My college experience was a little unusual, I’m told. When I was hungry late at night, I usually found myself making Kraft Macaroni and Cheese or fighting for space in a jam packed car on its way to Taco Bell. I never got into Ramen Noodles. It wasn’t that I didn’t love them. No wait, that was it, I didn’t love them. It was hot water and chicken flavored noodles. And they even snuck a few dehydrated, vacuum packed, peas and carrots into the thing. What was that stuff even made out of? Not everybody feels this way, though. I’ve heard of people who lived off of Ramen in college. They couldn’t get enough of the stuff. I’ve never met these people. But I’ve heard about them.
This love of Ramen seems to be translating to the restaurant industry. People love ramen joints right now. A big bowl of hot water, a few slices of meat and some noodles. What more could anyone ask for? In my case, two pieces of bread and a chunk of USDA Choice Anything.
But I need to be adventurous. I’m a food blogger aren’t I. I need to face my culinary fears head on for the benefit of the reader. So I did. I went to Uncle in the Highlands with my girlfriend. What follows is my sake impaired recollection of the events.
Uncle, of course, is taken from the English word meaning your mother or father’s brother. Seriously though, the restaurant is classic minimalist cool. It’s got big glass windows. Anyone walking by can peep at your dish or your date. The inside has a wraparound bar so you can watch them whip up steamed buns (you read it correctly: steamed buns) while drinking a can of sake without a character of English written on it. The room is a little small. But exclusivity contributes to the overall cool vibe that Uncle exudes.
Our waiter was more than helpful. Really, the service was outstanding. I don’t know what I’m looking at when confronted with a sake list. He suggested the Chrysanthemum Kikusi Funaguchi Honjozo. I’ve never had a smoother $15 sake before. It’s also true that I’ve never had a $15 sake before. But hey, it was a Wednesday, why not celebrate? So I ordered a second can. I also had a Sri Lankan Lion Stout. I don’t associate Asian restaurants with great drinking experiences, but the sake and beer lists at Uncle make it one.
Now let’s get on to the main event, the food. My girlfriend and I started out with the Shrimp Steamed Buns. I laughed initially, but realized that they weren’t kidding around. Shrimp was placed in a delicate homemade bun and covered in spicy mayo, red onions and romaine lettuce. It made me consider going home and steaming some buns myself.
For an entree I ordered the Kimchi Ramen. And you know what, it was good. Full disclosure, I had two cans of sake before my entree came out. I probably would’ve loved anything they brought out for me. But that’s part of the Uncle experience. Would I have preferred something with a rice base instead? I don’t think so. The Kimchi Ramenw was fantastic. Shredded pork, poached egg, it hit all the major food groups.
We finished with the only dessert they offer at Uncle, the green tea cake with vanilla ice cream and a spiced cashew, and it sent me on my way with a smile on my face. It’s nice when a dessert masquerades as something with health benefits. It removes guilt from the dessert discussion. We can’t have guilt influencing our dining decisions.
Was this my Road to Damascus moment with Ramen? Were the scales removed from my eyes? Yes. Yes they were. The key with Ramen, is plenty of sake. Had I known this in college, I too might have joined the Ramen cult. But I know now, and Uncle will see me again.
2215 W 32nd Ave (32nd & Vallejo)
open mon-sat, 5-10pm