By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Jul 27, 2018 at 11:01 AM

Artisan Ramen, Milwaukee’s first Downtown ramen shop, opened last September at 530 E. Mason St.

"From the beginning our goal has been to serve up some of the best traditional Japanese ramen in the city," says general manager Maxwell Olson. "To do that, we really try to stay true to the foundations of Japanese cuisine. Nearly everything we serve is made from scratch, and in doing that we don’t have to make any sacrifices in terms of flavor."

That includes everything from appetizers like gyoza (choose from pork or vegetable)  which are painstakingly made by hand from fresh ingredients and housemade dough – to the restaurant’s bubble tea (original or peach blossom), brewed to order from honest-to-goodness tea, rather than made with a powder (it takes a skosh longer to make, but it’s well worth it).

They’re also currently the only ramen shop in the city that’s making its noodles from scratch. It’s a pretty intensive process, but they make new batches daily and have expanded their offerings to include five different noodles: classic ramen noodles, kale ramen noodles, spicy ramen noodles, squid ink ramen noodles, and udon, which are thicker and toothier than traditional ramen noodles.

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Even better, you now have the option to craft your own unique bowl of ramen  complete with broth, tare (base), noodles, flavorings and toppings of your choice.

Build your bowl

Building your perfect bowl of ramen is simple, thanks to the easy-to-navigate list of ingredients on the Artisan Ramen menu. The price for the bowl begins at $12, with some items adding an extra $1-3.

Broth: First, you choose your broth. Options include pork (which comes with crispy pork belly), chicken, seafood (add $3) or vegetable (vegan).

Tare: Then you choose your tare (this is the flavor base for the ramen). The housemade broth is flavorful in and of itself, but you can completely change the style of the ramen with your choice of flavor bases: shoyu (soy sauce), shio (sea salt) or miso. Each one creates a different flavor profile. Shio is among the most traditional, creating a salty, clear broth that highlights the flavors in the broth. Shoyu will add a bit of body and richness, while miso creates a savory, full-bodied ramen with a ton of umami.

Noodles: Next up are your noodles. You can go with classic noodles or branch out with green kale noodles (made with kale powder, $2), spicy noodles (enhanced with Japanese peppers, $1), squid ink (adds a beautiful black color and a slightly briny flavor, $2), or udon (thicker noodles for those who love the additional texture, $2).

Flavor boosters: You can also boost the flavor of your ramen with items like Japanese spice (a mixture of ginger, garlic, Japanese chiles and sesame which will give your ramen some serious kick; you choose your level of spiciness), black garlic (which adds depth and umami, $1) and butter (which might sound strange, but offers a richness that pulls the flavors of the ramen together, $1).

Toppings: As far as toppings go, you don’t need to make any serious choices. All ramen is served with scallions, soft boiled soy egg, shiitake mushrooms, fish cakes, bamboo shoots, seaweed (nori), broccoli and cabbage (no charge). But you can omit any ingredients you’d prefer to avoid.

Extras: You can also get indulgent and add an extra helping of chicken ($2), pork ($2.5), egg ($1) or noodles ($2).

And thanks to New York based chef Shuichi Kotani who assisted the staff in elevating the flavor profile of their ramen broth, you can’t really go wrong with any of the available combinations.

Got the kids in tow? Artisan Ramen also offers a kid-sized ramen bowl featuring a half-portion of noodles, a choice of protein, miso broth, carrots, corn, seaweed and half of a soft-boiled soy egg ($7).

View the full Artisan Ramen menu at artisan-ramen.com.

Artisan Ramen is open Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Monday through Thursday 5 to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 5 to 10 p.m.

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.