RamaPong Serves Up Ramen, Ping-Pong on Boise's Capitol Boulevard 

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Lex Nelson

Beside the entrance to Spacebar Arcade on Capitol Boulevard is a second flight of stairs leading downward. Take them, and you'll emerge into what can only be described as a red-lit Ping-Pong cave, soon to be inundated on busy nights by the pock of balls striking home and the smell of broth. That spot is RamaPong, the long-awaited restaurant from Boise Fry Co. that combines ramen and Ping-Pong beneath a single underground roof. Since its official soft opening on May 20, RamaPong has been slinging noodle bowls and sides to a handful of bright white tables gathered near its open kitchen, presided over by a mural of a giant, staff-wielding sake bottle.

click to enlarge LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
This early in the game, there are no frills at RamaPong. The menu is short and to the point. Ramen takes pride of place as the only entree, with options for house or sweet potato broth, and three different tares, or flavors, to choose from, including shio (a salt base), shoyu (a soy base) and miso. The basic bowl with sweet potato broth costs $8.75, with add-ons like onsen egg, soft-boiled egg, braised pork "cutz," buffalo meatballs and togarashi sweet potato upping the price anywhere from 75 cents to $3. Side options include katsu chicken ($8.14) and fried tofu ($4.50), and the space has a much-coveted full bar.

click to enlarge LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
The ramen dropped off in steaming bowls was deeply savory, with noodles swimming in a thick, salty sweet potato broth. Strips of kombu studded the miso bowl with togarashi sweet potato (which came in a single, solid plank) and carrots cut in the shape of flowers adorned the shio bowl with braised pork. The pork was a bit on the fatty side, leaving the shio broth dotted with oil spots, but the noodles (from ramen giant Sun Noodle) were satisfyingly chewy and served in generous portions that promised leftovers for the less-than-starved. The katsu chicken, served with a side of house-made teriyaki, was a standout, with light, crisp breading and very little grease.

click to enlarge HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
RamaPong's ramen may not be life-changing, but for someone a few beers (or shots) in, a bowl of those noodles will be just the thing to ward off a hangover. Considering RamaPong stays open late—until midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights—and offers $8-per-half-hour Ping-Pong at peak hours, that may indeed become its niche. In the meantime, Manager Mira Heintz said the restaurant has big plans for its first year, including the pop-up-style addition of themed ramen bowls like spicy Korean or Vietnamese, a "ramen monster" mural near the bar and even, she hopes, locally made noodles.

RamaPong serves lunch and dinner, opening at 11 a.m. and transitioning to a 21-and-over bar at 4 p.m. daily. 
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