2018 was the year of the noodle around here. It was almost as if everyone in metro Detroit collectively woke up and realized that Asian-style noodles are the best. Just recently, Corktown's Ima expanded to a new location in Madison Heights, while Chen's Noodle moved into the city's former Thuy Trang (RIP). There are loads of noodles at the revamped New Seoul Plaza in Southfield. And we have two new Japanese izakayas with a slew of ramen dishes in Ferndale's Antihero and Detroit's Katsu. Even Greektown Casino-Hotel is getting in on the noodles game with the new Noodle Art ramen spot.
So many noodles, so little time. Here are five of our favorites.
2015 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-502-5959
32203 John R Rd., Madison Heights; 248-781-0131
Ima head honcho Michael Ransom is a gift to this town. The restaurant boasts 6 different udon soups and they're all stellar. The broths are almost too consistent — always fantastic, no surprises. The perfectly cooked Sanuki Udon excels with meat-based toppings that are more akin to cold cuts in their sliced precision. Ima's udon soups are intense, as the dish is traditionally served in a lighter dashi-based broth with kaeshi. But the broths at Ima are perfect for ramen.
42270 Grand River Ave., Novi; 248-380-9850
A tip of the hat to the staff of this ever-popular Novi noodle shop, where it seems like prices haven't changed since day one. Ajishin serves up classic Japanese udon with a host of toppings that'll warm even the iciest of hearts every time. In the summer, go for the Udon with wasabi and deliciously slimy yamaimo. The only con is you might have to wait 25 minutes for a table, but a trip to the nearby One World Market makes it worth it. A shoutout to the sushi bar is in order as well, which is on par with Clawson's venerable Noble Fish. Come for the criminally cheap lunch special — it's worth the wait every time.
30120-30140 John R Rd., Madison Heights; 248-591-4092; noodletopiami.com
After being beckoned by the gorgeous Noodletopia sign out front, we were pleasantly surprised that this rather nondescript concrete structure delivered and delighted with the area's first real hand-pulled noodle shop. The Lamb Spine, Beef Tripe, and Bean Curd Salad dishes are all reliably consistent. A new chef from Shanghai has also introduced Xiaolongbao soup dumplings to the menu, which diners are reportedly going nuts over.
5990 N. Sheldon Rd., Canton; 734-459-1770
Matsuchan is the ideal '90s-style Japanese ramen shop — a no-frills strip mall gem that serves classic, reliable ramen. Sun Noodle-brand alkaline noodles, piping hot broth, a tinfoil-lined kitchen, years-old specials written on construction paper all over the walls, an odd assortment of license plates from various places — everything here is perfect just the way it is. It's the only place in town that does lighter dashi-based shoyu and shio ramen, but also boasts a garlic-forward tonkotsu for fans of the thicker, fattier stuff.
Johnny Noodle King
2601 W. Fort St., Detroit; 313-309-7946; johnnynoodleking.com
Johnny Noodle King has really upped its game lately with all of the new competition in town. Specials like Tan Tan Men, Udon Carbonara, Smoked Butter, Tom Kha, and an ongoing list of playful creations keep us coming back. There was even an absolutely hilarious special on the menu this year called "coney ramen," complete with hotdogs, chili, mustard, and onions. Even if it was a joke, it shows that chef Les Molnar encourages his staff to take risks and experiment with ramen.
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