I write this with a bit of hesitation. A fear of exposing a secret. No, not that TEN at Sylvan Thirty has some of the best ramen in the city, or that their playlist is spot-on or the chefs' total indifference if you decide to dance for just a hot second before ordering.
Rather the hesitation is borne in the collective vibe the space offers, which is only amplified by the bowls of ramen. In these socially distanced, to-go food times, this is one of the best dining experiences to be had.
TEN offers three types of ramen: tonkotsu, shoyu and miso, plus a soupless ramen, pork maze-men. They’ll also custom-make a vegetarian bowl, just ask. But today we gather to applaud the miso lobster bowl, which just might restore your faith in the universe. Chef Eric Ngo explains he uses whole lobster to create the larger flavor of the soup while the miso provides the rich depth. Sautéed crab meat is power-boosted with TEN's house-made rich XO sauce, a pork sausage and bacon puree popular in Hong Kong named after XO Cognac for its luxuriousness.
When TEN opened about six years ago, they spelled out some hard and fast rules on their chalkboard in don’t-even-ask fashion. The first rule: no take-out. Then-food critic Scott Reitz explained that fresh noodles would absorb – steal – the broth like a sponge, “turning the beautiful bowls of soup into a soggy mess of spaghetti.”
Now, the piping-hot broth is ladled into white paper bowls. Ngo says the noodles are shocked so they stop cooking and are then placed in a separate colander-like bowl that sits above the broth, hanging from to the rim, keeping the toppings dry, yet steamed. Tightly packed, with a snug lid, it can handle a few bumps in the road. When you're ready to eat, the broth and accouterments are married in splashing fashion, or maybe you prefer to delicately plop pieces one by one with chopsticks. Pour or plop, either way works.
And to the chalkboard’s point, after all the tussling, the crab meat can wind its way directly to the bottom of the bowl, which Ngo laughs at a bit in a “that’s why we wanted dine-in only” manner. Point taken. But promise, while it might not be seen until the last few slurps, the crab meat is heard in every slurp of silk-like succulent broth.
Some diners eat on the patio at TEN, which can get awkward when trying to eye-ball six feet while slurping noodles. The bright blue tables and chairs on the gravel by the bocce ball courts are an under-the-radar option (as is bocce ball). A good dog regularly hangs out on a nearby balcony taking us all in. On a chilly day with a bowl of ramen and crisp, bright Japanese draft beer, Asahi, the experience is nothing short of spectacular. A kind of European-esque, slow food, socially-distanced meal that makes you want to slap 2020 on the back and say, “Damn, I didn’t think you had it in you.”
Ngo says they’re not sure if they’ll continue to offer takeout after all this hoopla passes. He likes to take it one step at a time, a live-in-the-moment approach.
TEN Ramen, 1888 Sylvan Ave. (West Dallas). Open for takeout and patio dining, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Sunday.
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