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Oxford in Review: generous portions and a warm environment at Ramen Hachi

<p>Ramen is a Japanese comfort food.</p>

Ramen is a Japanese comfort food.

Ramen Hachi doesn’t have a website. Their only online presence is a Facebook page with three reviews, 21 likes and no posts.

But what it lacks in branding the restaurant makes up for with its warm, laid-back environment, a unique menu and plenty of ramen. 

The ramen shop opened its doors just before the 2019-2020 school year began. The hearty Japanese cuisine is a welcome addition to Oxford’s culinary offerings, as the town is densely populated with chain restaurants and Chinese food. 

Walking into Ramen Hachi, diners are welcomed by a chic interior. The bar at the back of the shop is adorned with corrugated metal reminiscent of Chipotle, but the similarities end there. Cement floors and dark grey walls decorated with Japanese art couple with mellow hip-hop music to create a relaxed atmosphere. 

This environment pairs perfectly with the food itself. Ramen is Japanese comfort food, and the vibe of the restaurant lets diners enjoy the hearty dish to the fullest, even if you’re surrounded closely on all sides — the seating can be tight when the place is full like it was when I went. 

I’ve been to Ramen Hachi twice; once just after it opened and now again to write this review. Both times I’ve had a great experience. 

The restaurant’s menu isn’t huge — the place offers just five types of ramen and a handful of appetizers and rice bowls — but each selection is satisfying. I tried two appetizers, takoyaki, deep fried octopus batter balls, and karaage, essentially homemade chicken nuggets served with a rich katsu sauce. 

Both were warm and flavorful. Eating the takoyaki was like indulging in decadent fair food with a Japanese twist, and the karaage were simple, unabashed and tasty. 

But what about the ramen itself? Ramen is in the title of the restaurant, after all. 

First and foremost, the portions are substantial. I easily got two meals out of my serving, and might have honestly been able to push that number to three. 

The ramen I had was their spicy miso variety. The salty miso broth mixed with whatever spice they used, resulting in a creamy, bright orange soup. The noodles themselves were thin and wavy, although considerably thicker than the noodles that come in the instant ramen most college students are familiar with. The dish came with a thick slice of fatty pork, half a boiled egg, rubery bamboo shoots and a thinly-sliced fish cake decorated with a purple spiral. 

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True to its comfort-food roots, the meal was hearty and filling. After I’d finished eating, I couldn’t resist sitting back and letting an audible sigh of contentment escape my lips. 

The ramen, while good, wasn’t flawless in every department. The broth was flavorful, but not nearly as thick or complex as other, comparably-priced ramen I’ve had. Additionally, the noodles were a bit on the thin side — not quite thick or dense enough to make each bite truly satisfying. 

On the other hand, the pork was delicious. The fatty meat nearly melted in my mouth and it soaked up the broth of the ramen, making for a salty, savory bite. 

So while Ramen Hachi isn’t perfect, the warm environment and savory food will keep me coming back again and again, especially since there isn’t anywhere else I can easily get a hearty bowl of ramen. 

I recommend Ramen Hachi to anyone looking for a good bowl of ramen or to try Japanese food that’s far tastier and more authentic than the stuff that comes store-bought. The food there sure beats the hell out of instant ramen.