Asian noodle houses are taking up more and more of the culinary bandwidth these days, bringing a smile to the lips of slurpers.
One of the new ones, Edo Ramen House, covers a lot of bases under the concept of "modern Asian fusion," with ramen, sushi, poke, "Asian bowls," fried rice, stir fries, udon soups and — just for good measure — an assortment of fries. Yes, French-fried potatoes. To broaden the appeal still further, most categories offer something Filipino, like a bowl of rice with sisig (pork belly) or lumpia, a Filipino spring roll. Chef and co-owner Eddie Bautista, founder of Edamame and Little Tree Sushi, is from the Philippines.
The place is good-looking. A statue of a tall Japanese fisherman greets you in the entrance hall, complete with conical hat, long beard and mustache, and a fish on a pole. It was fashioned from chicken wire especially for the place by artist Mike Karonias. Inside, simple metal rods — the work of designer Kerry Gluckman — are elegantly arranged against a red wall, somehow mimicking reeds by the water. It's hard to take your eyes off them as they illustrate an Asian take on "less is more."
The dish I found off the charts here was the usually humble miso soup, often just a time-killer before your entrée arrives. Here it is far more layered than the norm, with lots of fish flavor. The secret ingredient, according to Bautista, is red pepper flakes.
It would have taken many visits to do Edo's long menu justice; I didn't even attempt the 20 varieties of sushi. Of the small percentage of dishes I could sample, my favorite was pancit, in the stir-fry column. Pancit just means "noodles" in Tagalog, and here you can order egg or rice noodles with various meats or tofu. My beef with thick egg noodles was ample and tasted of mushrooms and a lot more savory but unidentifiable flavors. This was a complex and thoroughly enjoyable meal.
A salmon poke bowl was colorful but damp compared to those I've tried elsewhere, with little texture or temperature contrast. Like many of the other dishes, it was low on protein by Western norms, which may be why many are offered with extra meat for $3 to $5. I'm a relatively new poke eater, but I know what I want: each ultra-fresh ingredient to stand out on its own. Here the chrome yellow pickled radish and the bright green edamame were crunchy, but the overall effect was of a slaw rather than of a happy meeting of equals.
On the other hand, the pineapple slaw that comes with the Asian bowls is worthwhile. In the bowls, your rice and meat are topped with two fried eggs, their edges crisp and lacy. Edo offers Spam, daing bangus (Filipino marinated fish), tinapang bangus (smoked fish), pork belly, marinated beef or pork, adobo, and teriyaki. I chose longanisa, a sweet Filipino sausage, and there was a lot of it.
Starters are on the high side compared to the main dishes, mostly $8 or $9. I ordered a $4 "puffy pastry" and found it was a bao bun (steamed wheat roll) stuffed with meat. I've never understood the appeal of bao buns, as they are mighty dense and rubbery, with no flavor to compensate — a nursery food. But the pork belly within had plenty of luscious fat to compensate.
Another night, a shrimp and scallops pancake starter with spicy mayo was very soft — not your usual idea of a pancake.
Ramen comes in traditional or souped-up versions such as Nashville (fried chicken and sweet sausage), Kai (seafood) or the Wrap (three kinds of dumplings). I ordered mami, Filipino-style in a pork broth with spinach, and the three slices of pork performed the enviable trick of being spicy without heat. Surf 'n' turf ramen (an oxymoron) comes with egg, fish cake, seaweed, and vegetables, as well as the eponymous beef and shrimp tempura. My companion said he liked it despite the toughness of the beef and the sogginess of the shrimp batter.
I didn't try the Edo fries, but co-owner Greg Vartanian says they are Bautista's take on poutine and are quite popular. Steak fries are topped with kimchi, adobo, spicy seafood, fried chicken, or the house ranch dressing.
Desserts include tempura cheesecake and the Filipino halo halo. I liked banana spring rolls, which can boast of three textures, two temperatures and three flavors. I had vanilla ice cream on crisp triangular rolls filled with melty banana and jackfruit, served on a banana leaf. This is the kind of mix-and-match a good poke bowl strives for.
So many restaurants, so little time. Find out the latest Detroit dining news with our weekly food newsletter delivered every Friday morning.