music in the park san jose

.Finding Umami at Kokoro Ramen in Milpitas

music in the park san jose

The small Milpitas restaurant Kokoro Ramen is big on flavor. With only a handful of tables, the menu offers more than eight types of ramen, dry noodles and a large collection of appetizers.

The ramen, made using a pork broth that simmers for more than 20 hours, has a rich, concentrated base that is loaded with savory umami flavors. The ramen falls mostly under three categories: shio (salt), shoyu or miso.

These ingredients are mixed into the broth base to produce different variations of ramen. Each bowl has the option between thin, thick or kale noodles. The shio ramen has a pleasant saltiness while the shoyu ramen gets a boost from the soy sauce. My personal favorite, the miso ramen, is savory and creamy, thanks to miso’s emulsifying properties. Don’t miss out on the porky tonkotsu ramen, which owes its richness to the high amounts of gelatin in the bones used to produce the base.

All the ramen bowls share the topping assortment of fried whole garlic, half a soft boiled egg, kikurage mushroom, bamboo shoots, chashu, bean sprouts and green onion, all meticulously placed to present each customer with a work of art. More than just adornment, each ingredient lights up a different taste bud. The garlic is pungent, but it’s balanced by the sweet creaminess of the egg yolk. The wood ear mushrooms and bamboo shoots are a crunchy textural contrast against the tender, slow-cooked pork. The bean sprouts and green onion provide a burst of freshness. The miso ramen comes with corn and dried red pepper toppings; the niku ramen includes a serving of seared spicy pork.

Customers craving noodles without the soup can try the aruba soba, a soup-less ramen. Each bowl is loaded with a poached egg, nori, roasted seaweed and diced chashu. Both versions are available in original, spicy and extra spicy. I ordered the extra spicy, which came with a warning from my waitress. Even as a dedicated heat seeker, I recommend most diners stick with the regular spicy option unless they’re looking to clear their sinuses.

In addition to ramen, Kokoro offers a fun collection of starter dishes. French fries are served okonomiyaki style, loaded with katsuobushi, Japanese mayonnaise and nori. I also recommend the takoyaki, battered and fried balls made with octopus and loaded with a creamy sauce. The chicken karaage is also perfectly crisp and infused with the prominent flavor of ginger.

What I enjoyed most at Kokoro was the attention to detail. With so many components in each bowl, it can be tempting to take shortcuts or shift attention away from some ingredients. But every egg at Kokoro is perfectly jammy, every piece of chashu delicately cooked for hours, the garlic fried right to the point before it gets excessively bitter. I recommend visiting with a group of friends and sampling a bit of each dish.

Kokoro Ramen, 263 W Calaveras Blvd, Milpitas; 408.262.5000. Open daily 11am–2pm for lunch and 5–9pm for dinner.


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