Michelle learned to love ramen as a teenager, growing up in Singapore and traveling around Asia with her family. Brian is newer to the scene: He didn't even try instant ramen in college. Together, they're hunting for DFW's best ramen.
The Shop: Sushi Bayashi in Trinity Groves
The Atmosphere: While other dining spots compete colorfully in the Trinity Groves restaurant theme park, Sushi Bayashi’s simpler decor stands in noticeable contrast. Long, light wood tables, chalkboards and pops of red appear inside, but the light-colored tables, walls and floor create an almost sterile effect. Only the tables transition to the outside; no colorful adornments attempt to create the Tokyo neighborhood vibe that inspires the restaurant.
It’s quiet compared to its neighbors, not drawing the crowds of Resto or LUCK. We’re quite late for lunch, but we’re still the only people there on a Saturday. Not a great sign.
Service: An inattentive waitress forgets about us for 20 minutes before finally appearing to take our orders. Water refills are infrequent, and heaven forbid you get your check in a timely manner, even when you’re the only people at the establishment.
What We Ordered: Michelle ordered a Japanese pumpkin (kabocha squash) appetizer and the tonkotsu ramen. Brian opted for the chanpon noodle. Our comrades got an assortment of sushi. The roasted kabocha squash, soaked in salty-sweet sauce and topped with ground chicken, was enjoyed by the table. The soy-based sauce complements the carameled kabocha, though it masks the earthiness of the squash somewhat. The ground chicken provides variety in texture, preventing the dish from being too much mush.
The sushi has its highs and lows. The mackerel nigiri is the star, packed with flavor (and not the slimy “fishy” kind). The eel nigiri is solid as well, cooked perfectly and balanced with just the right amount of eel sauce. We splurged on the New Zealand Ora King salmon sashimi, which is cut thick but turned out to be a serious disappointment. Instead of the rich, fatty flavor explosion we expected, it tasted more like grocery store sashimi on a good day. The tuna sashimi has an acidic note to it and definitely does not meet Dallas standards.
The Ramen: The tonkotsu ramen arrives in dazzling fashion. A beautiful bowl, artfully presented with a soft-boiled egg, a slab of charred pork belly and a carefully positioned piece of seaweed. Bean sprouts, green onions and woodear mushrooms are piled atop a generous serving of noodles. The first sip of broth is both exciting and confusing. It’s rich, creamy and ... garlicky. Very, very, very garlicky, with some notes of ginger, but none of the smoky meatiness we love in a good bowl of tonkotsu. A few more slurps and bites of noodles are enough to overwhelm the palate. The noodles themselves are slightly overcooked and limp, somehow failing to absorb the garlic overload in the broth. Then comes the rolled pork belly, with visually stimulating black char marks that make you start to salivate. Only the pork is horribly chewy with no smoky notes at all. Well, so much for that.
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Chanpon noodles are presented just as colorfully. The broth here is creamy and rich and feels like home. It’s like Japanese chowder. Of the many ingredients, including shrimp, mushrooms, onions, fish cake and pork belly, the only thing that really bothered us was the seriously undercooked noodles. Al dente would have been another minute or two. Still, for sheer flavor and diversity of contents, chanpon is the noodle dish to get at Sushi Bayashi.
An Important Note: Other diners’ comments are all over the place about the flavor of the noodles and the quality of the sushi. More than anything, Sushi Bayashi seems to struggle with consistency. If they can make some small changes — less garlic, careful cook times, server training — and deliver the same product every time, Sushi Bayashi could be an all-star. But it’s not there yet, and for $12+ for a bowl of noodles, it’s just not worth it.
Recommended If: You like playing roulette with the quality of your food.
Sushi Bayashi, 3011 Gulden Lane, No. 106, 972-684-5906. Japanese pumpkin $7, Tonkotsu ramen $12, Chanpon noodles $15.