A while back I had written up Sono as one of the better Japanese restaurants in the Triangle and over the last year or two, that opinion hasn’t changed! I’ve done a chef’s dinner and also a Competition in the Triangle dinner with Chef Michael Lee. My most recent visit to Sono was for their Sunday ramen special and it was worth the wait! If you haven’t had real Japanese ramen you’re in for a surprise. Just a LITTLE bit better than what you get out of a plastic wrapped brick, 5 for a $1.00!
Inside the decor at Sono hasn’t changed much, I think they should probably consider freshening the place up a bit to keep things up to date. Sitting at the bar, I go for the chuuka manjuu appetizer and of course, the tonkotsu ramen! The chuuku manjuu is a little sandwich made from a steamed bun with some braised pork belly, pickled carrots and hoisin. As usual the presentation at Sono is great, it shows up in a small steamer with a nice lettuce garnish. And yum, it’s a tasty treat! Soft, steamed bun around a luscious slice of pork belly with some spice on the side. This app is really similar to what you might get in Chinese cuisine (steamed bun, peking duck, hoisin) and I’m enjoying this version at Sono.
The ramen is next and I am excited! I got turned on to good Japanese ramen at Ippudo in NYC which was recently named one of the top 100 restaurants in the US by the Daily Meal. It’s a serious Japanese ramen chain with only one location in the US so it’s the real deal. My bowl of ramen at Sono looks fancy! Complex broth with depth and richness, a small poached egg, several slices of braised pork, and some other veggies (ear mushroom, bamboo shoots, scallions). I sip the broth first and it’s quite good, smoky and coats the tongue well. As I dig into the noodles at the bottom, I find them a bit soft and start working through the pork and veggies. There’s a lot going in this bowl of ramen! The savory pork, textured mushroom, crunchy bamboo shoots contrasted against the rich egg yolk. Overall I liked and enjoyed it but I have to say I was spoiled by Ippudo. Couple of things I would change: add a bit more noodles and make em more al dente. Serve the broth a bit warmer, it was a bit luke-warm. And I would have simplified the meat and veggie combo, I’d go with a softer braised pork rather than the seared version in this bowl. But hey it was still good and I was glad to have stopped by.
Sono is still doing a great job and I know they can push the envelope with their food given what I’ve tried. The menu at Sono is more mainstream but still takes a lot of chances in its offerings. And between the flavor profile, textures and presentation I’m pretty sure you’ll consistently have a good meal here. So thanks Chef Lee for the ramen and I’ll definitely be back to try it again…