I’ve been holding off on this post in hopes that by the time I wrote it, the lobster ramen would be back on the menu permanently.
However, as of today, the Lobster Ramen at Ika Ramen + Izakaya in the Benson neighborhood of Omaha remains MIA.
There are 1,000 tiny violins playing for me as I write this. Because when I moved to the middle of the country, I expected a restaurant desert. Instead, I found an oasis dripping in noodles and savory, decadent, umami-rich broth.
I love seafood. And like many seafood-eating adults, I love lobster. It’s always the most ridiculously-priced item on the menu and honestly, that probably fuels the joy of ordering it.
I also love ramen. All types. In a bag, for $0.19, or from a restaurant for literally 100x that price, doesn’t matter, I love it all. I relish a deeply savory broth that forces you to pay attention to its dimensions, while also acknowledging the fact that the toppings, (for once) are the sideshow of the performance.
In lobster ramen, you can just iiiimaaaagine. Not only is the broth rich but it also holds the delicate sweetness of the lobster tail. Now, logistically, the lobster tail—of which you get a whole, appropriately sized portion—is a pain in the ass. Lobster tail on a good day is one of the least sexy things to eat (right up there with crawfish and crab legs). It’s not graceful and you really shouldn’t even try to make it look cool, especially in a deep soup bowl with chopsticks and a spoon.
But the flavor is worth each little splash you endure in your eye as you try to separate this crustacean from its former home. But do not be fooled. This isn’t the only star of this show; behold the soft egg.
I have emotions when I think of this egg. When I consider how delicate this egg remains in the hot broth, it further boggles my mind. Logistically, it’s pure magic. In the end, my best guess is the cook waits until riiiight before serving to ease it into the broth so that upon delivery the egg cooks *just* enough to gently seal its position in the bowl alongside its other garnish-buddies.
The last documented appearance of the lobster ramen to-date was over my birthday weekend in the middle of January. But I was busy eating in Miami *cue acute distress*, so I missed it. I had friends visit with the express intention of eating lobster ramen. Only to find out it had suddenly disappeared from production despite still being on the menu.
While incredibly disappointing, Ika isn’t wholly without merit without its clawed cuisine. In fact, their Tonkotsu Ramen, Fuego Ramen, and my personal favorite (despite the confusion I cause in the kitchen), the Tonkotsu Ramen with Shoyu broth*, are all worth the trip to the Benson neighborhood.
The downside? The inconsistency in service (and sometimes quality of broth) can leave you disappointed. We’ve had a 70% success rate when it comes to meeting our expectations in food and service, which is obviously not ideal for wanna-be regulars. But when the service is on-point and the drinks aren’t so strong you consider the merits of prohibition, the inevitable wait for a table in the steamy little joint is worth it.
Ika’s sister restaurant, Ika San Ramen + Izakaya, in the Old Market hits the mark even less often. Since they’re newer, this might be forgiven. Potentially “still working out the kinks”, even. Unfortunately, with multiple visits wherein servers have completely forgotten to greet the table. Or checks were totally mixed up, and entire bowls of ramen completely forgotten to be ordered, one might assume that the downtown noodle spot needs a lot more time to hit their stride.
But consider this: if, even with this less-than-impressive track record in service and overall performance, we’re still willing to go back for more, it must be worth it, right? Well—at least for now—it is.
Plus, there’s a unique vibe in both restaurants. Don’t forget the basement bar of the Benson spot, too. They’re both is *just* this side of weird, and you can’t help but dig it. You can follow Ika (and separately, Ika San) on Instagram or Facebook to see their weekend special. And hopefully, we’re blessed by the noodle Gods and we’ll again be delivered that delightful dish.
If you should be lucky enough to catch a bowl during its elusive celebrity appearance don’t hesitate. It’s a dish you won’t want to miss!
*Note: I think I read somewhere that it goes against Japanese tradition to request changes to a chef’s creation (or is that just when it comes to sushi?). So, I’m wholly aware this may be frowned upon. Not to mention annoying for the restaurant. I’m definitely not the poster child when it comes to ordering straight off the menu though! I’ll order this combo until I’m told no. (it’s better balanced IMO)!