bowl of ramen noodles, but the way that the noodles from the new downtown Tulsa Ramen Bar, Jinya are prepared, Tulsans will be coming back for more of the delicious soup.
Traditional ramen is a relatively easy dish to prepare. Despite the simple reputation, Jinya’s ramen bowls focus on variety as well as freedom for customization. Ingredients like green onions, cabbage, spinach, spicy bean sprouts, brussells sprouts, garlic, chili powder, and perfected broths using chicken, fish, and pork stock are incorporated in “authentic Japanese Ramen.”
Jinya opened in early December of 2016 and has been picking up steam ever since. With the central downtown location, the smaller restaurant will usually fill up for dinner and will always go on a wait during lunch. The restaurant can serve larger parties, but only so many due to its size. It is easier to get a table or spot at either the actual bar or the kitchen side bar when dining solo or with someone else.
“Noodles are important, but the way the broth serves as the backbone of the dish, the broth gives an unforgettable taste to everything encompassed in the soup.”
Jinya has all the sake, beer, and wine one might need when enjoying his or her bowl. A television adds the opportunity to watch a game or have drinks before going out for the evening.
The restaurant is located at E 416 2nd st. in between Lee’s Bike Shop and the Dilly Diner. Parking near the front door is limited. I would recommend parking behind McNellie’s restaurant near West First Street and North Greenwood Avenue and making the walk south to the restaurant. The hours are from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday night.
When guests arrive at Jinya, they are greeted by chant simultaneously performed by the entire staff. “Irasshai,” (welcome in Japanese) the complete staff shouts in unison as guests are escorted to their tables. The menu has many options for both small plates and entrees. The franchise restaurant keeps a pretty consistent menu to its other 15 locations like the ones in New York and Los Angeles. The long waits and online reviews show that a loyal following for its Tulsa location is soon to follow.
Before you dive into a bowl of ramen, which are priced at $11-$13, there are plenty of options to enjoy when it is time for small plates or appetizers. The featured starters, fried Brussels sprouts ($6.50), are presented parchment paper while sitting in a custom Jinya box. The sprouts have been battered and flash fried and are an enjoyable treat when paired with some of the tableside sauces Jinya provides.
Spicy creamy shrimp tempura ($7.90) is another recommended starter. Tempura fried shrimp are served with Jinya’s signature spicy mayo and on top of a bed of spring mix greens. These two starters are great to share with a group of friends.
Jinya focuses on making the broth the main attraction of its ramen. Noodles are important, but the way the broth serves as the backbone of the dish, the broth gives an unforgettable taste to everything encompassed in the soup.
A poached egg that was marinated in sake, soy, mirin, and sugar for 12 hours, a seasoned egg is served on the side for the customer to add to his or her bowl.
There are two types of Ramen available at Jinya. The first, Tonkotsu, which translates to “pork bone,” is based with a pork broth. The other style is based with chicken broth. Both choices are available in mild, spicy, and hot flavor levels.
Most ramen menu options will come with a filet of either pork like the Tonkotsu Spicy ($12.55) or chicken like the Spicy Chicken Ramen ($10.95) that comes floating with the other ingredients in the bowl of broth.
This cut of meat is called chashu. Chashu is a method of braising or simmering the pork or chicken before it is served.
Jinya has multiple options in both the pork and chicken sections. Every bowl can be customized to add or remove certain ingredients, which can be found in the middle of the menu. One addition that was recommended by the server was the seasoned egg option ($1.50). A poached egg that was marinated in sake, soy, mirin, and sugar for 12 hours, a seasoned egg is served on the side for the customer to add to his or her bowl.
Noodle size is another central component in each bowls style. The two styles, thin and thick noodles, each absorb the seasonings used as well as the flavor of the broth. It is encouraged to eat the noodles quickly, in a slurping fashion. The bowls are very filling and the portions are gratuitous enough to even take some home for lunch the following day.
For desert, two options were available: A mochi ice cream and panna cotta and vanilla ice cream. Rice cake molded over an ice cream filling; mochi is a classic Japanese confection. The panna cotta or sweetened cream is topped with a caramel sauce and served with crumbled graham cracker and vanilla ice cream.
The overall experience at Jinya Ramen Bar in downtown Tulsa is excellent. I would recommend trying it out as soon as possible. Keep in mind, when going for the first time, the space is very small and may be full. However, the wait is worth the wonderful cuisine that Jinya offers.