Restaurants

Oiistar knows what real ramen can be

Friday, January 25, 2013

Chicago may not be blessed with ramen joints like New York or L.A., but the tiny new Oiistar, in a secluded Wicker Park storefront, is hoping to transform our understanding of what real ramen can be. For chef Sunny Yim, the epiphany happened on a trip to Japan.

"It was amazing, the noodle, which is the homemade noodle. So that's why I was so interested. 'Oh, why don't I do that,'" said Sunny Yim, the owner of Oiistar.

That meant buying a $65,000 Japanese noodle machine, which begins by turning high-protein flour, egg yolk powder and gluten - with the aid of water - into a soft, powdery dough. He pushes the dough into the side of the machine, and seconds later, it emerges as a firm, wide, flat ribbon of pasta that's gathered on a thick, wooden dowel. Yim sends the dough through a cutting attachment, guiding the finished noodles into a container.

Meanwhile, pork bones are cleaned and placed into a massive stockpot. It's filled with cold water and slowly simmered, constantly skimmed of fat and impurities. The process takes about 18 hours.

When an order comes in for the house ramen - one of three on the menu - ladles of broth are heated in a wok with miso paste; noodles are boiled and vigorously shaken and drained before landing in a wide bowl. In goes the broth, then tree ear mushrooms in one quadrant; thinly-sliced pork loin in another. Garlic oil, then chile-laced oil, plus a soft-cooked egg with a runny yolk and a few scallions on top.

There's a lot more than ramen here, fantastic pork belly buns stuffed with cucumbers and wasabi sprouts, plus a few oddball options like a kimchi-embedded French onion soup.

But Yim is most proud of his ramen, which he hopes his new customers will appreciate.

"Just one bowl, it really looks like simple. But in order to make a really nice noodle...there's a lot of effort," he said.

Oiistar
1385 N. Milwaukee Ave.
773-360-8791
http://oiistar.com/

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