Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Uma Uma Soft Open Brings Ramen To Rte 40 -- And Maybe The Best Little Bite I've Eaten All Year

Tomato tonkatsu ramen
Uma Uma has brought the ramen shop to Ellicott City, and you should check out noodle soups and more at the friendly, casual restaurant.

Ramen -- like barbecue -- can lead to food blog warfare among experts about styles and execution.  So I'll leave that to other people and report just my observations.

First, the soup tastes delicious.  Lil' Chow and I lunched twice in four days.  We split three varieties because my toddler spilled much of a miso ramen until he realized that the stylish bowl tipped more-easily than the plastic ones at home.  Each variety was delicious.  All different.  My opening favorite is tonkatsu -- a pork broth served with the ramen, bok choy, slices of pork, and a just-boiled egg.

Uma Uma's pork bun
Second, the pork bun may be the best little bite that I've eaten all year.  It's one of Uma Uma's appetizers.  Steamed bun filled with a thick slice of tender, braised pork and house-pickled onion.  Rich and sharp, warm and chewy.  Each bun is a perfect two or three bites.  Get your own two-bun appetizer.  Don't share.  They're that good.

Uma Uma just soft opened on December 23.  They're getting organized, and they're starting at a run because the tables are already packed at the busy hours.  Yelp folks are already uncharitable about wait times and hiccups.  Don't be that way.  Go check out Uma Uma for something new and delicious that you can reach in 15 minutes.

For the uninitiated, ramen is noodle soup.  Again, the experts will crucify me for simplification.  Ramen lives in many, many forms.  Folks suggest ramen as a way to explore Tokyo.  They write about the best in the world.  But go check that last link.  The "best in the world" meant Japan, California and Manhattan.  On our local menus, ramen appears at places like Matcha Time and White Oak Tavern.  This is the first specialty shop, trying to make a go with ramen, grilled chicken, buns and a few other dishes.

Miso ramen
To me, ramen's real draw is slurping the broth.  Each spoonful -- and even the chopsticks bringing up dripping noodles -- offers the rich, cloudy broth.  The broths differ.  Miso, spicy miso, pork, etc.  But they're the backdrop for each bowl, and you can alternate mouthfuls of pork or vegetables.  I love bok choy.  A little crunch and mild peppery flavor paired beautifully with the almost-creamy tonkatsu stock.

Give Uma Uma a while to come into its own.  They've been open a week.  Chefs will adjust their recipes.  Waiters will pick up the ordering system and the kitchen flow.  I respect the comments on my White Oak Tavern post that suggest that the ramen there can differ day-to-day.  So go slurp up Uma Uma's good start and see how it goes from here.

Now, Uma Uma has some nice desserts.  The owner charmed Lil Chow with a green-tea mochi filled with ice cream.  But know that you can walk around the corner of Uma Uma's parking lot to a terrific bakery and coffee shop -- Tous Le Jours, a French bakery by way of Seoul with pastries, cakes, macarons, coffee and more.  It's a great place to hang out after dinner.  Please ignore the toddler who turns to a table of talkative young adults and shouts "Quiet! Be quiet!"  I have idea who that kid could be.

Use winter to explore an entire season of noodles and soups.  Like ramen, you can get them together in the hand-cut noodle soups at Hang Ari in Catonsville.  Or go noodles and fried chicken at Tian Chinese Cuisine in Ellicott City or Da Rae Won in Beltsville.   Or go exotic noodles with the fish noodle entree at Grace Garden in Odenton.  My one bummer is a vegetarian friend with Japanese wife.  There are no vegetarian ramen at Uma Uma.  What do people recommend as the best vegetarian soup around here?

Uma Uma
9380 Baltimore National Pike
Ellicott City, MD 21042

NEAR:  Uma Uma is on the north side of Rte 40 to the west of Rte 29.  It's between Boston Chicken and Lighthouse Tofu -- another great option for warm soup if you want soondooboo tofu stew.  There are a few parking spaces in front of Uma Uma, but your better bet is the lot along the side of the shopping center.  You turn off Rte 40 just before Boston Chicken, then park in the spaces in front of you or to your right.  It's good -- you're midway between dinner at Lighthouse or Uma Uma and dessert at Tous Le Jours.


  1. http://ejjiramen.com/ - they're located in the city, in the belvedere square market. they have a veg ramen bowl. they do top it off with butter, so if your friend is actually vegan or lactose intolerant, you have to tell them to keep it veg.

    mekong delta in the city (sorry, city dweller here) is a vietnamese pho restaurant and they have vegetarian options as well.

  2. We really enjoyed this place on our one visit. It was pretty clear they're still working things out in the soft opening, but the owner was still very attentive so I think they're doing great in the service department. All the ramen we tried were excellent. I went spicy miso, which they made at a level three (of five). This might be something that varies slightly, but I would recommend starting there even for people who like spice - it was just right, great heat. We got the pork buns too, which were fantastic, and I'm already also comitted to the onigiri for next time.

  3. I went to Uma Uma today and there was vegetarian ramen on the menu. It was delicious!

  4. I went to Uma Uma twice already. I believe I actually saw Mr. Howchow during my first visit :-D with his adorable son.

    Anyway, I am really glad that now we have a dedicated ramen place. But unfortunately, I think Uma Uma still has some way to go. I had tonkatsu the first time and spicy the second time. The tonkatstu broth is on the bland watery side and and the spicy ramen is extremely spicy. The noodle needs more texture. For some reason, both times the ramen and the broth were only lukewarm. The pork slice improved the second time, but I still think it could be more tender. Lastly, but not the least, please get scallions, wood ear mushroom, bamboo shoots, corn or whatever. I have nothing against bok choy. But it just does not go well with Ramen in my opinion.

    I may still visit from time to time. But they could potentially be much better.

  5. I had the exact same experience as YF except for the possible Howchow siting. I'll wait a few more weeks to try again.

  6. Sounds like it's going to be hard to top Toki Underground. I went to Ejji in B'more and found it to be incredibly bland.


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