much ado about ramen

chicken tortilla tom yum ramen from ESK at Hole in the Wall

Speaking of Top Chef, today I tried out the first brick-and-mortar venture by Top Chef Texas winner, Paul Qui.  While I am a big fan of Qui himself and his first three Eastside Kings trailers, a was a little disappointed in this one.  Firstly, it's not even remotely on the eastside, when his other three trailers are!  (Drag King is actually a brilliantly appropriate name..)  As an eastside resident, I couldn't help but think of all the spots just begging for a trendy restaurant-- or a restaurant in general.  And as someone with so much influence and such a huge following in Austin, he literally has the ability to create a new district by opening up a place somewhere a little off the beaten path (my first thoughts were way east on 7th or Cesar Chavez, almost to 183).  However, I was glad to see that Hole in the Wall, the iconic dive bar and venue where this outpost of ESK is located, remains untouched (rather than renovated).  And I'm sure this will do wonders for their business, thus hopefully preventing a tragic Showdown-esque ending.

As for the menu, it's really a combination of favorites (like beet fries, chicken karaage, and pork buns) from his first three trailers and the only new things were three types of ramen.  After all the sneak peeks of recipe testing on Instagram and Twitter, I expected a bit more than just three new dishes!  I do hope they will add more ramen options and/or switch them regularly and/or offer a daily special!  (Don't get me wrong-- all the old faves are great too... but unfortunately I've eaten them all so much at his eastside trailers that I've totally tired myself of them!)

The ramen you see pictured above is the chicken tortilla tom yum variation.  I definitely plan on returning for the squid ink ramen and their bacon and Sapporo foam option too... but I was less than impressed by the broth (psssst: Ramen Tatsu-ya's magical 60 hour broth is much better, in my opinion!)  However, I did love the texture of these noodles (which had the more traditional kinkiness of instant ramen noodles, as opposed to Tatsu-ya's, which is a smoother, straight, almost Korean-style noodle).

Perhaps Qui is spending his time focusing more on the top secret menu for his South Austin project which should be opening sometime soon...I certainly don't doubt his skills or creativity, that's for sure.

Also, it must be a strange (but good) feeling for a chef to know he'll have a line around the block just for a bowl of marked-up noodles... :)