He’s not serving your roommate’s ramen
In the United States, rarely is the word “ramen” synonymous with gourmet fare.
Then again, rarely are we in touch with the world beyond our borders.
And the world of ramen noodles is no different.
The food that conjures images of fusty dorm rooms, crusty old microwaves and bricks of Styrofoam-like noodles in the minds of Americans is a culinary stalwart in its home of Japan.
Ramen is every bit as important to Japanese culture as Kabuki Theater or Ikebana, and its place in the Japanese identity is sealed in the dish’s many permutations from region to region.
Now, Grand County may have the newest regional variant of a timeless Asian tradition.
Donnie McBath’s new Nani Doni Bar Ramen, formerly Mirasol in Winter Park, showcases McBath’s own interpretations of the timeless broth and noodle dish.
“Ramen’s where it’s at,” McBath said, leaning intently over a new menu in his restaurant. “My Ramen is the best in the state if not the country. And I know that without a doubt.”
Sure, McBath talks a big game. But he’s got the culinary chops to back it up. A graduate of the Culinary Arts Institute at Hyde Park, N.Y., McBath has worked with Denver sushi magnate Toshi Kizake, of Sushi Den, and James Beard Award-winner Roy Yamaguchi.
It’s this experience McBath has channeled for his latest creation, Nani Doni.
“In the Japanese culture, you do something until you perfect it,” McBath said, speaking of his tonkotsu recipe.
Tonkotsu is a pork broth-based ramen, and one of McBath’s new offerings at Nani Doni. Making the broth is a far cry from instant ramen, and McBath said the process involves stirring the broth for 16 hours as it reduces.
Each step of the process manifests its flavor in a different part of the bowl. The first spoonful is the flavor of the beginning of the process, McBath said, with the bulk of the complexity in the center of the bowl.
McBath’s house ramen is a tradition Miso-based ramen with corn, bok choy, a soft-boiled egg, onion, pork belly, pea shoots and mung beans.
Add homemade noodles, and it’s the perfect après-ski dish, McBath says, with a warm broth to thaw you out and more than enough hearty sustenance to fill you up.
In addition to ramen, Nani Doni offers other noodle bowls including pho, rice bowls and salads, fresh fish, vegan and gluten free options, and more. For the more adventurous soul, try the “omakase,” which means “I’ll leave it to you.” It’s a Japanese concept that gives McBath carte blanche over your dinner, though you’ll need to allow some time for the restaurant to acquire the necessary ingredients.
McBath said the restaurant will also accommodate any special request within reason.
In a sense, McBath is tearing down the fourth wall that seems to exist so often between the kitchen and the customer. That’s why he likens the restaurant to his home, calling it “family style” dining.
“I’m trying to start something completely different,” McBath said. “And it’s completely outside of the box.”
Nani Doni features fresh Hawaiian fish and local farm-to-table produce seven days a week in Winter Park.
Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.
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