RAYAKI PHILLY: The city's new hotspot for Ramen and Anime
You know Philly is known for a lot of things from music, cheesesteaks, pretzels, professional wrestling as well as liberty and brotherly love just to name a few. What it is not known for is its fandom for anime which it is been kind of a hidden subculture for quite some time. Otakus in Philadelphia continues to be an ever-growing cultural group much like many other regions in the United States. But when you combine food to the fandom it is a can't miss experience. Enter RAYAKI RAMEN & ROBATAYAKI located at Cottman Ave. RAYAKI is a cultural bliss of food and fandom that bring anime fans and foodies into another world. A world where you become consumed with why many are in love with the country of Japan and its art form.
THE ANIME AMBIANCE:
The moment you walk in the restaurant you are greeted with an awesome mural of everyone's favorite Hidden Leaf Hokage Naruto. From there, you will become overwhelmed as the restaurant is draped in anime and manga displayed from wall-to-wall featuring panels and anime characters from popular shows like One Piece, My Hero Academia, Demon Slayer, and the ever loving One Punch Man just to name a few. Even the ceiling is decorated with the cloud symbols that represent the Akatsuki from the Naruto/Shippuden series. And the cherry on top is a four panel HD monitor that shows nothing but anime from opening to close.
As a huge American Otaku, I was in heaven. My first thought was "THIS IS WHAT I WANT MY OFFICE TO LOOK LIKE!!!!"
I've eaten in similar themed ramen spots like Terakawa Ramen located in the University City and to their credit they my first when it came to eating ramen and didn't have anything to compare it with. Now with Rayaki opening I now can compare and contrast the two establishments and give you my honest critique on them based on of ambiance, menu options, taste, and overall experience.
Just on my first experience with Rayaki they are a step above everything Terakawa has to offer. The atmosphere is much more vibrant, colorful, and inviting. The more crucial factor in this establishment is that they have a higher volume of menu options to choose from which was something I felt was lacking very much from Terakawa Ramen especially with the minor amount of appetizer choices they provide. This was not an issue with Rayaki Philly.
The taste of RAYAKI:
Before the server approaches you at your table to take your order you will have a menu list filled with a healthy selection of appetizers, ramen selections, Robatayaki (skewers), drinks and deserts for you to choose from. You check off what you want, and the server will take the order to be prepared. Like most established Asian restaurants, we rarely have to wait too long before we got our first taste at what they had to offer. We started with the Rayaki fries and thank goodness we did. Every excellent restaurant has its signature item on the menu that imprints in the minds and taste palettes of their customers. The Rayaki Fries is that item. What looks like your normal order of waffle fries is actually the art of risk and reward. The fries are a combination of mixed chasu (Marinated pork), spicy mayo, garlic aioli, fried onions, massago, and scallions. The results are met with the feeling trying to take in an amalgam of assorted flavors that you encounter. Admittingly, I tasted this combination before when eating Maki Rolls from various sushi restaurants. But placing that sauce on waffle fries is just brilliant.
The main courses arrived, and we start with my selection of their Shrimp Ramen consisting of nine large shrimp, two Naruto (fish cake), ramen noodles, bean sprout, carrots, scallions, miso soup base (pork soup base), and one seasoned egg. The first thing that stood out in terms of flavor was the broth.
I had the pleasure of enjoying many kinds of noodles from a variety of places but none of them had broth that stood out like this. The broth was amazing. You could taste an amalgam of flavors shared by its ingredients along with some spices I have never tasted before from any noodle cuisine. This to me was so good that I wanted to take the broth home to enjoy it as is which is something I never desire to do.
My wife ordered the Black Garlic Ramen
which consisted of Cha Shu (Marinated Pork), bamboo, kikurage mushrooms, red ginger, fish cake, scallions, black garlic oil, pork soup base, seasoned egg. She also very much enjoyed her bowl of ramen although not as much as I did my bowl. I took a spoon of her broth, and you can taste the boldness of the garlic in it. It was obvious that the garlic was the leading ingredient of that meal while the rest of the flavors were subtle. It was a much different taste from the Shrimp Ramen where that bowl had a balance of flavors that you tasted all at once.
We also tried their Gyoza as well as Shrimp and Bacon and Chicken Wing items from their Robatayaki section. They were all as was expected. The Gyoza was standard if you ever tried them out and the Robatayaki Chicken wings were fried exactly right with a balanced texture. While I enjoyed the bacon wrapped shrimp it was nothing that stood out like the Rayaki fries or the ramen. Mostly because I make bacon wrapped shrimp quite often, so it tasted the same which in a lot of ways........................YEAH ME!!!!! I never know if my food is any good to anyone but me so to taste something that was similar to what I make gives me good vibes and a soul glow.
I left Rayaki an incredibly happy man and an even happier fan of anime/manga. To have such a place cater to all thing's anime and manga and my enjoyment of food warms my heart incredibly. I've had discussions regarding the rising popularity of anime to which some at the time felt this genre would not become mainstream. If the MACY's parade, A-list celebrities rocking anime-based fashion in pop culture, movie box office record sales, countless references in Hip-Hop, video games based on various popular series and now adding Rayaki Ramen and Robatayaki doesn't convinced them I don't know what else to tell you. Regardless of all that, whether you are a hardcore otaku or a casual fan with a love for great ramen and more you it to yourself to head over to Cottman Ave here in Philadelphia and enjoy what Rayaki has to offer. For some it is a distance away, but it will be worth the journey even if it takes you about five episodes to finally get there. ALSO NOTE: Rayaki Ramen and Robatayaki has three other locations in New Jersey. My hope is that they open another shop in University City or Downtown Philly because that would be a game changer.