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Resist the urge to cut or disentangle them. Slurping is not only easier, it's expected, so forget everything your mom taught you — all that blather about sitting up straight and not smacking your lips — and let loose your inner child. Bend your head low to the bowl. Slurp away. Use the wide spoon to scoop up some broth, and when you're done, take the bowl in your hands and tip it to your lips to savor the last sips. No one will notice, much less judge you. This is harder to do, of course, if you've ordered family-style, since numerous people will have claims on the dregs, which is precisely the unhappy predicament I found myself in with that shared bowl of mushroom ramen.

Novices give noodles all the attention, but it is the broth that makes the dish. Unlike French stocks, which should be kept at the gentlest of simmers to ensure clarity, stock used in Japanese ramen hops at a rolling boil for hours (up to nine at Uncle), emulsifying the fat and turning the stock cloudy. Here, the meat-based version is made from pig's feet, pork shank and chicken, which explains why the kimchi ramen it's used in, with spicy, housemade kimchi and savory morsels of Berkshire pork floating atop the noodles, is so heady. Why the mushroom ramen stock, which lacks these flavor-giving bones, is every bit as good — dare I say better? — is harder to pin down, and might explain why Japanese shelves are stocked with ramen magazines the way ours highlight secretly pregnant stars.

Here are a few of the secrets. Lee starts his mushroom ramen with dashi, a Japanese broth traditionally flavored with kombu (edible kelp) and bonito (dried fish) flakes, only here the latter is left out to keep it vegetarian. Then he adds scratch-made mushroom stock, miso, chipotle peppers and soy sauce, and, prior to serving, mushroom powder, roasted garlic butter and a drizzle of the black-garlic oil known as mayu. The result is a coffee-colored broth so multi-dimensional in flavor, all other soups — ramen or otherwise — might from now on seem as flat as a canvas waiting for paint.

Uncle's Tommy Lee in his kitchen with Juan Jaramillo. See also: Behind the scenes at Uncle
Mark Manger
Uncle's Tommy Lee in his kitchen with Juan Jaramillo. See also: Behind the scenes at Uncle

Location Info

Map

Uncle

2215 W. 32nd Ave.
Denver, CO 80211

Category: Restaurant > Asian Fusion

Region: Northwest Denver

Details

Uncle
Chilled tofu $3
Sesame pancakes $7
Pork belly buns $7
Crispy cod buns $8
Avocado buns $7
Sugar snap peas $5
Fried Brussels sprouts $7
Kimchi ramen $14
Mushroom ramen $13
Sichuan noodles $13
Bibimbap $15
2215 West 32nd Avenue
303-433-3263
Hours: 5-10 p.m., Monday through Saturday

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There are other starch-based dishes here, too, including bibimbap, with tender, garlicky strips of sirloin flap rubbing elbows with spicy cucumbers, trumpet mushrooms and a fried egg over a heap of rice. Also popular are the Sichuan noodles with pork and both leaves and stems of Chinese broccoli. Take note that these fat udon noodles can polarize a table, not just because of the texture — they're probably the only food product you've ever chewed the recommended twenty or so times before swallowing — but because of the Sichuan pepper that gives the dish a strong, potentially off-putting citrus note.

Given the long waits, you can't always choose where you'll sit and slurp. If a counter seat becomes available, by all means take it so that you can watch the action. But at Uncle, you don't need to see it to believe it, as the saying goes. After one taste — either of that chilled tofu or the broth with wrinkled ramen — you'll happily brave the line again and again.

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3 comments
dano323
dano323

Really? Who cares about this crap?

yaylove
yaylove

I cannot wait to try Uncle! Thank you for this mouth watering review! @monopod, maybe we should all caravan from boulder?

monopod
monopod

I'm literally drooling over this review.  Why can't one of these highfalutin' noodle joints come to Boulder?  Happy Noodle House was good but didn't stick around long enough to figure it all out, plus their focus was torn because of the emphasis on the Bitter Bar there.  We need a basic, ramen-centric place!  Please!

 
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