Zen Street Ramen will put you in a state of bliss

The Thai Drunken Noodles were a representation of Zen Street’s unique Thai-Japanese-fusion take on ramen.
Catherine Yong/HIGHLANDER
Name: Zen Street
Rating: 4/5
Location: 3600 Central Ave #1
Riverside, CA 92506
Price Range: $11-$30
Hours: Mon – Thu: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., Fri: 11 a.m – 12 a.m

Sat: 3 p.m. – 10 p.m.

Category: Japanese, Ramen, Asian Fusion, Thai
Credit/Debit Card: Yes
Takeout: Yes
Delivery: No
Other amenities: Public Parking, Beer and Wine

 

Zen Street, on the corner of Central and Riverside Avenues, takes an Asian-fusion spin on Japanese ramen by incorporating traditional Japanese spices and adding its own mix of Thai, Korean and other Asian cuisine. Zen Street can be considered as one of the pioneers of the Riverside ramen scene, establishing its roots in 2014 and becoming the first Asian-fusion ramen restaurant in the surrounding areas. Not only have they brought the taste of traditional Japanese ramen but they have also incorporated their own twist of Asian fusion. To get a better idea of how good Zen Street really claims to be, I took a first-hand taste.

The moment you step in, you know that Zen Street is taking a modern approach on Japanese ramen. Mixed with paper lanterns and dim single-bulb lighting, the stage was set for a perfect meal experience with your friends or loved ones. Without any delay, I was taken to my table. My waiter, Amber, was very friendly and was more than willing to help me out with the menu and choosing what to order.

For appetizers I started off with the Mao Mao dumplings ($5 for four pieces) and the vegetarian gyoza ($5 for five pieces), along with the mango cream soju as my drink. The Mao Mao dumplings were a perfect start. The Mao Mao dumplings were a mix of minced chicken, veggies and a blend of spices wrapped in crispy wonton skins and topped off with a mouth-watering sweet and sour pineapple sauce and green scallions. The dish had a sense of elegance yet still made you feel like you were at home.

The vegetarian gyozas were a good complement to the dumplings and I highly recommend it for anyone who is vegetarian. Stuffed with a soy alternative and topped off with a spicy and savory sauce the gyoza dumplings were crispy and mouthwatering. To complement this tsunami of flavors, the mango cream soju was a perfect palate cleanser in between dishes. You first get the taste of fresh mango, which is then combined with the smooth taste of soju and washed out with a creamy deliciousness.

The food was delicious, the presentation was stunning and the prices were music to my ears.

For the main course I had a little bit of their most popular items: Drunken Ramen ($9), Falling Ramen ($10) and Beef Udon Ramen ($10). Each and every ramen dish contained a glistening layer of delicious fat that made you want to jump right into the bowl. The Drunken Ramen, with its name originating from the traditional Thai Drunken Noodles, was served in a pork broth made with spicy basil and a mix of spices that the owner made me promise not to tell anyone about. Topped with sliced pork, a half of a boiled egg, pickled ginger and chopped chilis, this dish was a perfect 10 out of 10 in my book. The flavor profile was very refreshing and different from many of the basic noodle dishes we are familiar with.

The Falling Ramen, which wasn’t as spicy as the Drunken Ramen, is also a pork-based broth laying its foundations on refreshing chili and lime flavor profiles. Topped off with crispy little nuggets of fried pork and crunchy bean sprouts, each bite was filled with a lip-smacking tangy and spicy goodness. The Udon Ramen had a beef-based broth that gave me the at-home feeling. Made fresh every day and cooked for hours, the beef broth was a very good balance of deep beefy flavors (almost reminiscent of dry-aged beef) and spicy savories. The best part was the thick udon noodles that soaked up the beef flavor, making every bite that much better. I’m usually not a big fan of udon noodles but this time my only problem was that I didn’t have seconds.

As I took my last bite of noodles and my last sip of the mango cream soju, my journey of finding the ideal bowl of ramen had come to a very rewarding end. Each and every dish met our standards of taste, presentation and price. The food was delicious, the presentation was stunning and the prices were music to my ears. Zen Street is indeed at the forefront of the Riverside ramen scene and is not going anywhere anytime soon. With the perfect marriage of authentic and modern flavors, Zen Street truly brings something unique to the table. You might say that some of the other Asian flavors being added into the ramen put too much of a modern twist into the restaurant, but that’s the beauty of it: Zen Street is taking a household dish and introducing it to the 21st century. And the best part of it all is that you still have money left over for dessert.

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