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Menya Ramen & Poke fits in with big-box neighbors

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Menya’s rich ramen rates as a strong soup overall. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Menya’s rich ramen rates as a strong soup overall.
Menya Ramen & Poke feels like it sprang fully formed from a board of investors meeting, like Athena emerging from the head of her father Zeus. Menya’s owned by J.W. Lee, Yamaguchi Katsuhisa and Munehiro Kitasato, all established Denver restaurateurs whose oldest operating venture, Wasabi Sushi Bar, has been in business since 2000. Menya stands in the Promenade Shops at Briargate, which hosts big-box businesses like Ted’s Montana Grill and P.F. Chang’s, fitting company for Menya’s fifth location.

The Menya name is something of a broad umbrella, as the Denver locations vary in focus, and the Springs spot does not offer sushi. The interior feels like any other fast casual spot in town, bearing dark colors. There’s a very Japanese cleanness in the lines and corners of the counters, befitting the food. Speaking generally, it’s a polished concept at all points, and one could be convinced that its corporate backbone is as robust as that of its neighbors.

Plates run from $11 to $12.50, and the spot also offers beer, wine and sake. One of the towering menu panels near the counter lists all the options the spot offers for on-trend build-your-own poke bowls. That’s great for diners who know the ingredients they’re able to work with and can build a good flavor. For those less familiar with ingredients like yuzu kosho and seaweed salad, Menya offers a few pre-built bowls, plus cooked meat offerings.
Location Details Menya Ramen & Poke
1645 Briargate Parkway, #245
Briargate
Colorado Springs, CO
374-4278
Open daily, 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
We go for the bulgogi bowl, which bears sweet- and sesame-flavored strips of beef atop steamed white rice and salad. The bulgogi rates fine, though a little chewy that visit. But we’re taken by, of all things, the sesame salad dressing. It’s dark and rich, with an almost coffee-like quality, and as far as culinary curve balls go, it delights.

A spicy chicken bun, served folded like a taco rather than enveloped in the style defined by David Chang’s Momofuku restaurants, tempts as an appetizer. But our server guides us toward the lettuce wraps as a better deal for our dollars and a more shareable option besides; the buns come one per order, versus three-per-order wraps. In any case, the chicken’s served up with bell pepper and scallion bits, plus sesame seeds, in a bright and spicy Korean-style sauce.

For ramen, the spot offers a dozen options. The Menya house ramen comes in a rich, creamy pork broth that sits milky and off-white in the bowl. The noodles bear a good texture, too. The bowl comes topped with char siu pork slices, bean sprouts, scallions, raw spinach, half an egg, and a sprinkling of peanuts. The egg’s boiled medium, yolk creamy and cohesive but not hardened and still a dark orange-gold color, joining the broth and the tender char siu pork on team salty-savory. Those flavors get balanced by bitter and vegetal elements from the sprouts, scallions and spinach, a fine counterpoint for a fine bowl of soup.



We also try a janjan bowl, which bears the same spicy chicken in a spicy orange broth, topped with a drizzle of sauce denoted as black bean on the menu — it’s the spiciest thing in the bowl. Topped again with spinach, bean sprouts and scallions, it bears a respectable depth of flavor. There’s a certain degree of polish to this, as with everything we try, that shows the refinement the menu items have been through.

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