This is the story of Wann Izakaya and the five bowls of ramen

Noodle bowl

Photo by Darrol Hofmeister

Restaurants | by Aidan Morgan

Wann Izakaya
1950 Broad Street

Like many Reginans, I remember exactly where I was at the exact moment I found out Michi had closed its doors for good. I was standing in front of Michi with visions of unagi and shoyu ramen disintegrating before me. Did I collapse in agony, hurl stones at the gods, spend weeks speaking in tongues? Sure, why not.

Michi wasn’t the only place to get sushi in town, but it was definitely the only one I knew of with ramen on the menu. It wasn’t the rich and fatty broth most people associate with ramen soup, but it was complex and delicious, and only available when the kitchen had all the right ingredients in stock.

It was my favourite dish on a cool evening, and the dining gods had reached down and taken it from me.

Despair, desolation, despond (a slough of it).

Imagine my cosmological excitement, then, when I found out Wann Izakaya was not only serving ramen but was offering it as a chief attraction on the menu. According to a few people who had tried it out, Wann’s ramen was the real deal — an umami bomb of pork bone broth, marinated egg, pork belly, nori and ramen noodles.

Except, on my first visit, it was not to be.

I dropped by with a Knight of Appetite on a cold Tuesday evening, only to find a sign on the door informing us that the ramen was not available that night. Ramen gods, I thought, you will not defeat me. We went in anyway to see what was up with their ramenlessness.  Their ramendebtedness. Their profound unramentude.

It turned out the chef wasn’t satisfied with the broth. Our server explained that they were working on their ramen and perfecting the recipe, and this latest batch didn’t measure up to the chef’s standards. Which heartened me some.

We tried several non-ramen items on the menu: first, bowls of light Miso Soup ($1.95), ever-tasty Gyoza ($5.95) and Agedashi Tofu ($5.95). One appetizer I failed to try was the Karaage ($8.95), boneless fried chicken pieces that the blackboard advertised as “No. 1 Drinking Finger Food”, which pleased me immensely. My Knight of Appetite told me I needed to write a story with that title. I said I couldn’t even imagine writing fiction until ramen was restored to my universe.

To get my noodle fix, I tried the Yaki Udon with Beef ($10.95), a sizeable plate of stir-fried udon noodles. It was a mistake — the noodles came as a greasy mound with slivers of beef and vegetables. I would have been better off ordering the Udon Soup ($9.95/$10.95). For sushi, we had a small Tuna Roll ($4.25), an Avocado Roll ($4.25) and the larger Dynamite Roll ($9.25) and Red Hot Tuna Roll ($10.25). I’m a total sucker for spicy specialty nori rolls.

On my next visit, ramen was in the house. Wann’s house. Then it was in a bowl. My bowl!

But the full ramen experience was not quite there.

I ordered the Tonkotsu Ramen ($13.50), but the slices of pork that usually came with the dish were not to be had. The server offered to substitute a second half-egg. As for the broth, it was flavourful, fatty and savoury — pretty much exactly what I was hoping for. The noodles were packed together in a dense mass with an ice-cold knot in the middle — clearly they’d been pulled from the refrigerator or freezer and not given enough time to warm up.

At the till they had slips of paper inviting customers to provide feedback on their soup. Was I daunted by the uneven ramen experience? No. I was not daunted in the least. As if a cold noodle could daunt me.

I went back with another Knight of Appetite for lunch, determined to give their soup another chance.

My third attempt hit ramen gold.

I went for the Miso Ramen and my friend chose the Tonkotsu. The broth hit me like an umami freight train, smashing through my critical faculties and leaving me unable to do more than blink slowly and point at my food.

Since then I’ve been back at least twice for ramen, and on both occasions I could see further refinements. For fanatics who’ve eaten ramen in Japan or frequented Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York, it may not be a replacement for those experiences. But it’s the best ramen in Regina, without a doubt.

Ramen gods, we have won. ❧

The Round Table

WHAT IS IT? Wann Izakaya.

WHAT’S IT FOR? Ramen, obviously. But it’s open for lunch and dinner.

WHEN CAN I GET MY PRECIOUS BROTH? 11:30 a.m–3 p.m., Monday to Friday; noon–3 p.m., 4:30–8:30 p.m. Saturday; Closed Sundays and holidays (so go make your own Christmas ramen).

WHERE DO THE RAMEN GODS LIVE? They live on a pile of noodles so high that it reaches the sun. They only come down to make it difficult for me get a decent bowl of soup.