100 Favorite Dishes 2013-2014: No. 26, Spicy Miso Ramen at Soma Sushi
Can you finish a big ol' bowl of miso ramen? I couldn't, but I got so close!
Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
This year, leading up to our annual Menu of Menus® issue, Kaitlin Steinberg counts down her 100 favorite dishes as she eats her way through Houston. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most awesome, most creative and, of course, most delicious in town. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that seem particularly indicative of the ever-changing Houston foodscape.
I have never finished a bowl of ramen. Ever. They're just too big. There are too many noodles or too much broth. The bowl always seems never-ending, no matter how good the soup.
Recently, though, I've tackled the spicy miso ramen at Soma Sushi and come alarmingly close to cleaning my plate. It's not that the bowl at Soma is smaller than your average serving of ramen -- it's definitely still a good several cups. And it's not that I'm generally hungrier when I tackle a dish at Soma.
It's that Soma's spicy miso ramen is so darn good I cannot stop eating it.
Beneath the surface lurks melt-in-your-mouth pork belly.
Every time I go, I do this dance.
I'm full, I'll tell myself. I'll set down my spoon and my chopsticks. I'll glance around to see if a server is on his way over to whisk the bowl away. I'll wait ten seconds. I'll pick up my spoon again and stir the soup around, playing with it to pass the time. Then I'll submerge the spoon in the broth and pull it back up, filled with cloudy, reddish brown soup and a piece of seaweed or two. I examine it. Is this bite good enough to eat? And then, just a few seconds later, I'm devouring the ramen once more. Stop, slurp, repeat.
There's something addictive about the combination of the soothing miso and bit of chile oil that floats on top in tiny golden puddles. It's warm and comforting, but at the same time, it makes my face flush.
Then there are the perfectly chewy fresh ramen noodles, thin but sturdy enough to hold up to the broth and the various other ingredients -- mushrooms, onions, seaweed, wakame, tofu, pork belly -- in the soup. The two different mushrooms, enoki and shiitake, give the ramen an earthy flavor, while the seaweed adds bitterness and the pork belly, fatty, savory meat. The tofu, I think, is mostly there for texture, as it tends to take on the flavor of anything surrounding it, in this case the spicy miso broth.
After 15 minutes of eating and resting, then eating again and resting again, I am usually vanquished by the awesome bowl of ramen. One of these days, I'll finish the whole thing, but until then, I'll think longingly of that final spoonful before giving up.
See the full list of favorites on the next page.
The list so far: No. 27: Kim Cheese Fries at Coreanos No. 28: Fried Cauliflower at Roost No. 29: Caesar Wedge Salad at Provisions No. 30: Ice Cream in a Waffle Cone at Fat Cat Creamery No. 31: Cochito con Mole Xico at Hugo's No. 32: Carnitas at Molina's Cantina No. 33: Taleggio Pizza at Dolce Vita No. 34: Chiles de Padron Asados at Caracol No. 35: Morning Thali at Pondicheri No. 36: Fried Mini Fish at House of Bowls No. 37: Trompo Tacos at Taqueria La Macro No. 38: Spicy Tamale Plate at La Mexicana No. 39: Mum's Chicken Curry At The Queen Vic Pub No. 40: Canestri alla Funghi at Paulie's No. 41: Biscuit with Marmalade and Crème Fraîche at Blacksmith No. 42: Fried Oyster Po'Boy at Goode Company Seafood No. 43: Roasted Duck Red Curry at Morningside Thai No. 44: BBQ Pulled Wild Boar Sandwich at Sammy's Wild Game Grill No. 45: Guanciale Burger at Plonk No. 46: Parma 600 Pizza at Pizzeria Solario No. 47: CFC Deviled Eggs at Liberty Kitchen & Oyster Bar No. 48: The El Real Burger at El Real Tex-Mex Cafe No. 49: Custard Sandwich at Petite Sweets No. 50: Black Pepper Beer Lobster at Hai Cang Seafood Restaurant No. 51: Red Dragon Roll at Michiru Sushi No. 52: Fried Bananas Foster at Custom Confections No. 53: Bánh Canh Hue at Simply Pho No. 54: Kimchi Koagie at Koagie Hots No. 55: The Juicy Lucy Burger at Lowbrow No. 56: Eggplant Fries at Batanga No. 57: Macarons at Ganache Dessert Bar No. 58: Grilled Cheese at The Golden Grill No. 59: Baklava French Toast at Harry's Restaurant & Cafe No. 60: Patata e Funghi Pizza at Pizaro's No. 61: Old Fashioned Frito Pie at Armadillo Palace No. 62: Korean Spiced Brisket Plate at Revival Market No. 63: Bánh Mì at Les Givral's Sandwich and Cafe No. 64: Squirrel Master Burger at Cottonwood No. 65: Shorty Mac at H-Town StrEATS No. 66: Enchiladas de Mole at La Guadalupana No. 67: Bad Ass Hambur-Torta at Pistolero's No. 68: Green "Hurry Curry" at Nit Noi No. 69: Dozen Raw Oysters at Pappas Seafood No 70: Banana Split at Cloud 10 Creamery No. 71: Lazy Lane Frites at Brasserie 19 No. 72: Chicken Pot Pie at Kenny & Ziggy's No. 73: Chili Cheese Mac from Jus' Mac No. 74: Taco al Pastor at Taco Keto No. 75: 'Date With a Pig' at Sparrow Bar + Cookshop No. 76: The Heights Burger at Gratifi No. 77: Lamb Lollipops at Américas No. 78: Mortadella Sandwich at 13 Celsius No. 79: Carnissima Pizza at Coppa Osteria No. 80: The Marie Laveau Sandwich at Sandy Witch No. 81: Catfish and Grits at The Breakfast Klub No. 82: Grilled Ahi Tuna at St. John's Fire No. 83: Lobster Roll at Maine-ly Sandwiches No. 84: Greek Burger at Hubcap Grill No. 85: Pork Tamales at Irma's No. 86: Ham, Egg & Cheese Crepe at Melange Creperie No. 87: Crab Daddy Bao at Fat Bao No. 88: Sesame Soft Balls at Golden Dim Sum No. 89: Porchetta e Fagioli at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino No. 90: Uncle Daryl's Cake at The Chocolate Bar No. 91: Lobster Cake Benedict at Sorrel Urban Bistro No. 92: Homeroom at Bernie's Burger Bus No. 93: Vuelve a la Vida Soup at Connie's Seafood No. 94: Foie Gras Mac & Cheese at BRC Gastropub No. 95: Sweet Potato Gnocchi at Brooklyn Athletic Club No. 96: Chicken and Waffles at Adair Kitchen No. 97: Soft Pretzel from Mongoose Versus Cobra No. 98: Bulgogi Tacos with Kimchi at Chi'Lantro No. 99: Almond Croissant at Phoenicia No. 100: Bangkok Fries at Boheme
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Houston dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.