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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014

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Down the stairs from The Garden Room, a whole other dining world awaits you.
Down the stairs from The Garden Room, a whole other dining world awaits you. (Photo: Carolynn Buser)
With more than eight varieties of ramen to choose from, you will have to go back to try them all.
With more than eight varieties of ramen to choose from, you will have to go back to try them all. (Photo: Carolynn Buser)
The shishitos, a pepper starter, are a must try.
The shishitos, a pepper starter, are a must try. (Photo: Carolynn Buser)
The bacon apple and cilantro lime goat cheese mazeman.
The bacon apple and cilantro lime goat cheese mazeman. (Photo: Carolynn Buser)
The congee (front) and the tofu ramen.
The congee (front) and the tofu ramen. (Photo: Carolynn Buser)
Wisconsin grass-fed beef is one of the ramen available.
Wisconsin grass-fed beef is one of the ramen available. (Photo: Carolynn Buser)

Another look at Tochi

You may have read Lori Fredrich’s story last week on the new restaurant Tochi, which opened last week in Shorewood with Chef Gregg Des Rosier at the helm. Tochi, formerly Anaba Tea Room, specializes in ramen.

A group of girlfriends and I couldn’t wait to try out this new dining spot, so the four of us made plans to grab dinner there during the first week of operation. And I’m really glad we didn’t wait!

From the moment we descended the stairs to Tochi (which is downstairs from The Garden Room) the lusty smell of bacon was thick in the air. The place was filled to the brim with customers enjoying their steaming bowls of ramen.

While we waited for our table, which took maybe 15 minutes, we grabbed a seat at the sleek bar – which seats around 10 – and enjoyed some drinks. The drink menu included a large variety of wine, beer, saketinis, sake bombs and sake. The restaurant also continues to offer an extensive tea list – which was appealing since it was freezing outside – but I opted to warm up with a glass of red wine instead.

After we were seated in the new zen-like space, we began our meal with a couple starters. The pork steam buns ($5.95), which featured a curried slaw, were delicious. And the shishitos ($5.95) were a pleasant surprise. Most of us had never tried shishito peppers before, but these were delicious – slightly charred and tossed in fish sauce, pork fat and sesame. You had me at the pork fat, but I really loved the slight hotness of these peppers, too.

With eight different ramens to choose from, we were able to try and share about half of them, along with a bowl of congee. TOCHI ramen ($11.95), which is a pork-based broth with Singapore noodles, came with pork belly, Welsh onions and a spicy miso deviled egg. The broth was delicious, and the bowl came packed with plenty of noodles and toppings.

One of us ordered the mushroom and smoked tofu ramen ($9.95), which had a bourbon barrel fermented soy sauce shoyu-style broth. The flavor of the sauce itself was fantastic, but we all agreed the overpowering flavor of the smoke in the tofu was a bit much and would love another texture on the tofu dish.

The other two main dishes we ordered were of the mazeman type, which is more of a brothless noodle dish. The Wisconsin grass-fed beef mazeman ($11.95) was delicious, with pickled shitake mushrooms, a fried egg and smoked bone marrow butter. But, we also tried the bacon apple and cilantro lime goat cheese mazeman ($8.95), which was by far the crowd favorite. We added a poached egg to this one for $1 and it added another layer to this already fantastic melding of flavors.

I mentioned we tried the congee, which is a type of porridge popular in Asian cultures. The pork belly congee ($7.95) had green onions, egg, cilantro lime paste and a chili oil. I was torn on this dish, as I found the porridge comforting, but some of the flavors in the dish didn’t appeal. That said, the pork salted up the congee perfectly for me, and I’m likely to order this again when I’m craving a dish with that Malt-O-Meal feel.

Dessert? Well, first off, 99.9 percent of the time I MUST have some. Thankfully, my friends fully support this habit. We shared both of the desserts on the menu last night, which included black walnut cheesecake with a salted miso whip cream and burnt miso butterscotch bread pudding. Both were gone within minutes, and surely will be ordered again. Neither of the desserts seemed overtly Asian in nature, but both had touches of the culture.

The verdict? We’ll be back to Tochi again soon, especially since we’ve already found a number of favorites on the menu. For four of us, with multiple alcoholic beverages including a bottle of wine, the bill came to $37 per person before tip. Considering the amount of food and drink we consumed, Tochi cost less than I thought it would, which is always a pleasant surprise. See you soon, Tochi.

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