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Eat & Drink » Restaurant Reviews

Breaking Broth

Expect the unexpected at Sugar House's Ramen Legend


  • Alex Springer

Truth be told, it's been a bit of a week in the Springer household. My kiddo started kindergarten, pigtails and polo dress a-blazing, and my wife started teaching classes for fall semester at the University of Utah. I myself used to be a high-school English teacher, and this time of year always fills me with a bundle of nervous excitement that was even more pronounced with all the back-to-school milestones going on at my house.

After my daughter and I dropped my wife off for her first class of the semester, we decided on some comfort food while we were downtown, and opted for the Sugar House area. I had been wanting to check out Ramen Legend (2118 S. Highland Drive, Ste. 10, 801-758-8950, for some time, so the kiddo and I decided to pop in for an early dinner during the daily hustle that will be my life for the next nine months.

My daughter and I are no strangers to the healing power of broth and ramen noodles, so Ramen Legend spoke to both of us in the moment. Inside, it's exactly what you'd hope for in a hip ramen joint nestled within the bustle of Sugar House's shopping district. The sushi bar is decked out with the traditional pescatarian jewel tones of the sushi trade, the seating is ample but not too dispersed, and I'm a sucker for a gigantic mural—theirs depicts a grand melee between an oni and a folkloric hero, which is a bonus for my dorky ass.

We grabbed a spot beneath the mural and perused the menu. I went with the char siu pork bun ($4.49) to start, followed by a bowl of their black garlic ramen ($12.99). The kiddo likes her ramen simple, but the kids' ramen ($7.99) with chicken broth and noodles was perfect.

A few weeks ago, I extolled the virtues of meat-stuffed bread, and the char siu pork bun has always spoken that love language to me. I've never met one of these that I didn't like on some level—that pillowy steamed dough, the tender pork, the sweet and savory sauces are absolutely delightful. Based on my existing love for this traditional snack, I was expecting to enjoy the experience.

After a few bites, that initial enjoyment evolved into a budding respect for this particular pork bun. Yes, the thick slice of char siu pork was perfectly tender and flavorful, but this one has a few dollops of the horseradish-y green wasabi paste that is often found in American sushi joints mixed into the sauce. I am here to tell you that this small-but-inspired decision takes this appetizer to new heights—it's savory and a little sweet from the pork, has a nice crunch from the cool cucumber, and then that horseradish tang hits you right between the eyes.

We were already off to a good start with that appetizer, so when I saw my giant bowl of black garlic ramen hit the table, I had chopsticks at the ready. All of their ramen bowls are huge, and they come emblazoned with the Ramen Legend name and logos, which is a nice complement to the ramen bar's aesthetic. I usually go with something on the spicy spectrum, but I was curious about how they would incorporate those dark cloves of aged garlic into the mix. It starts with their signature pork broth which gets combined with a liberal dose of black garlic oil. After that, it gets all the fixings you'd expect—crunchy bean sprouts, boiled egg, bamboo shoots, shredded mushrooms and a whole heap of ramen noodles.

For those who seek out ramen for its depth of rich umami flavor, this is a must-try. You've got that meaty pork flavor from the signature broth, but that black garlic oil adds almost a brown butter flavor and texture to the whole mix that is fantastic. Black garlic is quickly becoming a mainstay in restaurants all over the place, and if it makes food taste this good, I can totally see why.

The noodles at Ramen Legend are on the skinny side of the spectrum, which means more of them can fit in your bowl—nothing wrong with that. They're also exactly what you'd hope for in a ramen dish. Soft, slightly chewy and packing enough of their own subtle flavors to complement the richness of the broth they're swimming around in. Ramen Legend's overall menu has more than enough options for the most discerning of ramen fans, and I am looking forward to my next visit so I can get a bit more familiar with the gang.

There are plenty of places to eat in the shopping center of Sugar House, but I'd recommend Ramen Legend for those days when you're after comfort food that still has a few surprises left to spring on you once your order arrives. I knew that I was going to enjoy myself here because I love ramen and char siu buns, but both dishes had just enough extra to make my experience here memorable.