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Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023

Stepping Out of One’s Comfort Zone


A caricature welcomes diners to Ghost Ramen.

Ghost Ramen a pleasant surprise

Each edition, 318 Forum’s always-hungry reporter visits a different restaurant and tells you about the experience.

I am on time for most things, but I’m late to the ramen party.

In my first job, I made $13,000 a year, so I ate ramen noodles to survive. On payday, I would go to the grocery store and load up on those containers with the peel-back lid, in which you add water and then heat up in the microwave. But I never ate another ramen noodle once I won the lottery (I got a job making $20,000 a year).

That is, until recently, when someone asked me to review Ghost Ramen (729 Jordan St., Shreveport). Knowing nothing about modern-day ramen, I invited a friend to lunch – a friend I consider knowledgeable in all kinds of food – and many other things.

I arrived first at a nondescript building at 12:15 on a Tuesday. The only sign letting you know you’re at Ghost Ramen is a logo on a glass window. In other words, if you’re a first-time visitor, pay attention to where you’re going (and don’t reach out to open a door that has a sign reading “Please Use Other Door.” My friend doesn’t know I saw him do that — I had a good chuckle.)

Upon opening the correct door, I thought I had entered some type of dungeon. The restaurant was very dark, as in black tables, black chairs, black tablecloths and low lighting. There was one big-screen television on a wall (each wall was covered in some type of brick wallpaper) showing a cooking video with irritating audio. Austin, our server, would later say the TV is usually turned on to the YouTube show “Eater.” He changed the channel – as we left.

When my friend arrived, I told Austin this was our first time visiting. My friend pointed out that I was a “ramen rookie,” a description I embraced. Therefore, I asked Austin if he would explain the menu, which had very few words I could read.

Austin told us the left side, under the heading “IZAKAYA,” were the appetizers—things like Karaage, Gyoza and Corn Ribs.

On the right side, under the heading “RAMEN,” were six “Bowls.” We’re talking Smoked Tonkotsu, Yakamein and Miso.

There were also “Add Ons,” like Kimchi, Pickled Ginger and Ajitama.

I was as lost as an LSU defensive back. My friend ordered tea to drink ($3). I quit tea cold turkey a few years ago, but Austin misunderstood, and brought both of us tea. I’m glad he did. It was actually brown sugar tea – a little sweet, but not as sweet as the sweet tea those of us in the South love to drink.

I asked Austin for his appetizer recommendation. He strongly suggested Pork Belly ($12). My friend was game and offered to share. Knowing I was swimming in deep water without a life jacket, I was happy to follow his lead.

One bite and I was glad I did.

The pork belly was outstanding! In fact, my friend’s first words after he took a bite were, “Oh, man! That’s great!’ Yes, it was. The menu described pork belly as “spicy adobe gastric.” All I can tell you is that it was definitely spicy! My friend was more eloquent, saying it was “well-prepared and well-presented.” He noticed a “nice contrast of textures, with just enough spice to wake up your palate without startling it.”

It was at this point I decided to rely on him for the foundation of this review.

For my meal, I ordered the Veggie Miso ($12). Why? Because I feel comfortable ordering anything that has vegetables. The menu described my entrée’ as kimchi, nori, mushrooms and pickled ginger.

Hey, I know what mushrooms are! Meanwhile, my well-cultured friend navigated his way across the menu with the ease of a gazelle. He confidently ordered Yakamein ($20). According to the menu, my friend would be served braised wagyu, kimchi and Cajun oil.

He seemed to know what he was getting. I was jealous.

When Austin brought our meal, the first thing I noticed was the size of the bowls. They were huge. But would it be like when you buy a big bag of chips, only to open the bag and discover it’s only three-quarters of the way My bowl had a very large serving of noodles and a good mix of (I guess) everything the menu promised. It was all soaked in an absolutely delicious broth. I’m telling you, to say I was pleasantly surprised would be a big understatement. My meal was delicious.

My friend raved about how good the ingredients were in his bowl: Braised wagyu beef, ramen noodles, a boiled egg and broth. He said it was “a really simple dish,” which reminded him of “Creole roast beef, only with thinner gravy (the broth). It was delicious, well-seasoned and well-prepared.”

He liked it so much he said he may return later in the week.

A little investigative reporting (I asked the owner) found that Ghost Ramen began inside Noble Savage before becoming a food truck, then being part of a downtown bar (Stray Cats) before becoming a brick-and-mortar restaurant. I also discovered (I asked another server) that the owner is Chef Dylan Teekell, this year’s winner of the Golden Fork, part of the Food Prize competition.

Before we left, Chef Teekell brought us a small glass bowl and asked us to try his Japanese Curry broth. My friend and I took a sip and almost screamed at the same time. It was so hot, I still had a burning sensation on the roof of my mouth 30 minutes later. That notwithstanding, the broth was so, so good! I literally could have drunk a bowl of it.

The cost of our lunch was $51 (which included a $1 credit card fee) before tax and tip.

My friend always gives me a hard time because I complain about how much it costs to go out to eat. So this time, I won’t complain. But I will say this: Lunch at Ghost Ramen was the perfect example of why every once in a while, we should step out of our comfort zone. I’m glad I did and am happy to give Ghost Ramen Four Forks. I would return and go out of my way to do so.

Not bad for a place where I never thought I would eat.


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