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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

What: The original Musashi tonkotsu

Where: Ramen Musashi, 44491 Town Center Way, Suite G, Palm Desert

How much: $14

Contact: 760-674-7299; ramenpalmdesert.com

Why: The broth is stellar.

Food trends usually arrive in the Coachella Valley about five years later than they arrive in bigger cities. Take ramen, for example: You can’t walk several blocks in any of the major West Coast cities without coming across a ramen shop or three—but here, they are few and far between.

I love a great bowl of ramen, which why I was excited when I learned several months ago about the opening of Ramen Musashi. One of the reasons for my excitement was the pedigree: It’s a sister restaurant of Musashi Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar, which has been open in Palm Desert since 1996, making it one of the valley’s oldest Asian restaurants.

I went to lunch there one recent weekday with my friend Debra. While Ramen Musashi offers vegetarian, chicken and even cold-ramen options, along with a variety of appetizers, Debra and I both ordered the original Musashi tonkotsu—featuring creamy pork bone broth and thin noodles, and topped with braised pork belly chashu, onion, marinated egg, marinated bamboo, kombu, shitake mushrooms and garlic chips.

After the fantastic server delivered the gorgeous, steaming bowls of food, we dove in … and wow: The ramen was revelatory. All of the ingredients were perfect. The pork was tender and delicious; the egg was a creamy delight. The garlic chips and onion did not overwhelm, and the noodles were just right.

But for me, ramen is all about the broth—and this tonkotsu broth was stellar. It was packed with umami, seasoned masterfully and soooooo delicious.

Thanks to the amazing ramen and the great service, Ramen Musashi is pretty special—as good as any of those major-city ramen shops.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Bi Bim Bap

Where: JOY Asian Cuisine at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio

How much: $17

Contact: 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com/prod/dining/dining.php#joy

Why: So many flavors and sensations!

Once upon a time, casino food was looked down upon. I grew up in Reno, Nev., home of the Club Cal Neva, which for years advertised a 99-cent ham-and-eggs meal on billboards far and wide. And, yes, you get what you pay for.

Of course, things have changed since those days, when casinos were pretty much limited to Nevada and Atlantic City. Today, casinos can be found most anywhere—and they’ve upped their game, no pun intended, when it comes to food. In fact, some of the world’s best restaurants are found in casinos. The same can be said about the Coachella Valley: I’ve recently discovered that one of the area’s best Asian restaurants can be found inside of Fantasy Springs.

JOY offers a pan-Asian menu, and on my inaugural visit there, I was happy with every dish that I tried. The kimchi? Amazing. The war wonton soup? Packed with flavor. And the bi bim bap? One of the best preparations of this dish I’ve ever had.

What made the JOY version of this Korean classic so gosh-darned yummy? Well, there is the well-seasoned beef. (My only nitpick is that I wanted a little more.) Then there are the tasty mushrooms and vegetables. And last but oh-so-certainly not least is the rice, oh that rice—pillow-soft in some parts, and delightfully crispy along the sides of the blazing-hot bowl.

Regular readers know I am not thrilled with the Asian food on offer here in the Coachella Valley. Well, I am feeling a little better about things after the first of what will most likely be many visits to JOY. My mouth waters at the mere thought of that bi bim bap; it was truly excellent.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The BBQ Pork and Egg Roll Vermicelli Bowl

Where: Pho Vu, 34260 Monterey Ave., Palm Desert; also at 79630 Highway 111, No. 103, La Quinta; coming soon to 285 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $8.95

Contact: 760-324-1888 (Palm Desert); 760-775-2417 (La Quinta); phovurestaurant.com

Why: Pork and “Vietnamese vinaigrette” rock together.

Let’s face it: With a few notable exceptions, the Asian-food scene in the Coachella Valley is pretty dismal.

Yeah, there are some good Thai and Indian joints … but how many truly outstanding, say, Chinese-food restaurants are there? Heck, let’s not even go that far: How many better-than-passable Chinese-food restaurants are there?

The same can be said for Vietnamese food—although things are improving, thanks in large part to the introduction of Pho Vu, with newish restaurants in Palm Desert and La Quinta, and a third location coming soon to Palm Springs.

I recently stopped by the Pho Vu in Palm Desert, located in one of those seemingly endless strip malls near the intersection of Dinah Shore Drive and Monterey Avenue. I was craving one of my fave Vietnamese dishes: bún, aka a vermicelli bowl, with lettuce, cucumber, mint, cilantro, green onions, nuoc cham (touted on the menu as a “Vietnamese vinaigrette”; it's a fish-sauce-based dressing, of sorts) and one’s toppings of choice; I chose pork and egg roll.

I am elated to report that my craving was more than satisfied.

One of my favorite things about good bún is that it’s a veritable cornucopia of textures, flavors and even temperatures: The noodles are soft; the warm pork is slightly chewy and salty; the cool veggies are crisp and just a wee bit bitter; and the fish sauce is tart and vinegary. Despite the incredible sensory variety, it all comes together beautifully.

Yeah, the Asian-food world in the Coachella Valley has a loooog way to go. But it’s on the upswing, thanks in part to Pho Vu.

Published in The Indy Endorsement