Why it’s this week’s Best Bite: This steaming bowl of ramen hit me with two primary flavors: lots of roasted garlic and lots of heat – both very welcome on a chilly evening. Together with two forms of pork (broth and belly) and miso, each bite was rich and savory. The very best bites included all the other textures, too: a bit of the beautifully soft-boiled egg, crunch from scallions and garlic chips, and chew from the bamboo shoots and the egg noodles themselves. The garlicky broth was luxurious enough to slurp on its own, a testament to the care that Wasabi’s chefs put into a complicated cooking process that takes 45 hours total. Wasabi also offers sushi and Japanese small plates, but when the ramen is this exceptional, it’s tough to order anything else.
The details:Wasabi, 2115 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago.
Why it’s this week’s Best Bite: When a ramen craving struck me on a snowy afternoon, I popped over to Oiistar, a relatively new Wicker Park spot I’d been eyeing. Bypassing all the tempting varieties of bao, and even the avocado tempura – next time! – I zeroed in on a mussel-centric ramen. Besides at least a dozen plump mussels, the giant bowl also contained an umami-rich seafood broth with chewy noodles, two kinds of onion, and tons of garlic. Moderately spicy chiles also upped the soup’s warmth factor. Happily rotating between slurps of noodles, mussels, and broth, I settled in with a book and soaked up the sounds of the restaurant’s catchy R&B playlist.
The details: Oiistar, 1385 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago.