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Pei Wei Asian Diner Blogger Finds the Gigi of Japan. Sort Of.

Gigiesque: Udon, Ramen & Soba
Gigiesque: Udon, Ramen & Soba
Photo: Alice Shin

Elite Yelper" Alice Shin, 27, was chosen to travel on an 18-day culinary tour across Thailand, Vietnam, China, Japan and Korea in search of blogging material and inspiration for new dishes at PF Chang's sibling Pei Wei Asian Diner. Shin has also filed this exclusive dispatch for us stranded here in Miami, where, when it comes to pork ramen, Gigi is the next best thing.

Food fight: Gigi’s pork ramen v. a traditional ramen shop in Kyoto, Japan
by Alice Shin

I have a special place in my heart for Gigi. Even with its no reservation policy and often long waits, it’s my go-to restaurant in Miami for solid food without the Beach bullshit. I’m personally sick of overpriced, under flavored Asian food in Miami, and Gigi does a great job of keeping my anger at bay.

I’m currently in Kyoto, Japan, thanks to Pei Wei. I’m living a food writer’s dream; I was selected to travel with Pei Wei’s top chefs on an 18 day food journey through five Asian countries, all in the name of finding inspiration for their menu. I’ve had the opportunity to do some serious ramen discovery during my 3 day stint in Kyoto. So my question is, how does Gigi compare to the motherland’s product?

I have to commend Chef McInnis for serving a more traditional ramen, without going crazy with a fusion spin. It’s a big bowl of brothy, pork yummy goodness. It hits the spot whenever I’m craving the comfort that Asian food can only bring.

However, it’s not as mind-bending as the bowl of witchcraft that I ate at a ramen shop in Kyoto today. We bellied up to a tiny shop that sat 6 people. This particular bowl of ramen featured all organic ingredients, handmade whole wheat ramen noodles, and a pork broth that screamed perfection. There was a perfect soy poached egg that bled beautiful, almost orangey yolk into the broth, coating the noodles ever so gently. And the pork slices. God, the pork slices. Each bite, slurp, sip of this ramen was pure heaven.

One element I’d suggest tweaking in Gigi’s version? The inclusion of a soy poached egg. If only to conjure up the feeling of total bliss that my bowl of Kyoto ramen so graciously bestowed upon me.

While I love me some good ramen, I’m about to explore the food of 7 more Asian cities. Follow my blog to see what I’m up to next. Next on the itinerary: Korea, China, Thailand and Vietnam.

Follow Shin's savory adventures here, no passport required.