December 11, 2008Taki's Restaurant, an inventive, unique and funky dive of a Japanese joint on E. Colfax Avenue and Pennsylvania in downtown Denver's Capitol Hill district. It a block from the state Capitol, and three blocks from my office. Ramen is relatively new to Taki's. The restaurant usually serves udon, the thick Japanese noodle, or soba, the thin but brittle Japanese buckwheat noodle. The owner, Hisashi "Brian" Takimoto, who usually just goes by "Taki," (I call him "Taki-san" out of respect but he's too unassuming to think he deserves an honorofic and seem embarrassed by it, just began buying fresh-made and packaged ramen noodles from a company in California, and now offers it as an option. We've been in an unrequited ramen mood for weeks. We'd heard that a new spinoff in Boulder of the great Amu (our current fave Japanese restaurant and itself a spinoff of Sushi Zanmai next door) called Bento Zanmai on the University Hill served ramen during certain hours. But we tried twice to go there and the place was closed. I checked a short list of area Japanese restaurants that serve ramen, and the only two candidates I found were in Longmont, a small town northeast of Boulder. The one place in the area thar's known for noodles, Oshima Ramen in southeast Denver, had fallen off our list over the years for being expensive, less tasty than when it opened over a decade ago, and recently, kinda dirty (never mind Westword's surpisingly naive rave "Best of Denver 2008" award). We'll make it to Bento Zanmai someday -- they serve ramen only from 3-6 pm weekdays, and from 11am-3 pm Saturdays (they close at 3 on Saturdays!) -- but for now, I've been so desperate I made a package of instant ramen at home one night last week. It actually hit the spot. So when we decided at stop at Taki's for a bite the other night after attending a reception hosted by the Consul-General of Japan to mark the birthday (Dec. 23) of Emperor Akihito, we were jonesing. When taki came out front to greet us, we accosted him: "When are you going to start serving ramen?" "I can make it for you," was the reply. We almost kissed his feet. Well, not really. Have you ever looked at the shoes of anyone who works in the kitchen of a restaurant? Gross. It turns out he'd just started serving ramen as a daily special. They'd stopped for the evening but he boiled some noodles for us anyway, and it was a real treat.