Photos by Elizabeth Geboy, story by Veronica Laverdure
In December of last year, Morris Ramen took the cake of the ever growing ramen scene in Madison. Located near the Capitol on 106 King St., the small, but cozy restaurant delivers big, steaming bowls of perfectly cooked noodles and more. The fairly new ramen shop is co-owned by former Restaurant Muramoto chef Matt Morris, former 34 North chef Francesca Hong, and Madison restauranteur Shinji Muramoto.
The co-owners definitely put a lot of thought into renovating the restaurant after taking the place of the sleek Red Sushi restaurant that moved to a new location. Inside, there are large, dimly lit wooden light panels surrounding small wooden tables lining the wall that provide a relaxed atmosphere to the restaurant. On one side of the small tables are small wooden-block shaped chairs that have large ropes on each side, and on the other side there’s a long booth type of seating that gave the seating arrangement a communal feel. There’s also a large table in the front that could accommodate a larger group of people.
Not only are there small and large tables, but a long bar that wraps all the way around the kitchen. The kitchen has black and white tiled walls and is filled with bustling workers attending to each customer’s needs, cooking, and cleaning dishes. It was satisfying to be able to see that the kitchen was noticeably clean and that the employees were enjoying their job. The lighting, accompanied by the furniture and decor created a romantic ambience.
A friend and I went late on a Saturday night to Morris Ramen and had the most pleasant experience. When we walked in, the restaurant had various candles lit that created a nice aroma accompanying soft music playing in the background. A kind host quickly seated us at the bar of the restaurant where we were also quickly greeted by a server. Our server was very bubbly and helpful when it came to picking out what to eat. Overall, the service was quality considering that we walked in close to closing time.
We were provided with two menus: a drink menu and a regular menu. The menu was extremely simple and divided between four different types of ramen choices and other “not ramen” choices such as chicken wings, fries, Brussel sprouts, and different types of donburi. The menu also had an option where you could order a round of drinks for all of the hardworking staff which I thought was quirky and fun.
The drink menu was also very simple but was divided into cocktails, tap beer, tall boys, sake, shochu, japanese whiskey, and wine. The cocktails had creative names like “Wake Me up Before You Jinro” ($9) that consisted of innovative ingredients like cucumber infused jinro soju, vodka, basil, and lime.
I was eager to try something that seemed like a traditional option and chose the Morris Ramen. For the low price of $13, it came in a very large bowl with chashu pork belly, ajitama (seasoned soft-boiled egg), and menma (lactate-fermented bamboo shoots) and of course, ramen noodles. The noodles were cooked thoroughly to the point I felt like they had the perfect amount of firmness and the broth was extremely flavorful — it seemed as though the chef let the broth sit for a while for all of the ingredients to combine. Although the noodles and the broth were both delicious, the meat was definitely the highlight of my meal. The pork belly was cooked and marinated so that it was tender, but not dry. I hadn’t eaten much during the day, and the bowl was more than enough to satisfy my hunger.
My friend that accompanied me ordered the pork bun ($4.50) and the satsuma Fries ($5.50). We shared the fries and she let me have a bite of the pork bun and if I wasn’t already wowed by the bowl of ramen, both dishes definitely made me want to come back. The pork bun consisted of pork belly, pickles, hoisin sauce, and a steamed bun. Again, the pork was very tender and juicy and the hoisin sauce gave the sandwich the kick of flavor to bring everything together. The fries were also cooked and seasoned very well but the highlight was the gochujang aioli that came with it. The aioli consisted of red chili, fermented soybeans, and rice. The sauce tasted almost like the sauce that they put on buffalo wings but was also somehow sweet.
While we were there, almost every seat in the restaurant was filled which means that it’s evident: Morris Ramen is definitely the place to be.