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Find your favorite Japanese dish at Yume Ramen Sushi & Bar 

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Restaurants specializing in Japanese food often focus on one aspect of the cuisine and do it well. Sushi, ramen, sashimi, gyoza, nigiri, donburi — you name it, one, maybe two, are normally a restaurant’s primary focus.

Yume Ramen Sushi & Bar, located at 1508 S. Mint St., offers more than just one or two. It offers all of them, aiming to please and impress everyone from ramen-addicts to tempura taste-testers.

Surely it would please a group whom each vary slightly in appetite, both in size and preference, so I gathered some friends for a weekend night out, just a few blocks from downtown.

The restaurant is calm and welcoming, with plenty of natural light flooding in from the large floor-to-ceiling windows, and has more than enough room for a group of any size. If you’re riding solo, there are over a dozen seats at the two separate bars: one for sushi, and one for libations.

Prior to ordering, I was quick to notice the different paintings scattered on each of the walls. There were small fish on canvases outside of the bathrooms, a picturesque Japanese cherry blossom with koi fish, and a few pieces similar to macro-photography in their color and clarity. They were colorful, well-placed and really brought an artistic feel into the dining area without feeling tacky or too showy.

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After admiring our surroundings, which would be great for a first-date or late-night weekend meal, we took our time leafing through the pages of our menus, wondering just what might satisfy our Japanese cravings.

I chose to share an appetizer of tsukemono, described simply as “pickled vegetables.” When they arrived, they were brightly-colored: one was yellow and sliced; another dark green and soft; another purple and similar in texture; and the last an inky-black that seemed chewier than the rest.The only one we recognized was the pickled ginger, and we were stuck trying to figure out exactly what the others could be. It turns out, the purple and black were both the same: the softer, branch-like part of daikon, a winter radish with its roots in Southern and Southeastern Asia (no pun intended). The yellow was the sliced, firmer part of the daikon often recognized by its sweeter, crisp flavor. Lastly, the green was a pickled Chinese bok choy. Each was subtly different, a little sweeter or sour, but they weren’t a huge hit for all of us.

More than anything, I think we hoped for a bit more variety in the vegetables and would opt for a different appetizer next time, such as the kakuni bao (braised pork belly in steamed buns) or the takoyaki (octopus hush puppies).

As we watched the rain come down for what seemed like the 40th day, my boyfriend Peyton and I couldn’t resist the urge to order ramen, the perfect rainy-day food. Each member of the table ended up with some combination of sushi and ramen: two orders of the tonkotsu ramen with miso broth. Other options included shio (salt-based flavor), shoyu (soy sauce flavor), and spicy miso, that came with the pork bone broth, pork chashu (imagine a folded and spiralized piece of pork belly, braised with soy sauce for a crisp exterior and tender interior), wood ear mushrooms, bean sprouts, sweet corn, sesame seeds, scallions, seaweed and a soft-boiled marinated egg.

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There were also two orders of the Thai coconut curry ramen, which came filled with the same ingredients but substituted the mushrooms for marinated bamboo shoots. One order of the fermented black garlic tonkotsu, which added fermented black garlic oil into the mix, and three types of sushi: Ichiro, a “box sushi” with torched salmon, salmon belly and Ikura (salmon caviar), a tempura roll (fully-cooked), and a Naomi roll, with hamachi, torched salmon, avocado, tuna, crab and a sweet and spicy sauce.

Despite just how many factors played into each of our dishes, they came out promptly. It was impressive, to say the least. There’s a reason many restaurants don’t try to do too many things at once—they don’t want it to be sub-par. Yume made it look easy, and the food was a hit.

Peyton had ordered the fermented black garlic tonkotsu ramen, which he found to be a great pork-based broth that was slightly sweet from the garlic (which was reminiscent of the robust yet mellow flavor of roasted garlic) and was not overly salty, as some ramen broths can be. 

 On the other side of the table, I had ordered the Thai coconut curry ramen, which I was impressed by. However, it didn’t win me over. Let me explain: I am obsessed with Thai curry, and I’m not ashamed, but this was not the curry flavor I was expecting. It was identifiable as flavored with yellow curry powder, which is delicious to some, but not my go-to. Rather, I expected a sweeter, more coconut-focused flavor paired with the slight spice of a red or green curry paste. The coconut was faint, and the flavor just didn’t come together quite right.

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Aside from the broth (and trying the others, which were well-balanced and rich in their defined flavors), everything within the ramen was wonderful. The marinated egg had the oozing yolk that added a silkiness to everything it mingled with, the bamboo shoots were a little spicy with a bit of crunch, the bean sprouts and sweet corn added necessary texture, and the noodles were exactly what you wanted in every bowl of ramen, thin and creamy when mixed with the broth. The pork chashu was the most impressive, as it was tender enough not to chew, and gave a necessary bite of protein throughout the dish. I would gladly go back to order one of the many other broths, and especially to try some of the multitudes of add-ons. Extra kimchi, an additional ajitama (marinated, soft-boiled egg) or even to just try it extra spicy.

Overall, the ramen was smooth and filling and moderately priced for the size and components of each bowl. The only downside was that it could have been warmer, and seemed as if it had sat a little longer than intended, or the other ingredients had cooled it off before making it to the table. 

For the sushi, not only was it well-plated, it was fresh and delightful. The Naomi roll had the perfect texture from the sweet rice. The sauce really gave that balance of sweet and sour, and each slice of fish paired with the avocado and green onions made you go back for more. Based on the quality of just one roll, I regretted not ordering more, even though the ramen had us stuffed.

A great way to balance both? Order your sushi or hand roll as an appetizer, followed by the ramen or another entrée, and save a bit of it for your lunch the next day. That could make for the best of both worlds, and two days of great-tasting Japanese favorites.

There was so much more to try, but a handful of people can only eat so much, especially when it’s good enough to clean the plate and the bowl. Whether you’re looking for vegan ramen, the hamachi ‘n’ chips, a flower-shaped sushi roll or a mystery roll, there is something dreamt up for you on the menu at Yume.

Jennifer Zeleski is a senior Communication major at High Point University, who is always eager to cook, eat and listen. Her many food adventures can be followed on Instagram @jayz_eats.

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