If you’ve been inside the ramen spot that used to be Tanoshii, you’ve noticed a difference. It’s much simpler—not as loud or boisterous as Tanoshii was, though the monkey mural still spans one wall. In November, the Deep Ellum spot quietly transitioned to new ownership and emerged with a new menu as Ichigoh, though renovation and redecoration won’t come till later this year. It’s a balm if you like classic, old-school ramen.
Owner George Itoh and co-owner and chef Andy Tam are serious. Both hail most recently from New York, where they worked together in the Japanese tonkotsu sensation Ippudo, which made its reputation peddling creamy, rich, milky pork-broth ramen. They left Ippudo in 2016 and moved to Dallas within a year.
The menu, with six ramen options, favors the assari (light) style rather than kotteri (rich). Most fall under the limpid, clear shio (salt) and equally gossamer, though darker, shoyu (soy) categories, made with chicken broth. All feature the wavy, thick noodles that the duo chose after spending a week evaluating noodle types with their provider in Sapporo, Japan, seeking the right bite and chew. Toppings are minimal—so as not to mar the careful balance.
The veggie ramen is a good place to begin the contemplation. The five elements of ramen, as Itoh will tell you, are broth, noodles, tare (seasoning), oil (another flavor component), and toppings. The veggie ramen’s broth has a roasted-vegetable earthiness that’s almost umami (cabbage, onion, and garlic). But powdered shiitakes would be too potent and overpower, and so Tam eschews them and uses other elements to build layers. He uses Japanese fuji apples and burdock—that’s the sweetness—and sesame and peanut infused in a sachet for depth and richness. They’re discernable if you pay attention, which is why you don’t want to slurp it thoughtlessly. Look at the depth of color. Catch the aroma. Then dip in and pluck some menma (bamboo shoots), bean sprouts, and perhaps fried tofu. It is a simple bowl, with a gossamer-light body and roundedness in the flavor.
All the flavoring oils are made in-house. They include black garlic oil for the tonkotsu (the one concession to their previous focus at Ippudo) and yuzu oil (chicken fat and imported yuzu juice) for the chicken shoyu ramen, light and delicate.
The niboshi shoyu ramen is lovely when an egg breaks into it to complement a slice of chashu with beautiful grill marks. Tam uses mackerel, bonito, and sardine for the fish oil (niboshi) that’s smoky and plays subtly against the umami layers in the broth. There’s also a spicy soboro—and the staff have been trained to tell you to try the broth before mixing.
Also, don’t miss the Japanese baum sponge cake for dessert, for which the kitchen makes a whiskey sauce. It’s a slice of spongy, golden cake with rings like a tree trunk.
Itoh and Tam say they chose Deep Ellum because it reminded them most of New York. They envisioned a summer remodel, though there’s no word yet on a projected date. Stay tuned. And while you wait, try some of the best, pared-down ramen around.