“Dip-a-dee-noodles!” That’s a little diddy I sing before I plunge a few strands of cold noodles into my waiting broth of tsukemen ramen. This variant of ramen likes to keep things compartmentalized—soup is here, noodles are there—that is until you’re ready to eat, then you join the two and slurp the savory duet. The advantages are that your noodles retain their springiness, plus, it’s fun.
Now, in the ramen wasteland that is Downtown, there may finally be a bonafide noodle sanctuary where you can grab these dipping duo bowls. 3rd Generation Sake Bar recently opened its doors to Downtown denizens with a full sake bar, fresh sushi selections, and five styles of ramen: miso, shoyu, vegan, tsukemen, and tonkotsu.
It’s always astounding to me the level of dedication demanded to brew a good tonkotsu pork broth (“It’s a waiting game,” explains Ramen Champ’s Alvin Cailan). At 3rd Generation, the tonkotsu simmers for 72 hours—that’s three entire days. By then, the pork bone broth has achieved its eye-rolling, velvety, lip-smacking texture. Six slices of boiled and torched chasu pork accompany the rich bowl along with a viscous shoyu tamago egg, naruto fish cake, tender menma bamboo shoots from Japan, chopped green onion, and silken threads of dried chili pepper. This is a classic and flavorful bowl of tonkotsu with absolute creaminess delivered by the painstakingly prepared pork bone broth.
Basically a cold version of the tonkotsu, 3rd Generation’s tsukemen is served with separate bowls of cold, wavy noodles and a lukewarm tonkotsu broth. In addition, roasted seaweed called yaki nori poke out of the bowl. Having tsukemen Downtown is a big deal since this type of ramen isn’t common, and it’s especially good for a steamy summer day when you likely won’t be craving piping hot soup for lunch.
Vegan ramen appears to be a thing nowadays. Ramen Champ has a mushroom-based one, and now 3rd Generation creates a vegan ramen with a roasted-tomato broth. The noodles are fashioned from tofu with soy, vegan chicken filling in for meat. A black garlic oil comes on the side to punch it all up.
A bit of trivia: 3rd Generation is so named because it’s M2K Group’s third concept at the space. With their ramen bowls tempting Downtown noodle heads, three may very well be a magic number.
3rd Generation Sake Bar, 808 W. 7th St., Downtown, 213-627-8166