Ramen Battle glory goes to Selden Standard

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Hosting a hot soup contest in late July could have been seen as a questionable move, but the first annual Ramen Battle saw a packed house at Slurping Turtle restaurant in Ann Arbor on Sunday night.

Owner and chef Takashi Yagihashi invited some of the area’s top chefs to offer their spin on the Japanese noodle dish to raise money for local charities and celebrate Slurping Turtle’s one-year anniversary.

Chefs from Bacco restaurant prepare their cotechino and clams ramen dish. The dish featured pig skin sausage, pork belly, pickled garlic scales, sous vide farm egg and chili oil.

The glory went to Midtown Detroit, with Selden Standard’s Chef Andy Hollyday’s Salomon Farms chicken ramen, which included chicken and egg from Salomon Gardens in Grass Lake. Hollyday won $2,000 for the charity of his choice, Cass Community Social Services.

“They really do the dirty work of the city,” says Hollyday, who opened Selden Standard in the Cass Corridor last year. “The city of Detroit needs so much more, and what they do is amazing.”

Hollyday, who worked as a line cook at Takashi’s Tribute restaurant in Farmington Hills about 10 years ago, says he went into the competition intent on using the same philosophy as in his popular Detroit restaurant.

“I wanted to highlight really good products. We thought the Salomon Garden chicken and egg would be a great starting point, and on top of that, all the garnishes are what we do in-house. We like to preserve a lot of things while they’re in season so we can extend that season,” he said, adding that he used ramps, mushrooms and chili with his dish.

The winning dish was voted on by the 170 or so attendees and a panel of judges made up of local food writers. Hollyday earned 40 percent of the vote, with the home team, Slurping Turtle’s chef Tadashi Nagura, in a close second with 37 percent. Nagura’s roasted garlic ramen was a seafood lover’s dream with sauteed scallops, calamari, ebi shinjo (shrimp dumplings) and a garlic broth.

Another chef representing Ann Arbor, Eve Aronoff, had one of the most unique spins on ramen. Her Cuban-inspired dish was booming with texture and spices and included chorizo bolito, conch fritter and a pickled quail egg.

Chef Luciano DelSignore from Bacco restaurant added pig skin sausage, pork belly, pickled garlic scrapes and a sous vide egg to his cotechino and clams ramen. His noodles stood out for being noticeably firmer than the other samples, which was a plus.

Ramen fans lined up early for James Rigato’s bold ramen. The Root chef’s take had a kick to it and included head cheese, kimchi, beef tongue, pickled quail egg and vegetables and herbs from Sunseed Farms.

The Ramen Battle, which Takashi says will return next year, took over both floors of Slurping Turtle and included a silent auction and open bar. In spite of the temptation of the latter, the lines for noodles were much longer than the bar, proving that the hot bowls of ramen were the stars of the event.