Midtown Restaurant Shines New Light on Ramen

Ugly Duck serves up gourmet Japanese cuisine with an American twist

Tom Hermanek, Managing Editor

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A new midtown restaurant is crushing the cliché that ramen is a sodium-dense, dirt cheap microwaveable meal that’s a haven for broke college students.

Ugly Duck Japanese Americana Street Food, which opened in Midtown Crossing late last year, offers unique dishes that have authentic Japanese traits but are incredibly pleasing to the American palate.

Photo by Tom Hermanek
A vibrant mural lines one wall

I visited late in the evening during midweek, and the dining room was nearly empty. Nonetheless, the design of the interior was sleek but welcoming: semi-circular tiles of white, grey and black adorn the back wall; stunning, bright murals are plastered on another; bar stools made of stainless steel and curvaceous white chairs line the tables of the establishment.

The Uncle Chuck ramen bowl, per restaurant staff, is the dish closest to traditional Japanese street food. It had an oily soy sauce broth atop ramen noodles with roasted pork belly, a delicious soft-boiled egg and green onion garnish. It was delightfully savory, a hit for anyone who can appreciate a rich pork broth. I’d certainly recommend it to anyone unsure of what to order, but it’s especially suitable for getting a feel for ramen.

I also had a chance to try the Carolina Smoky Pork ramen, which was similar to the Uncle Chuck, but had an American twist that made it reminiscent of barbecue. It was topped with beer braised pork shoulder, coleslaw-like veggies, and of course, a soft-boiled egg. I’m not particularly fond of barbecue, so this wasn’t a perfect fit for me, though there’s certainly nothing wrong with the entree.

Photo by Tom Hermanek
The Ugly Duck ramen bowl

One of the most popular non-ramen offerings is the Duck Fried Rice, a fried rice based dish topped with spinach, lap cheong (a sausage-like protein), a signature brown sauce, confit (read: duck fat), and a fried egg. While I found it to be less fun than slurping on the Uncle Chuck pork broth, it was a tasty dish that cannot be ignored.

Most of the dishes are mixtures of grains, veggies and meat, though there are a number of gluten free and even vegan options. The Red Miso bowl, for example, is comprised of vegan ingredients like grilled mushrooms, pickled and grilled green onions, pea tendrils and nori seaweed.

Ultimately, Ugly Duck is worth a try, and I’ll likely be back. Its modern interior and unique food make Ugly Duck ideal for lunch or dinner. The Uncle Chuck ramen bowl is a must-try, though I’d encourage diners to try some of Ugly Duck’s more creative options as well.

Tom Hermanek - Managing Editor

Tom became a member of The Flightline in January of 2015. He is a senior who is involved in mock trial and swimming. Off campus, Tom spends his time with friends or working at Starbucks. You can email him at [email protected]