Kintaro Ramen opened in downtown Arlington in April, just across the street from Levitt Pavilion. The chef behind these bowls of silky broth is Jesus García, a Fort Worth native who founded Oni Ramen in Deep Ellum.
García was first introduced to ramen while working the sushi line at the now-shuttered Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck. The flavors and heartiness reminded him of the soups his mother would make when he was growing up.
"There's a running joke in Mexican families, 'Oh, it's so hot outside, let's make caldo de res.' A piping hot soup doesn't make sense, but it's just a comfort food. I fell in love with ramen the same way," García says.
The mothership of Kintaro Ramen is actually a new “ghost kitchen” off Camp Bowie Boulevard in Fort Worth, where García controls the slow and arduous process of building a broth. Customers can order sushi or ramen for delivery only from this ghost kitchen. Every couple of days, García makes deliveries to the Arlington location, where the bowls of ramen are finished and served. Eventually, he hopes to open more restaurants.
Inside the sleek dining room at Kintaro, there is a kiosk just inside the door where customers place orders (similar to the process at Oni). One customer was frustrated by the process and simply left rather than working through it, but others seemed to find it easy to use. There are pictures to accompany most items on the menu, but tinkering with add-ons or special orders could get tricky.
A bar wraps around the kitchen with about 10 seats to provide diners (in a world without COVID-19) a front-row view of the giant pots and grill. It's a somewhat small dining room, only about six tables around the dining room and a few outside on the patio.
A $10 bowl of tonkotsu ramen is served with tender slices of roasted pork belly laid across noodles and broth. A boiled egg with a goopy yolk (ajitama) was perfect. Ask for the spicy garlic oil to swirl over the top for a bit of punch. The pork broth is served with a black garlic oil (mayu), kikurage, mushroom, green onion and sesame furikake.
García says his recipe for ramen has "evolved and grown" since the early days of Oni, and he feels like the pork belly really sets it apart now.
A Kirin Light served aside a frosty mug was the perfect accompaniment to the meal. There's also Sapporo, Asahi, hot or cold sake and MIO sparkling sake.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that since it’s soup, it won't be a heavy meal. Quite the opposite. The creamy pork fat broth and noodles are very filling.
There’s also a miso ramen ($11), made with a miso-seasoned cream pork and chicken broth, and a chintan ($11), which is a clear chicken broth. There are five appetizers; buying one of each would cost $20. Plates of the pork gyoza that passed by looked delectable.
The only awkward, or amusing, thing about this spot is the back-in parking that downtown Arlington has adopted. Other cities have implemented this as an effective street calming mechanism: To park (properly), cars are supposed to pass their spot, then back in at a slant.
Only thing is, people haven't caught on to it yet here. On a recent evening, just a wee bit more than 25% of parked cars had complied with request, meaning most cars were going to back out into traffic that was coming right at them. It does allow for a bit of comedy. So, sip ramen with a Kirin and watch drivers figure all that out.
Takeout is packaged well; the broth is in a stored in separate container from the noodles and protein.
Kintaro Ramen, 101 E. Abram St., Ste. 130, Arlington. Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. to midnight Thursday through Saturday.