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Review: Ramen Republic in Denton

Ramen Republic 210 E Hickory St. Denton 940-387-3757; http://www.ramenrepublic.biz Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Posted 11:21am on Thursday, Sep. 20, 2012

Ramen Republic in Denton has all the potential of a great restaurant — a sharp logo, nice-looking menus, a restored building and noodles. I love noodles.

Throw in some sandwiches and we’re set, right? Not quite.

Maybe dining in Dallas has spoiled me a bit, but Republic’s got a few stiff noodles to sort out before it makes it to the top of my Denton favorites.

The place has been around for a couple of years, so there are definitely a few dishes keeping its attendance in check. Stuff like dumplings ($5) or the sausage and peppers sandwich ($8).

The dumplings are sweet and simple, yet satisfying, while the sandwich is a messy-fun combination of spicy sausage, onions, peppers and provolone in a red sauce. We especially liked the soft, slightly toasted ciabatta roll it was served on.

Strangely, that’s not the only Italian-inspired dish at Republic. They’ve also got fettuccine Alfredo ($6–$7.75), a pomodoro ($9.25) stir-fry and a primavera ($8) stir-fry.

The primavera stir-fry, with vegetables in a white sauce, had only a faint taste of garlic. We had to blast it with Sriracha to give it some pep.

We did the same with the lo mein ($7.50), which includes garlic and onions. But even a giant splash of Sriracha couldn’t bring it out of its flavor coma.

Republic’s signature dishes are the noodle bowls ($5.50–$8.25), and yes, even the shrimp curry ($1.50 extra) with udon noodles and tender shrimp needed a flavor punch.

But aside from the sausage sandwich mentioned earlier, we really enjoyed the Republic pork noodle soup. It’s got tender pork and noodles in a beef-flavored broth. And the smallest size (or “regular”) is more than enough for two. (The bowls go up to “monster” size and you can even customize your own.)

There’s also a Republic pork sandwich ($6.75), probably just as good as the soup.

But it was really the Korean steak lettuce wrap that covered for the lo mein’s flavor failure — marinated, salty rib-eye with bell peppers, onions, and spinach served with fresh, crispy lettuce.

The Korean steak is actually “bulgogi,” a popular Korean dish, but the name is omitted from the menu. My guess is that Ramen Republic is trying to make the menu more diverse, which is why they included so many Italian dishes.

Oh, there’s even a Cajun pasta stir-fry ($9). Huh? Pick a cuisine, and stick to it.

Though it’s not my cup of ramen, the bizarre Asian-Italian-Cajun hybrids seem to work for the Denton crowd; they’re still there, happily slurping up noodles.

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