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On the right, Tonkotsu Ramen, and on the left, Kara Miso Tamen, from Hanabi Ramen & Izakaya in Fort Worth.

First Take: Hanabi Ramen & Izakaya in Fort Worth

Ramen restaurants are the new cupcake shops. It seems like everywhere I look, a new ramen shop is popping up. Pretty soon, they’ll be just like Starbucks (okay, that’s a little dramatic).

Earlier this week I decided to kill two birds with one stone—visit my baby brother, James,  in Fort Worth and try out their newest ramen shop, Hanabi Ramen & Izakaya. He was more than game to try out a new spot, since every time I visit we eat at Woodshed, which is getting a little old.

Hanabi is located in an alcove off a busy shopping and restaurant street. Overall, the restaurant was very casual. Patrons included a group of good ol’ boys chowing down (napkin bibs included) to a hipster couple on a date. There’s a large bar at the front of the restaurant, and at the back what appeared to be a semi-private room. The main dining room was almost full on a Tuesday evening at 7 p.m.

We grabbed a small table at the back, where we were promptly greeted by our server, Sarah. Hanabi has two menus printed out on computer paper, one for ramen and one for izakaya (smaller dishes meant to be shared). Sarah easily advised us on what to order: for me, Tonkotsu Ramen, and for my brother, Kara, or spicy, Miso Ramen. We also ordered the tako yaki from the izakaya menu: octopus tentacles encased in a pancake ball and fried.

The tako yaki arrived first. The dish reminded me of croquettes, and were topped with a mayonnaise-like sauce and what our server said she thought was fish skin. While they’re described as being fried, the batter was very soft and didn’t have much flavor and the toppings were overwhelming, but also didn’t add much flavor to the food. Eventually we dipped them in our ramen broth, and I preferred them after they had soaked it up.

Next up, the ramen. The Tonkotsu Ramen had a base of a rich (but not overly salty) broth made of pork bones, and was filled with ramen noodles, a soft boiled egg, bamboo, green onion, pork belly, and seaweed. While I’m not sure if there’s much of a protocol when to eating ramen, but here’s how I did it: I submerged the egg and pork belly into the broth and saved them for last. There was an abundant amount of noodles, and I wished there had been more green onion—it added a fresh flavor to the ramen. The bamboo and seaweed were very tender and salted perfectly. The soft boiled egg was well-prepared (not so soft that the yolk was falling out) and the pork belly was both sweet and slightly smoky, and fell apart when I went to pick it up with my chopsticks.

The Kara Miso Ramen is the spicy version of the Miso Ramen: a soy-based tonkotsu and chicken broth with ramen noodles, pork belly, a soft boiled egg, bamboo, Chinese chives, cabbage, carrots, bean sprout, and green onion with added spicy ground pork. Initially the spice was hard to taste because the dish was hot, but once it began to cool, I gave this dish a spicy rating of 6 out of 10. The pork belly was also very tender, and the soft boiled egg had a bit of a kick to it. The highlights of this dish were the pork belly and the broth, which James happily drank after the noodles were finished.

For dessert, I couldn’t resist stopping by Fort Worth’s newest ice creamery, Melt—I mean, might as well since I was already there, right? While the chocolate chocolate, vanilla bean, and blackberry cobbler were all delicious, it the was the cones that had me hooked. Perfectly crunchy and not too sweet.

Fort Worth has had lot of exciting eateries opening recently—it’s time you take a drive on over and check them out.