HFX Ramen Quest Semi-Finals: Truly Tasty vs. Studio East
After a hiatus for some summer content, the chill fall air beckons the return of the Halifax Ramen Quest. As our bodies prepare for hibernation, there’s nothing better than a steaming, hearty bowl of noodle soup to battle the November rain.
After 6 preliminary rounds, I’ve narrowed down the top 4 to compete in the Semi-Finals:
Tako Sushi & Ramen
Today’s quest was a face-off between family-run, Truly Tasty, and “ethnic gastropub”, Studio East. Joining me for this quest were Denton, LuShark, Halifax ReTales and Riea.
6214 Quinpool Rd, Halifax
light shoyu chasu ramen ($11.50 – decrease of 45 cents from last year)
crispy fried chicken ramen ($13)
spicy tan tan ramen ($9.50 – increase of $2.50 from last year)
In Round One of the Halifax Ramen Quest, Truly Tasty kicked ass with super hearty bowls aplenty with meat, house-made noodles and umami richness.
Since then, there’s been murmurs that Truly Tasty changed their recipes and reduced their menu. Indeed, there is now only one size of ramen and only one “small plate” (fried chicken). We also discovered that the generous portion of cooked cabbage has been replaced by raw lettuce, and that the broths were sweeter, with less umami. Thankfully, the house-made noodles were as flavourful and chewy as ever.
We were still a little disappointed.
The light shoyu chasu ramen ($11.50) continues to be a meaty wonder for a great price. “I found the broth too sweet and oily,” wrote Riea, “but the chashu was very tender”. LuShark didn’t enjoy her tan tan ramen (not pictured) nearly as much as last time, complaining that it was sweet and perfumey.
The fried chicken ramen ($13) features spicy miso broth (no longer a curry broth) with a generous heap of delicious fried chicken. This was my favourite. I found that the spicy element fought off the sweet factor more than the other bowls. Plus, the fried chicken was amazing! It was good quality, off-the-bone chicken, mostly hovering above the broth with crispiness intact.
6021 Cunard St, Halifax, NS
Ultimate Pork Ramen Bowl ($19.95 – $2 increase from last year)
Studio East was very impressive on Round Two of the Halifax Ramen Quest. With such a mesmerizing assortment of meats and treats, it was a fully engaging bowl of food.
The best part about this ramen has always been the toppings, but these didn’t seem to wow the crowd as much this time. “There were quite a lot of things happening in this ramen with the flavours clashing rather than complimenting each other,” says Riea. “Interesting variety of pork feature, but too fatty, seemingly by accident.” (She is referring to a chunk of inedible fat that featured prominently in one of the bowls). “Some cuts of meat were fatty, others were gristly, and some were perfect”, offers Denton.
As for me, I still loved the pork belly and crispy pork cheek fritters but it felt like less care was put into arranging this bowl. We also noticed that the egg was different from last time. It was stained brown and had a very strong flavour, almost like a century egg. “If that was the goal, then thumbs up,” says Riea, but… we didn’t think the flavour suited the ramen.
The noodles were firm and springy, a high quality packaged noodle, but they did not have much flavour of their own, and the broth wasn’t enough of a powerhouse to compensate. However, we did like the broth better than last time, even if we described it as “sour and dirty”.
This ramen missed the mark for us this time, both as “ramen” and as a stand-out dish consistent with our last experience. “Too many ingredients in the bowl competing for lead and unfortunately they weren’t cohesive,” concludes LuShark.
Winner –> Truly Tasty
While we were disappointed with the direction Truly Tasty has taken with their ramen, it still delivered a unique, hearty and delicious ramen for a reasonable price. Studio East remains one of my favourite restaurants in Halifax, but their ramen isn’t quite what I crave when I want ramen. It’s got the bells and whistles and I would definitely order it again … but is it really ramen?
All Ramen Quest Posts:
Part 1: Truly Tasty vs. B Well Sushi
Part 2: Studio East vs. Water & Bone
Part 3: Tako Sushi & Ramen vs. Sushi Nami
Part 4: Dharma Sushi vs. Sushi Shige
Part 5: Buta Ramen vs. Gangnam BBQ
Part 6: Beaver Sailor vs. Minato Sushi
Semi-Final 2: Tako vs. Buta