Ramen-loving replicants and humans alike get a new late-night go-to with Center City’s Blade Runner-inspired noodle bar, Chika.
Doused in neon, the underground space — “chika” means “cellar” in Japanese — features an 18-seat bar across from six tables for two. There’s a booth for larger groups up front, and similar seating in an elevated blue-hued space towards the back.
The concept comes courtesy of Glu Hospitality, which this year has already opened Sushi Suite in Fishtown and Brewerytown Food Hall, plus new locations for Bagels & Co. Chika is located below the 1526 Sansom St. bagel shop, which took the place of CookNSolo falafel spot Goldie.
For Chika, the group wanted “a futuristic theme,” chef Dean Leevongcharoen told Billy Penn. It was originally to be called White Dragon; a reference to the neon logo hanging above the noodle bar where Harrison Ford’s Deckard gets arrested in the 1982 cyberpunk classic (“Tell him I’m eating!”)
The menu was developed by Leevongcharoen to “deliver true Japanese ramen to the customers.” After traveling to Japan in 2011 to study ramen and sushi techniques, Leevongcharoen returned to Philly to open Ramen Bar near Penn’s campus, followed by a second location at Drexel. He eventually sold both off, the Drexel location closing last year, and did some more traveling before being recruited by Tim Lu, Glu’s co-founder and a friend of Leevongcharoen since their days at Penn State.
For Chika, the 38-year-old chef has set five ramen options, ranging from $15 to $17 per bowl.
For the tonkotsu, bones are boiled for over 24 hours for the broth, and pork belly is marinated for three hours, then boiled for six. It’s hakata style, meaning the noodles are straight and thin. Wavier varieties can be found in the shoyu, spicy chicken or veggie bowls. Extra broth or noodles are available as separate additions, as are toppings like marinated boiled egg, bamboo shoots, and fish cake. The amount of protein and spice level are adjustable.
Also in the lineup is the kara kara tonkotsu, a minced pork ramen with flavors influenced by Thai-born Leevongcharoen’s heritage, a culinary tangent he said he aims to bring to the otherwise strictly Japanese menu “every now and then.”
Besides ramen, otsumami (chopstick- or finger-“pinchable” snacks, $5-$9) run the gamut, including edamame, chicken-and-pork gyoza, yakitori chicken skewers, and eel-sauce covered braised pork or shrimp in pillowy steamed bao buns.
There’s sushi as well, with a selection of seven hand rolls available individually or in sets ($6-$44). For dessert, ice cream, either covered in rice-dough mochi (red bean or green tea; $7), or battered and fried (green tea or vanilla; $10). Each comes drizzled with chocolate syrup.
The Blade Runner theme comes into sharper focus with the cocktails ($12-$15) by Michael Ego, Glu’s director of Asian concepts.
There’s the Nexus-Six, a swirl of pumpkin and togarashi cold foam topping a mixture of tequila, Ancho Reyes, and espresso, or the Roy Batty, where the combination of white rum, strawberry sake, shisho and yuzu brings to mind the platinum-haired replicant’s state by the film’s end.
Boba sits at the bottom of the Electric Sheep’s blend of Japanese gin and cherry blossom calpico, while the Hannibal Chew balances cucumber syrup with roasted sesame infused vodka and mirin; a highlight of the evening.
Hitachino White Ale stands out among the six beers available ($7-$22), which include Kirin Ichiban, Winter Cider from Downeast, and Cloudy & Cumbersome IPA from Levante Brewing on a rotating tap. Three wine choices cover red, white, and prosecco, available by glass or bottle ($12-$75). A range of sakes are served by the cup, 3-oz glass, or bottle, depending on type.
Chika opens today.
1526 Sansom Street | 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. Tuesday-Thursday, Sunday; 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday | $5-$44