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The most disappointing thing about Ninja Ramen is that they don’t use swords to cut the noodles. Not that I expected such a feature, but it would have been a nice touch. Considering that’s my greatest criticism, then, yes, they’re doing very well.

First know that if you go before 6 p.m. there’ll be no soup for you because Ninja Ramen is an evening and late-night joint, making it a popular last stop for bar crawlers on Washington. Which also means, if you get my meaning, the closer you get to 2 a.m., the more rosy-faced and boisterous the clientele.

Perhaps this is why the ramen ninjas in charge have designed an extremely simple menu that can read even when your vision is blurriest. Ramen choices include “original,” “spicy”, “miso” and spicy miso; you can add extra meat ($3), boiled eggs ($1.50), and/or fermented bamboo shoots ($1). The “spicy” won’t satisfy those who crave substantial heat but is just about perfect if you want just a little peppery kick at the back of your throat with every slurp of broth thick with porcine fat.

“Divey”, “hole-in-the-wall” and “run-down” are all descriptors that have been applied to Ninja Ramen. Okay, so Ninja Ramen is perhaps not where you take your conservative Chanel suit-and-pearls grandmother when she visits Houston. (Feel free, though, to bring Nana along if she’s a bangin’ former hippie with more tats than you.)

What differentiates Ninja Ramen from the plethora of other quality ramen joints in town? In addition to the aforementioned late-night hours and bare-bones interior, the ramen is more loaded (that’s a technical term). That is to say, whereas other establishment float half a soft-boiled egg in their broth, Ninja Ramen gives you three halves; there’s not one or two thin slices of pork belly, there’s three very thick pieces. And with a full bar featuring various rare Japanese whiskeys, Ninja Ramen has also already received considerable press for their cocktails.

Judging from the printed sign with various proscriptions (No To-Go, No WiFi, No Forks, No Public Bathrooms, etc.) and prescriptions (Yes Slurp Loudly, Yes Pair Whiskey with Food, Yes Sing Along to Boyz II Men), the proprietors at Ninja Ramen definitely have a sense of humor. Even if they don’t have swords.

*Menu has most recently expanded to include spam musubi, much to the delight of Houston’s Hawaiian expat community.

Ninja Ramen
4219 Washington Ave
Houston, TX 77007

Joanna O'Leary

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