A First Look at Tiger Den: Fresh Noodles, a Fine Robata Grill and Long Lines at the Front Door

Categories: Local Spotlight

TigerDenramen.jpg
Photo by Mai Pham
Tiger Den's spicy miso ramen boasts made-from-scratch broth and fresh, house-made noodles.

Houston has been waiting for a place like Tiger Den. A strip-mall restaurant in the popular Dun Huang Plaza at 9989 Bellaire Boulevard near the intersection of Beltway 8, the new ramen shop and izakaya debuted recently, and diners have had to endure waits of 30 minutes or more for tables.

I'd been wanting to try it since I heard about the preview dinners they offered to Carl Rosa's Ramen in Common group, but I couldn't find a phone number that worked (the number listed on Yelp was not accurate), and the information available online was limited.

So, this past Friday night I arrived about 15 minutes after 5 p.m., hoping to score a hot bowl of noodle soup. The two people who greeted me at the door already looked a little frazzled, despite the early hour, but they were friendly, and because I was there solo, they immediately offered me a seat at the bar, leading me beyond the dark-wood partition at the door and into the restaurant.

TigerDenroom.jpg
Photo by Mai Pham
Happy diners slurp up their noodles.

The scene during my visit was lively and buzzing with energy, and the interior was exactly how I would picture a ramen shop if I were to build one. The entire restaurant was filled with a predominantly Asian crowd, with people packed in at long community tables down the center of the room and at all the booths along the walls.

Tastefully appointed, with two contemporary chandeliers hanging in the middle of the dining room, the wooden booths and flooring are framed by large-format silk-screen murals on both sides of the restaurant; they remind me a lot of the Philippe Starck designs for the upscale Katsuya restaurant chain.

TigerDenbooths.jpg
Photo by Mai Pham
A mural of pop-culture scenes from Japan hangs on one of Tiger Den's walls.

I was seated at a small counter directly in front of a window overlooking the robata grill and kitchen, a perfect spot from which to admire all the action. The kitchen staff, including the older man working the robata grill, all wore bandannas, and though the scene was a bit frenetic, I could see a sort of steady rhythm to their movements.

"We've been overwhelmed," confessed Linh Nguyen, who owns Tiger Den and Aka Sushi with partners Martina Yang and Mike Tran. "It was supposed to be a soft opening, but the word of mouth has been so strong." When I told Nguyen that the phone number on the restaurant's Yelp page was incorrect, he told me that it wasn't something they'd set up. "People have been posting pictures of ramen that isn't even ours, and we never even set up that page," he said, rather incredulous about it all, telling me to go to Tiger Den's Instagram account, @TigerDen9, for authentic photos.

Location Info

Tiger Den

9889 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Aka Sushi House

2390 W. Alabama, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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10 comments
Mai Pham
Mai Pham topcommenter

UPDATE: Tiger Den is OPEN! 

JayPFrancis1
JayPFrancis1

Re: Closure until November. Not going to be a problem for me as I've discovered the most amazing Vietnamese soup restaurant just down the road that isn't Pho, isn't Hu Thieu and isn't Bun Bo Hue. A regional specialty soup that is amazing (central Vietnam)!

nguyenhm16
nguyenhm16

I ate there on Saturday a little after 5pm. Was so busy my wife and I shared a booth with another couple.

Overally, it's the closest to good ramen I've found in Houston. As a point of reference one of my favorites is Santouka, which are found in the food courts of Mitsuwa supermarkets in the USA. Tiger Den's broth and meat flavorful, and the prices fair.

They need to improve two things though: (1) the soup is not hot enough, and (2) to me something about the taste and texture of the noodles is distinctly not Japanese, and instead are much more like Chinese noodles (not that there's anything wrong with that, but I came here for ramen).


jimbo1126
jimbo1126

Your photo of the ramen is absolutely beautiful! Mesmerizing even.

maladia
maladia

Anyone remember Liberty Noodles? A place like this is long overdue.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham topcommenter

@nguyenhm16 Santouka is one of my favorites! Tiger Den is not quite there yet but on its way. Will be interesting to see how it re-emerges after the temporary closure. I agree with you on the noodles. 

Mai Pham
Mai Pham topcommenter

@jimbo1126 Thanks! I've mastered the left handed photo taking of the right handed noodle pulling. ;) And the lighting was perfect. No filter needed. :)

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