Five Point’s Newest Noodle Shop Brings the Umami
words by Damon Noisette // photos by Agnes Lopez
While Riverside is no stranger to Asian restaurants, the neighborhood now boasts an unusual addition in Crane Ramen. It is the second location of the noodle shop for owner Fred Brown, who opened the first in Gainesville back in late 2014. The 101-seat restaurant in Five Points opened March 1 after a buildout of roughly five months.
The skinny space is attractive and sleek, with walls adorned with fabric panels of abstract realism artwork by painter and mixed medium artist Louise Freshman Brown, a UNF professor who also happens to be the owner’s mother. A noodle bar surrounds the open kitchen, where Chef Steve Grimes and his team work. There is also a separate full liquor bar and two outdoor dining areas, one up front and in the back.
Crane’s menu is broken up into otsumami, essentially snacks or appetizers, ramen and drinks. Starting off with the kimchi Brussels sprouts ($8.95) is recommended; the sprouts are roasted and tossed with garlic mushrooms, bacon lardons, and served over a spicy kimchi purée. The bonito and butter mushrooms ($8.95) are a meaty and savory treat with a hint of lime zest. Mainstays like gyoza ($6.95) are available as well.
Purists might have an issue with the fact that Crane’s noodles are not made in house, instead coming from foodservice distributor Cheney Brothers. The time saved from having to constantly prepare noodles from scratch gives Grimes the ability to focus on his broths, which are cooked from eight to 14 hours.
Crane’s ramen bowls are built the Japanese way, starting with the seasoning or tare, a measured amount of fat, broth, toppings and aromatics. They are served in a large bowl or kid’s size, and additional toppings like snow crab ($4), chopped pork ($2.50), and chili oil ($.50) are available to spice up broths that seem to favor a muted flavor profile. The Tonkotsu ($13.50) is probably the highest on the umami scale with its pork bone broth ramen topped with pork chashu, mushrooms, a soy marinated soft boiled egg, shallots, garlic chips and scallions. Crane’s Paitan 2.0 ($12.50) is an interesting choice, with a chicken broth topped with ginger chicken meatballs, bok choy, oven roasted tomatoes, soy marinated egg, picked onion, nori (seaweed) and scallions. My preference was the shio ($13.50), a sea salt flavor with a blended chicken and dashi broth, topped with snow crab, pork belly, soft boiled egg, nori, mushrooms, garlic oil and scallions.
Umami aside, ramen may still be an acquired taste for some. That being said, Crane is worth a visit for its selection of Japanese whiskys, sake and solid set of signature cocktails. Happy hour runs from 5 to 7 PM daily.
It’s Okay to Slurp
Forget what your parents told you, go ahead and slurp. It actually helps you taste the broth and the noodles at the same time.
Head Out Back
Just outside from the bar is a 30-seat patio with cover provided by fabric sail shades, perfect for people who want their ramen with some fresh air.
Take a Walk
The Five Points area can be pretty busy, so look to park where you can and be prepared to walk a block or two.