Kappo Nara Ramen
Spicy Miso Ramen from Kappo Nara in Norfolk's Ghent
I'm sure we've all had at least one brick of noodles—ahem, ramen—during our lives. My mom used to buy boxes of the stuff. My siblings and I can attest she is an exceptional cook, but she wasn't afraid to pull out the pre-packaged ramen on those tired nights to feed her three kiddos. Even during my early college years before I was actually trying to learn how to cook, I'd revisit ramen. My boyfriend, Cody, at the time—now husband—and I would get the water boiling, drop in the brick, squeeze lemon juice and crack an egg over top adding a sort of egg drop style to the broth alongside the complimentary silver-packaged seasoning it came with. We’d slurp, not talk. Just fill our bellies with warmth during the harsh mountain winter months and probably play hours of Guitar Hero afterward.
Years later, I’ve met the tastiest bowl of ramen that puts my adolescent bouts to shame. Kappo Nara Ramen opened earlier this year in the Ghent area of Norfolk. While they serve appetizers like shumai and edamame as well as saké and beer, Cody and I met up with some college friends to catch up but most importantly to settle our ramen cravings. With the seemingly neverending noodles and incessant slurping to come, conversation was shelled out while waiting for our food.
Ramen is characterized by a complex broth with a nest of crimped, chewy noodles in the center, then fancied up after that. While I’m not a ramen connoisseur, our friends have had their fair share and even the treat of feasting at a little noodle bar in New York, so I trusted their judgement. Half of the table—myself included—ordered the Spicy Miso ramen, while the other half shied away from the heat and went for the Miso ramen.
Redder from the added spiciness and flecks of red pepper, the bold Spicy Miso broth stood majestic on its own. In between spoonfuls of the broth, I meandered over to the crunchy bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and scallions. A square of nori, or salty, crunchy seaweed, was propped at the edge of the bowl to be bitten into or submerged into the broth. Their halved hard-boiled egg laid atop the soup—a better alternative to my egg drop-esque approach—while the spicy ground pork added an extra layer of heartiness. Of course plopped in the center were the springy ramen-defining noodles. I twirled them into the ladle-like spoon with my chopsticks, topped it with some egg and pork, then dipped the whole bite into the spicy miso broth. My friends equally loved the rich broth from their Miso ramen decked out with chashu pork (braised pork belly), egg, corn, bean sprouts, scallions and nori. Kappo Nara’s servings are more than plenty, so leave ample space between meals to enjoy the ramen bliss; either way you’ll leave with a pleasant belly ache.
After we slurped the last bit of broth, scrounged for the remaining noodle tendrils and scooped the bits of pork into our spoons, we knew full well that Kappo Nara knows ramen.