Top Notch Ramen in Downtown Lafayette
The other night after the kids were dropped off at Grandma’s, Mollie and I were looking for someplace fun to eat in downtown Lafayette for a date night and she must’ve read my mind because she was the first to suggest Yatagarasu. We’re lucky to have numerous options in Greater Lafayette when it comes to great ramen, from Katana on Sagamore to Noodles & I or Oishi on campus, but Yatagarasu at 5th and Main St. is the place that’s focused squarely on ramen first, second, and third–and it shows.
When it comes to ramen, it’s all about the broth. There are pork, chicken and veggie-based broth choices, all made in-house, and each is a steaming bowl of nuanced aromas and complex, savory flavors that will leave any college-days memories of instant cup-o-noodles a hazy blur in the rear view. I usually find the garlic tonkotsu ramen–filled with crunchy wood ear mushrooms, ginger, and seaweed–to be utter bliss, but tonight I wasn’t looking for bliss, I was looking for a little pain… I was here for the “Volcano Ramen”. As someone who grew up of my fair share of tongue-searing Caribbean food, I’m no stranger to heat, and I’m here to declare that this ramen is NOT messing around. It more than warrants the unironic warning on the menu that reads “It is too spicy for most. May cause sweat, belly-warming and discomfort.” I actually recommend the “half spicy” level for all but the most self-punishment-seeking chili-heads so that you can still have enough of your palate left to enjoy all the toppings including scallions, corn, roasted teriyaki-glazed pork belly chashu, bean sprouts, and a perfectly gooey-yolked soft-boiled egg that all work in perfect balance to counter all that heat with some brightness and richness. With my tongue tingling and woken up from the heat, this was utterly delicious alchemy in a bowl!
Outside of the various permutations of ramen bowls, Yatagarasu also offers an array of appetizers and bite-sized side items grilled yakitori-style on skewers. I had the beef tendon and chicken skewers that set the stage nicely for the blazing broth that was about to be sent down my esophagus, while Mollie enjoyed the marinated baby-octopus and seaweed salad.
Next, the takoyaki were a perfect foil to the spicy ramen. These grilled, doughy dumplings are filled with chopped octopus, glazed with a sweet & salty okonomi-style BBQ sauce, drizzled with a touch of mayo and topped with a fluttering head of savory, tissue paper-thin bonito flakes (dried fish) and nori. It had just the right amount of sweetness and creaminess to cool my tongue down between doses of volcano broth.
What Mollie raved about, however, were the crispy brussel sprouts that were perfectly charred and citrusy. She grew up eating them only one way–steamed–and never liked them until we discovered the joys of sprouts that have been sufficiently caramelized. These were some of the best she’s had since she started ordering them whenever she sees roasted/fried/crispy brussel sprouts on a menu.
We left Yatagarasu delighted by everything we ate, though the warning was apt: I was a little sweaty and definitely had a warm belly. Not to worry though, I’ll be back as soon as it cools down.
533 Main St.
Lafayette, IN 47901