Regular readers know that I have the tendency to wax poetic about lunch staples like sandwiches, pizza and burgers in this column. Yet, as I travel around the neighborhoods of St. Louis on the lookout for the next lunch you need to know about, I'm admittedly on an all-consuming personal search for a dish I think is all but missing here in town: ramen. With a tip from an in-the-know friend, I found an elusive bowl of Asian noodles deep in the wilds of the Chesterfield Valley at Fin Japanese Cuisine.
Mind you, these are not the noodles of your dorm-room years or the unfortunate austerity budgets they inspire - noodles that have been fried, dried and wrapped up in colorful packaging. No, these are long strands of chewy alkaline noodles, swimming in deeply flavorful and satisfying broths of miso, soy - and if you are lucky enough to come across it - roasted pork bone. Rising out of the broth you will find a menagerie of toppings: slices of roasted pork, soft- and hard-boiled eggs, woody mushrooms, the leaves of tender greens and colorful kamaboko (fish cake).
Fin offers a handful of ramen options, each built upon a foundation of soy (shoyu) or miso. The soy broth is surprisingly light for such a naturally heavy soup base, whereas the miso has a bit more depth, the making for a deliciously murky soup. Fin also crosses over into Thai cuisine with a tom yum ramen, miso based with a welcome addition of spice and shrimp standing in for the imitation crab (an unfortunate ramen addition) found in both the soy and miso versions.
Food trends are often slow to arrive in St. Louis, and ramen is one of the best examples of this. Finding ramen in West County is pretty special. Lunch-goers looking to get in on (what I hope is) the next big thing should have this dish on their radar.
Fin Japanese Cuisine, 1682 Clarkson Road, Chesterfield, 636.536.4228, finstl.com
Tired of reheating last night's dinner for lunch? Every Monday, food writer Andrew Mark Veety guides you to some of the best midday meals in the St. Louis region, with great places to bring clients or enjoy an outing with your co-workers. Missed one of his columns? Check them out here.