Anyone who’s read more than a couple of my posts on this blog should know that I am a total sucker for noodles. As it gets colder, all I ever seem to want is noodles and hot soup, which typically puts me in the mood for ramen. Now, when I’m in such a mood, that instant stuff just isn’t enough to cut it. As someone who has spent way too much time and money in Japan, I crave the good stuff that doesn’t come from a package. Though Gwangju was quite limited with such places when I first got here, my situation appears to be getting better each year as more and more places offering one of my favorite noodle dishes keep popping up.
I first noticed 三丁目 (Sanchome), which roughly translates to “Third Street”, while walking through downtown in the middle of the night. Though I probably should have been more focused on my safety, I was too distracted by outside menu and very Japanese decor with the word ラーメン (ramen) everywhere to consider much else. Due to it being closed, as most restaurants are at odd hours of the night, I made it a point to return soon. When I mentioned a new ramen restaurant to my significant other, soon ended up being the following Monday.
Located on one of the lesser known streets in downtown, this small restaurant was surprisingly busy for a work night. Luckily, since it was just the two of us, it wasn’t too difficult to find a table. As soon as we took our seats, we were greeted by a kind and cheerful waitress who seemed to speak a fair amount of English. As she handed us our menus, I couldn’t help but smile when I heard some of my favorite Japanese tunes and saw that the place had been decorated with characters from Japanese animation that I grew up watching. Whoever set the mood for this place apparently had the same taste in Japanese culture that I did in my younger years.
Though simple, the menu had more than enough options to make my mouth water. As expected with the outdoor signs, the specialty here was ramen. The fact that menu items were listed in Japanese, Korean, and English was a nice touch. It was quite nice to see classic ramen varieties like Tonkotsu and Shoyu, but I was surprised to see options like Tsukemen and Shio Butter, which I’ve never really seen outside of Japan. Below the ramen choices, which all offered extra toppings for a fee, were rice dishes known as donburi. What ended up catching my attention at this point was the set, which came with a full bowl of ramen of my choice and a mini-donburi for a discounted price. There was also an assortment of sides to choose from, but I was mildly disappointed to see that the gyoza was not available that night. After some deliberation, I ordered the set with the Shio Butter Ramen and Gyudon while my date got the Tonkotsu Ramen. I also ordered a Meat Korokke on the side.
After we placed our order, we were given some pickled sweet radishes while we waited for our food. Before long, my small order of Gyudon arrived. Topped with flavorful and thinly sliced pieces of beef, this bowl of rice was all sorts of delicious. Though it was my order, my date kept stealing bites from my bowl, making me wish I had ordered the full portion of the stuff. The meat to rice ratio was just right, and the sauce wasn’t overpowering or watery in the least.
Before both of our noodles arrived, we were given a plate of already cooked bean sprouts to add to our meal, if needed. Soon after, we received our ramen. Both bowls looked and smelled absolutely delicious, leaving my mouth watering. Considering how I find the most important part of a bowl of ramen to be the broth, I made it a point to try them first. The Tonkotsu broth, which was made with pork bones, was rich and savory. The flavor of pork was quite evident without being too salty, and there was a lovely creamy aspect to it that really helped tie things together. The Shio Butter broth, on the other hand, was a bit lighter. The addition of sweet corn added a nice sweetness to the salty and buttery pork broth. The noodles in both dishes were thin, bouncy, and delicious, and the single pieces of chashu pork had been kissed by a blow torch shortly before serving, adding a nice charred flavor to the dishes. The half egg, which is the part I’m insanely picky about with ramen, was cooked and marinated well. Though neither of these dishes really offered anything fancy or special, the simplicity and care put into the few ingredients in each bowl made the whole experience a delicious one. Though my guy had no problems with adding as much bean sprouts to his soup as possible, I genuinely appreciated the lack of distracting ingredients.
The last dish to arrive was the Korokke. When we ordered it, we were offered one of three different options: Cheese, Pumpkin, and Meat. I chose meat. What we ended up getting was a surprisingly meaty and properly fried snack. Though most forms of this classic Japanese side I’ve had came loaded with potatoes, this one was almost purely meat, and it was tasty. The only thing I personally would have changed was the bed of greens and sauce it came on, which seemed rather unnecessary.
Overall, our trip to 三丁目 was a very positive one. Not only was everything delicious, but the prices were more than fair. Though it’s not something I like to say often, this place has probably made it to the top as my favorite ramen spot in Gwangju, though I’ll have to judge again when they have dumplings available. Due to its small size, I certainly wouldn’t recommend this place to parties of four or more. It’s certainly not the nicest or even the fanciest of Japanese restaurants in town, but if you’re in the mood for delicious and simple ramen, I’d recommend this spot in a heartbeat. Here’s hoping it sticks around, at least until I get to try the Tsukemen.
Address: 광주광역시 동구 불로동 36-6 (right next to where Mick Jones Pizza/Flavor 372 used to be)
Hours: 11:30AM to 10:00PM
Average Price Range: 7,000 to 10,000 per person