Ramen Zero has an odd name. But what seems strange initially actually has a twofold meaning.
First, the Japanese word for circle, maru, is chef and owner Yoshiyuki Maruyama’s nickname—and also the shape of a zero. More importantly, it also represents Maru-san’s journey from zero after having to close his Bay Area ramen shop because of the COVID pandemic, only to reopen one here in Vegas. And out of a cleanly decorated space in a Fort Apache strip mall, he’s serving some of the Valley’s best ramen.
The options are limited, and the menu succinct. There’s a trio of chicken-based broth variants, a vegan option and a seasonal offering, which is currently yuzu shio. Noodle bowls vary depending upon their bases and toppings, ranging from a clean, classic Tokyo shoyu ($13) adorned with pork chasu and kamaboko (fish cake) to the robust tan tan zero ($14), delivering sesame-driven nuttiness and an overall spicy meatiness from the mound of ground pork. Elevate the former with a soft-boiled ajitama egg and spicy chili paste; the latter is so complex and tangy, it needs no gilding.
Though not as endearing as its meat-based counterparts when tasted side-by-side, the vegan miso z ($14) is still better than most local bowls. Vegan ramen isn’t particularly prominent here, even with ramen shops popping up all over the Valley.
But man cannot live on ramen alone. Don’t overlook the concise-but-considerate appetizer selection. Chef’s karaage ($6-$9) is a solid rendition of the traditional Japanese fried chicken dish, while the aji-fry ($7) is flaky fried mackerel at its finest. A little edgier are the kaki-fry ($7), panko-crusted deep-fried oysters which burst with salinity. And save room for a hoji tea pudding ($6), a creamy treat with a caramel-ish topping hinting of salt.
Like the Raiders and potentially the A’s, California’s loss can be Southern Nevada’s gain.
RAMEN ZERO 4555 S. Fort Apache Road #110, 702-462-2150, ramenzero.com. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. & 4-8 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m.
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