This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.
I struggled and fretted over including this dish on the 100 Favorite Lists, but not because of the dish itself. The ramen at Umai is simply the best ramen available in Houston. However, you can't get it right now; Umai is temporarily closed for the summer.
Eventually, though, the spirit of the thing won over: The ramen here was one of my 100 favorite meals in the past year, and so here it is on the list. I've been consoling myself of late with the ramen at Cafe Kubo's in the Dun Huang Plaza, and while it's very good stuff -- especially the tonkatsu ramen -- it doesn't measure up to the thick, rich broth at Umai, deeply and beguilingly flavored, full of unanswered questions.
The nutty broth in the miso ramen at Umai is the kind of hearty stuff that would really be smarter split between two people. And when you consider the great mound of noodles in the bowl, the vegetables, the fishcakes and all of the other accoutrements swimming softly in the soup, it's even more of a splitting-style meal. But to give up the bowl, to push it away and watch someone else swiftly slurp up all that wonderful ramen, is akin to being a four-year-old forced to share a favorite toy, utterly anathema to the very core.
I'll be thrilled when Umai finally opens, and am cautiously optimistic about getting my ramen fix once again. Fingers crossed it remains on the menu...
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The list so far:
No. 100: Dumplings at Heights Asian Cafe No. 99: Mixta Pizza at Friends Pizzeria No. 98: Veggie tacos from Radical Eats No. 97: Bean pie from Conscious Cafe No. 96: Swiss chard crepes from Giacomo's Cibo e Vino No. 95: Eggs Mia Bella at Mia Bella No. 94: Mulligatawny soup at the Queen Vic No. 93: Helado de Lúcuma from Pollo Bravo No. 92: Black bean burger from Natachee's No. 91: Chupacabra pizza from ERA No. 90: Roast chicken from El Norteño No. 89: Eggs El Salvador from Brasil No. 88: Frank the Pretzel from Eatsie Boys No. 87: Caldo Tlalpeño from Tacos del Julio No. 86: English pea soup at Brasserie 19 No. 85: Falafel from Zabak's No. 84: Buttermilk-fried pork loin with fried eggs at Canopy No. 83: Grillades and grits from BB's Cajun Cafe No. 82: Haemul dolsot from Seoul House No. 81: Pandan waffles at Parisian Bakery III No. 80: Pita bread and hummus at Phoenicia No. 79: Goat pepper soup at Peppersoup Cafe No. 78: Melon and Texas feta salad from Beaver's No. 77: Hot Italian beef from BB's Beef & Hot Dog No. 76: Bacon-avocado burger from Facundo Cafe No. 75: Pancakes from Fountain View Cafe No. 74: Hobnobs from Fluff Bake Bar No. 73: Chu chee eggplant from Nidda Thai No. 72: Sausage sampler from King's Biergarten No. 71: Shawarma from Abdallah's No. 70: Moules-frite at the Broken Spoke No. 69: Hong Kong-style French toast at House of Bowls No. 68: Sashimi sampler at Sushi Miyagi No. 67: Baleadas from Honduras Mayan No. 66: Snow ice from Star Snow Ice & Teriyaki No. 65: Boudin balls from MerCheri's