In Japanese mythology, the yatagarasu is a three-legged crow whose arrival guided emperors toward periods of positivity and promise after hardship and strife.
At Yatagarasu, a recently opened Japanese restaurant in Lafayette, those same powers of rejuvenation work their magic to challenge conceptions of a conventional dish.
The word “ramen” conjures memories of a cost-efficient, sodium-rich staple of college dinners or bachelor desperation — noodles, broth and protein in a cup that cost about 13 cents. True ramen — such as Yatagarasu serves — generally costs 13 dollars. Appropriate, then, that this experience is exponentially more enjoyable.
Ramen is not the only option, but it is the main event. My favorite, perhaps unintentional, joke: “Something Beside Ramen” is literally printed beside the menu’s ramen options. Also more intentionally amusing, albeit morbidly so: The mural on the wall near the restrooms in the back.
Nearly every ramen option at Yatagarasu includes the following: pork chashu, an impossibly thin-sliced disc of succulent deliciousness; soft-boiled eggs that only get more delectable as they warm in the broth at your table; bamboo shoots; wood ear (a mushroom-like vegetable); and green onions. Some add fishcake, seaweed, ginger, shrimp, or tomato; there is also a vegetarian option available. You can add extra ingredients for a small charge, a must for the pork or egg, and you can make any of them spicy with chili oil.
Where flavors shift most is in the broth. Tonkotsu and Paitan are thick and creamy broths thanks to fat and marrow from the pork bones in which they’ve simmered. The former is garlic-and-onion heavy, perhaps a tad too much. Shoyu has a soy sauce base, shio is sea-salt enriched, and tom yum offers a hot-and-sour foundation.
After three trips in a few weeks (yes, it’s that good), Yatagarasu’s miso and spicy miso ramen are dishes worth dreaming about — especially the latter, which widens sinuses without cheap tricks. It’s flavorful spice boiled into bubbling broth and worth drinking from the bowl as your spoon fails you.
You can also try sake, Japanese rice wine with a fermentation process akin to beer. The grape-and-cherry-hinted Hakutsuru Sake Sayuri Nigori and honey-nut crispness of KIBO Junmai have eluded me (out each time). But the Ozeki Sake Fancy Dry is a straightforward, refreshing alternative and, for the adventurous, try the Ozeki Ikezo Sparkling Jelly Berry Sake, like a spiked, carbonated bubble tea.
Leave room for mochi (ice cream bites enveloped by pressed rice cakes) or small, shareable plates — especially the crispy Brussels sprouts, fried calamari and takoyaki, lightly battered bite-sized balls of diced octopus. Ditto gyoza — similar to pot stickers — and its addictive “mystery garlic” dipping sauce.
As the three-legged crow flies, Yatagarasu is a straight shot to a renaissance of ramen redefined.
Rob Ford is Tipmont and Wintek's communication director, a role he's held since 2015.
Rob has a bachelor's and a master's in Communication from Purdue University. He lives in West Lafayette with his wife and three children and has a life-sized Yoda statue in his office. Away from the office, you’ll find Rob working on his golf swing, jump shot, or hope for a Purdue basketball national title – all futile endeavors.