There aren't many things left in the world that haven't been wrapped in bacon — food or otherwise. So when I stumbled across the bacon-wrapped mochi on the menu at Corner Ramen while prowling the Cole neighborhood for something else entirely (tacos — I admit it), I knew I had found my lunch for the day.
Corner Ramen opened just over a year ago at 1629 East Bruce Randolph Avenue, in the former home of Daddy Bruce's — possibly the city's most famous barbecue joint, even 23 years after the passing of its founder and namesake. "Daddy" Bruce Randolph was known as much for his generous heart as for his sticky barbecue ribs, and the street outside Corner Ramen now bears his name as thanks to the many people in need that he fed for free during his life.
Since Daddy Bruce's closed, the restaurant space has held many tenants; the last before Corner Ramen was Restaurant Sanchez. Japanese cuisine is certainly a rarity in a neighborhood where you're more likely to find Mexican cooking or soul food, but there may be enough hip kids filtering over from Larimer Street just a few blocks away to regularly empty the stock pots of rich, cloudy tonkotsu and zippier spicy miso ramen broths.
But back to those pork-swaddled mochi rectangles. Mochi is nothing more than rice, re-formed from standard grains (or rice powder, more often) into a chewy paste. Texture takes precedence over flavor, so mochi mostly tastes like whatever its served with. In some ways, it's the bacon of Japan, since it's commonly formed into a thin sheet and wrapped around everything from ice cream to bean paste. That's why bacon is such a great choice, since here the mochi acts as a glutinous anchor rather than a rubbery wrapper. But there's more than just bacon on this appetizer. The skewers come coated in a sweet teriyaki-style glaze; you can also add some heat from the shakers of togarashi seasoning on each table.
An order of three skewers, with two bites on each stick, costs only $5, so it's a good starter for two (or even three) people before bowls of ramen. If those don't grab your fancy, though, you may want to consider a ramen burger. Forming ramen noodles into patties to take the place of a burger bun started out as a kind of stunt food in New York City several years ago, and the original purveyor saw lines snaking down the block when the dish was first unveiled. Since then, even Red Robin has rolled out a version of a noodle bun, so being a trailblazer isn't exactly motivation to get to Corner Ramen. But a fun, tasty burger with a Japanese twist should be reason enough to go; make sure you ask for the wagyu beef burger medium or less or the kitchen tends to go toward the well-done side.
Corner Ramen is open for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. Monday through Friday and noon on Saturday and Sunday, staying open until 9 p.m. daily (9:30 on Friday and Saturday). Sake, beer and wine are also available; call the restaurant at 303-292-0250 for more information or visit the Corner Ramen website for online menus and ordering.