Necessary Noodles

The restaurant scene here in the northern reaches of Atlanta is bustling, and that competition can be fierce. That means that in a race to be the first and get to market earliest, restaurants — always worried about the competition — will often try to open as quickly as they can. But that can mean restaurants in their early days are sloppy affairs, with servers still learning the ropes and cooks still perfecting their dishes. That’s not the case at Jinya Ramen Bar, a new Japanese noodle eatery in Sandy Springs.

From day one, Jinya has been ready to ladle up bowls of the rich, flavorful noodle soup — and much, much more. While at other spots young service staff can struggle with tough-to-pronounce menu items and explaining a cuisine to guests, Jinya’s service is smart, efficient and on top of just about any question tossed their way, whether from a ramen pro or a noodle newbie.

In fact, this Atlanta location of Jinya — a chain that perfected its formula in Japan then move to the States, first by way of Los Angeles — had to undergo a rigorous quality review from the Jinya higher-ups. And while the ramen bigwigs might tell a new store it needs a few more days or weeks to perfect its recipes, service or operations, the Sandy Springs Jinya — the first Georgia location — was deemed ready to go even before its official grand opening.

And Sandy Springs has clearly been ready for Jinya — located in a strip mall complex at the corner of Roswell Road and Hammond Drive, the restaurant has seen hour-long waits and lines out the door within a few days of its early July opening, despite the intense summer heat.

The noodles are the star of the show, and one of the strongest aspects of Jinya is the ability to either cede control or to customize. You can go with the preassembled combinations — the Jinya No. 1 takes a spicy chicken broth and roast chicken broth, fills a bowl with thin ramen noodles and tops it with egg, green onion and bean sprouts for a lighter option, or opt for the Cha Cha Cha ramen, a fragrant bowl of creamy pork tonkotsu broth rich with roast pork, a whole seasoned egg with a creamy yolk, onion, scallion, garlic and fish powder, served with a thick noodle and an optional side garnish of fresh garlic to press into the soup for even more of a kick.

But building your own ramen bowl makes for a great way to sample certain flavors by not overdoing it with the toppings — get your server to guide you, from broth flavor (pork? chicken? half and half?) to noodle size to the more than two dozen options to dress up the soup — bamboo shoots, broccoli, dired seaweed, corn, ground pork and much, much more.

And while the noodles are the clear star at Jinya, pay attention to the flipside of the menu for a section listed confusingly as “tapas” (just because they’re small, shareable bites doesn’t mean they’re Spanish). A creamy shrimp tempura takes crisp fried shellfish in a rice-flour batter and slathers on an addictive, subtly spicy mayo sauce, while similarly fried Brussels sprouts get a dash of flavorful, funky truffle oil. The takoyaki octopus ball are a popular dish, crisp and creamy and flavorful with green onion and covered in a flurry of bonito flakes, a dried fish that adds a salty punch to the dish.

And best of all? Jinya’s ramen, whether ordered from the lively bar, the cozy tables or on the modest patio, is available every day. Good ramen broth takes days to make, and some intown restaurants have turned it into a cult dish available just once a week — it’s great to have a reliable place offering rich, flavorful comfort food in boundless variety with consistent quality.

Hammond Springs Shopping Center

5975 Roswell Rd B217

Sandy Springs