There’s a new ramen shop in town and it is damn good.
After more than a year of holding ramen pop-ups in various spots across Edmonton, the long-awaited permanent location for the Prairie Noodle Shop has finally opened along 124 Street!
Interest in ramen (Japanese-style noodle soup featuring those familiar, yellow wheat noodles) has spiked in our city over the last few years. Some Japanese restaurants currently serve up ramen dishes (Yuzen in St. Albert on Saturdays, Nomiya, Ninja Club, and the recently opened Kazoku Ramen) all try to satisfy that ramen craving.
Prairie Noodle Shop aims to do the same, but set themselves apart by tying in a lot of Alberta flavours/influence, and by using pop-up ramen dinners over the span of a year to help test and market their ramen creations, raise brand/name awareness, and build up excitement and a loyal following – all before actually opening a formal location. It really worked.
Mike and I have attended two of the Prairie Noodle Shop’s four ramen pop-ups in the past year, and thoroughly enjoyed the meals both times (I’m really surprised I’ve never actually done a formal review!)
We are by no means ramen experts, and to be honest, before our trip to Japan in October, we still hadn’t had that much interest in ramen (despite the pop-ups – plus I’m more of a Vietnamese pho girl ;)). Still, we’ve both come to have a great appreciation for ramen and have a pretty good idea now of what we don’t like (bland broth, overly greasy, and lacking in tasty toppings, to name a few), and can say Prairie Noodle Shop’s ramen is none of those things.
Needless to say we were excited to stop in on Saturday for the Prairie Noodle Shop’s soft opening night (they officially opened on Tuesday). We weren’t the only ones who were excited – as the place was hopping (as the kids say these days, they say that still right? lol). It was very busy!
The soft open times ran from 5 – 9 p.m. Although we arrived closer to 8 p.m., the small space was completely packed with happy and hungry ramen lovers.
The Prairie Noodle Shop is located down a flight of stairs from the main 124 Street at 103 Avenue. That added element of walking ‘underground’ to get to the restaurant set a really cool vibe even before entering.
Mike and I got back from a trip to Japan in October and loved/were fascinated with how so many of their restaurants/businesses were up or down flights of stairs, so heading down the stairs to get into this noodle shop was really reminiscent of that Japan experience.
Inside, the space is even cooler. Amazing decor, bar made out of 600-year-old wood, music that makes you want to dance in your seat. It’s a really slick place.
Prairie Noodle Shop is unique from the other ramen offerings in town because the bowls were created with Alberta in mind (hence the ‘Prairie’ in the title).
From their website:
“Can one bowl define your city, your province or your country? Can food speak to the people and flavours of a specific region? We love noodles, and our mission is to make ramen that reflects our unique geography. Hence: Prairie Noodle Shop. Ramen may be rooted in Japanese culture, but it’s defined by the region in which it is made. Simply put: Ramen is home. Our dishes have been thoughtfully created using high-quality ingredients and locally-sourced proteins. The result: Delicious ramen with intricate flavours unique to Alberta.”
Their ramen bowls are based off of Alberta pork, chicken, and beef – and all cost $15. There is one vegetarian option – but no gluten-free options (by its nature, ramen noodles are made out of wheat!) Note that these original four bowls were created in large part by chefs Stephen Baidacoff and Wendy Mah (who are now both living out their culinary dreams around the world).
You can add additional meat, veggies, and umeboshi eggs to each bowl, and there is a small selection of appetizers and desserts but really – the ramen bowls are obviously the star here.
Mike and I started with the Prairie Pork Buns. This appetizer features pork served three ways on Asian steamed buns: candied trio (pear, lime, ginger), pickled veggies and fresh veggies. You can choose either pulled pork or pork belly (we chose pork belly, of course! Give us allllll the pork belly). At $10 for three, incredible buns, this is a must-order.
My friend Sharman, who is an ambassador for Passion for Pork, is often asking me to send her my recommendations for best pork dishes in Edmonton and as soon as I bit into these pork buns, I tweeted her that these Prairie Noodle Shop pork buns MUST be on the list. So delicious we could have had another three, easily!
Mike ordered the popular Prairie Pork Ramen ($15) – the first ramen creation Prairie Noodle Shop featured at their pop-up.
The bowl has pork served up three ways – roasted pork belly, smoked pork shoulder, and a crispy fried pork rind. Soup flavoured with a salty mixture and pork broth, plus Japanese broth (dashi), sweet corn and an umeboshi egg (soft boiled egg marinated in Japanese salted plums). He really enjoyed this ramen, devoured the toppings (which he thought were well portioned) and slurped up the broth.
My ramen pick was the Meat and Potatoes Ramen – Prairie Noodle Shop’s take on the classic dipping tsukemen ramen where noodles are separate from a tangy, potato soup. On top of the noodles is a ragu of 100% Alberta beef, mixed with fresh chilies ($15). It’s up to you how you’d like to eat it – dipping, pouring the soup in with the noodles, whichever works for you. I remembered enjoying this dish at Prairie Noodle’s last ramen pop up last year – at Ernest’s NAIT and really enjoying it.
Careful though – you may catch a red chili pepper in your mouth by mistake, bringing the heat higher than what I could handle!
Although we didn’t try the chicken or vegetarian ramen, since we were seated at the bar, we had a good view of the dishes coming out of the kitchen.
We had tried the chicken ramen back at one of the Prairie Noodle Shop’s pop-ups and it was one of our initial favourites (it looked/smelled incredible that night too!)
I was torn between ordering the Chicken or the Meat and Potatoes but went with the Meat and Potatoes because I think it’s just so blatantly ‘Alberta,’ it seemed most fitting to have for my first meal at this ‘Prairie’ Noodle Shop.
Would a meat-a-tarian like me try the vegetarian ramen at some point? Yes! Topped with cheesy goodness, on one of my return trips (after having cycled through the pork and the chicken) I’ll certainly try the vegetarian ramen and it’s a plus that I’ll be able to entice some of my vegetarian friends to dine here with this veg option.
We thought the portion sizes were great. Although the bowls may look small, they’re quite filled – it certainly filled us right up! I actually thought they give too much potato broth in my tsukemen dipping ramen compared to the ratio of noodles that it came with (or it was too tangy for me to slurp up all the soup solo once I ran out of noodles) but I do think the quantity you’re getting here is very fair.
In Japan, most ramen dishes were dirt cheap – less than $10 for a lot of them. My brother often compares things like the price of a heaping bowl of pho (generally low cost, under $10) to the more pricier Canadian ramen bowls and thinks it’s unfair but I think the Prairie Noodle Shop can get away with these prices (they’re also mostly on par with other ramen shops in town – though admittedly $15 is on the pricier end).
Although we didn’t order dessert, we still got to see both desserts come out due to our seating arrangement! I love the Prairie Noodle Shop’s take on what Chef Jason Oliver calls the new kind of s’mores – with marshmallows and beets (pureed)! So interesting. The other dessert is is Ginger Snaps and Lemon Curd. Both are $6.
Mike asked Chef Jason if they’d someday offer gyoza (one of his favourite Japanese dishes) and chef said they may look at adding it in a future menu – which would be perfect! In the meantime, he recommended ordering the smoked lollipop chicken drumettes ($10), or of course, the open-faced pork buns to fill that starter gyoza hole.
The whole team at the Prairie Noodle Shop was so sweet and working so hard to make everyone’s experience a good one that night we were there. I also can’t stress the really cool vibe. With the kitchen being right there, you get to see and hear all of the action in the kitchen which added to an already good dining experience. The chefs and servers were all just having so much fun.
Prairie Noodle Shop was extremely busy with a steady line-up throughout the night, which is something I think will be a standard scene here.
Their first few days open there’s been so much business they’ve even been running out! If you’re planning to attend in the next little while, be prepared for some of that – I also hope that the team will adjust and prepare even more ramen to meet the demands (or maybe it becomes a, you gotta get here first or else it’s gone sort of situation).
It was so smart of them to build up their name, credibility, client base, and dishes throughout a year of pop-ups. Now they’re a hit even though they’ve only been officially open a few days. There’s lots of hype about ramen now in general, but I think they’ve done a great job working with some incredible local chefs to create special ramen with clear Alberta influences. It’s a really unique take on this classic, popular dish. I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with in the months to come!
Followers on my other social networks should know that I’ve loved the ramen the folks at Prairie Noodle have put out from the beginning and now that they’re in this beautiful new space, my opinion hasn’t changed one bit!
It’s been so exciting and interesting watching Arden, Terry and the team grow their little ramen idea into this full-fledged noodle shop that opens with all sorts of (well-deserved) hype.
Prairie Noodle Shop’s ramen won’t likely satisfy that traditional, authentic Japanese ramen taste you might be craving due its Alberta take on the dish, but it will certainly leave you happy (and hungry for more!)
Congratulations, Prairie Noodle Shop!
I can’t wait to come back.