When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out — and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Restaurant: Hot Noodles Cold Sake
Location: 15689 North Hayden Road, Scottsdale
Open: Less than a month
Eats: Ramen, Japanese
Price: $15 and under/person
Maybe it's just the act of eating chef Josh Hebert's award-winning ramen on a day that isn't Tuesday, but for whatever reason, we swear our bowl of the goma ramen tasted better than ever at Hot Noodles Cold Sake last week. The restaurant opened its doors without much fanfare about two weeks ago, and has been putting out steaming bowls of noodles and fluffy white steamed buns ever since.
The only thing missing seems to be the "cold sake" part of the equation, since the restaurant's liquor licence has yet to come through. Guess it's really just hot noodles and cold soda for now.
But it's really no matter when you step up to the restaurant's kiosk-style ordering area — meaning rather than placing your order at a counter with a human being, you tap your selections into an tablet all on your own. The system is easy enough to use, even allowing for customization of your bowl, including adding extra meat, double noodles, or a cured egg. Once you've paid — also done via the tablet — you can take your seat either at the ramen bar or at one of several tables.
During both lunch and dinner, you'll have the option to order a ramen set that includes a drink, ramen, and a side — edamame during lunch and a small order of gyoza at dinner. We started with a full order of gyoza, which ended up being our only misstep of the meal. The six dumplings were stuffed with a flavorful meaty filling, but the wrappers were unfortunately stiff and under cooked.
A much better starter would be either the pork or shrimp steamed buns, which arrive on perfect cloud-like buns. With the pork, you'll get sweet notes mixed with the moist slices of meat, while the shrimp bun offers a bit of crunch thanks to an array of tart, pickled vegetables.
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Then it's on to the main event: ramen. If you've never tried Hebert's ramen before, it's worth ordering the goma, the house specialty. Loaded with bok choy, Fresno and shishito peppers, and sesame seeds, this bowl of ramen comes topped with char-shi pork and filled with a tangle of curly noodles. The broth, heavy with rich sesame flavor, was perfectly balanced on our visit, so it offered a creamy feel without being either too oily or too thin.
Other ramen options include shoyu, miso, and shrimp, plus a vegan bowl made with a mushroom base for those who favor meatless meals.
One note: The sprawling shopping complex in which you'll find Hot Noodles Cold Sake can be a bit hard to navigate, particularly during peak lunch hours. If you're familiar with the Skeptical Chymist, you'll find the ramen shop just a few doors down.
Hot Noodles Cold Sake is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information or to view the complete menu, check the Hot Noodles Cold Sake website.