Drive to Palm Desert to slurp some delicious noodles

Local residents familiar with the wonderful Japanese food available at Musashi Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar wil be ecstatic to learn they have ventured into the Ramen business. Those who have not had the pleasure should get moving out to Palm Desert and enjoy a bowl of noodles as soon as possible. Located in the Whole Foods parking lot, Ramen Musashi is not long on atmosphere; it’s no frills interior and wall of kawaii anime style Ramen plaques transports me back to the neighborhood ramen shop when I lived in Japan as a high school exchange student.

For those who haven’t had Ramen since it came out of a crinkly plastic wrapper—with dried flavor packets—traditional Japanese ramen consists of a rich, long-simmered broth most often made with a combination of pork or chicken bones, dried fish, and seaweed. Often, aromatic vegetables such as onion, garlic, mushrooms, and ginger are added, and the stock is strained and comes out clear or milky depending on the preparation. Wheat noodles cooked al dente are crowned with a variety of toppings, and hot broth is ladled over the top. There is an art to creating ramen, and I am happy to report Musashi’s version is superb.

But before we get to the ramen, the appetizer portion of the menu is not to be skipped. I will say the bowls of ramen are not huge, so if you are a hungry bear like me, you are going to want to order a starter or two.

A perennial favorite is the ika kaarage, crispy fried squid with a spicy sriracha mayo, crispy and chewy at the same time, it is simply delicious. The chicken katsu, sweet soft Hawaiian Rolls with panko breaded chicken all topped with a briny Japanese pickled cucumber, is wonderful, and the variety of textures in every bite make this dish a treat for all the senses.

I could order the steamed buns every day and not get tired of them. Two adorable little pinch buns stuffed full of sweet braised pork belly, some springs greens, teriyaki sauce and a touch of Japanese mayo complete this rich and extremely satisfying dish. The buns themselves are not easy to share, and trust me, everyone in your party is going to want one.

During the summer months Ramen Mushashi offers one of my all-time favorite foods, hiyashi chuka or cold ramen salad. This is not a dish you see very often here in the desert, so imagine my joy in discovering it on offer. Cold thin noodles lightly dressed in a sweet and tart soy sauce and rice vinegar dressing with just a hint of sesame oil. The kitchen artfully arranges matchsticks of ham or chicken breast with imitation Krab, Japanese egg omelet, fresh greens, cucumber, red onion, carrots, and tomatoes on top of perfectly cooked noodles. This is a summertime dish that will cool you off as temperatures climb.

Tonkatsu Ramen is the go-to for ramen lovers and Musashi does not disappoint. The pork broth is rich and unctuous without being fatty. Each bowl comes with a nice slice of tender braised pork belly, red onion, shitake mushrooms, garlic chips and an egg that lives in the liminal space between hard- and soft-boiled. All floating together with more of those perfectly cooked noodles, this is delightfully well-made ramen.

Their “vegetarian” ramen—actually pescatarian because it is made with dashi broth—is bursting with umami. With grilled tomatoes, asparagus, carrots, bamboo, seaweed, shitake mushrooms, and spinach, the wide variety of flavors in this bowl of noodles will be a with anyone from full-fledged carnivore to militant pescatarian. I add a soy sauce marinated egg when I order this simply because they are so delicious.

You can’t go wrong with any of the Japanese beers they have on the menu. Although not a huge list, it is a strong representation of Japanese standards. When in doubt I always order a Sapporo.

Whether this is the first time you are trying ramen, or if you have been slurping noodles for years, Ramen Musashi delivers a feast for all your senses.

Ramen Musashi

44491 Town Center Way

Palm Desert

$$$

760.674.7229

www.RamenPalmDesert.com

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