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Ramen Resolution – Hare and Tortoise

Ramen Resolution – Hare and Tortoise

I first visited Hare and Tortoise long before Ramen Resolution become my thing. In fact, long before I even really knew that ramen could be more than the little packets of salty ‘chicken’ noodles at all.

On my last visit, which I think would have been in 2012, I had a Katsu curry. I remember it being tasty, but as it’s been five years, it clearly wasn’t somewhere I was clamouring to return to.

I didn’t get to see much of this summer due to a variety of work things, but obviously there was time for some noodles here and there!

One of the warm evenings we took a stroll from Adam’s swanky crash pad to the Blackfriars branch of Hare and Tortoise. We were early and there was only one other family in there. We were outnumbered by staff by a ration of what felt like 12:1. I always find that a bit awkward.

The situation was improved when the sake arrived – unusually in a small bottle rather than a carafe.

We ordered our food. Hare and Tortoise seems more of a ‘typical Japanese’. It sells more than just ramen, and specialises in sushi and sashimi. I’m a fan of both, but that is not what RamenRevolution was all about! Our katsu prawns and ramen arrived simultaneously. The downside of this is that the broth keeps on cooking the noodles so once you get to them they were a bit too soft.

I opted for the Tantanmen ramen which had the added ingredient o peanut paste. This gave it a good mouthfeel, but part of me felt it was a shortcut rather than the long-boil broths which achieve the same effect.

Watch out, here comes the science…I discovered that the silken broths get that when the collagen in the animal bones starts to breakdown. I warned you, once you know the science it suddenly seems less delicious.

Overall Id say Hare and Tortoise was ok, but I think you can get better ramen, cheaper and in less formal surroundings. They might not be factors that you’re looking for, but ramen is essentially street food and I’m wary of places which try and pretend otherwise.

I give them a RAMEN (2 out of 5) which is my lowest score so far. It might be great for other things but in the ramen race both the Hare and Tortoise are trailing behind others.

Yes, I did just weave in an Aesop’s fable reference. That’s how I roll!

Ramen Resolution – Kanada-Ya

Ramen Resolution – Kanada-Ya

As I rushed from Tottenham Court Road station to Kanada-Ya last Friday I realised how much this part of town has changed in the last 10 years. Where once stood The Astoria lies just a big empty space 😢.

There use to be a little row of asian food restaurants around Denmark Street which were always packed, sadly most of those have now closed to make way for the Elizabeth Line 😢😢.

Kanada-Ya is a small restaurant just a little further towards Holborn and but having seen Giles Coren had waited outside (there’s a no-reservation system) there for a bowl of soup, I thought it was probably worth popping in.

As seems to be a running theme, I was late, but having already looked at the menu online, I knew I would be choosing the karaage (because: fried chicken) and the tonkotsu x (because: exclusive to London). With unlimited access to pickled ginger, this place was already looking to be a serious contender before any food arrived!

I actually forgot to take the picture before I started because I was so excited to get stuck in, hence the ‘floaters’ in the tangy yuzu mayonnaise. The chicken was juicy and crispy on the outside, but the texture was a bit weird, sort of stringy.

As the server placed it down she rotated it so the logo was at the top. Having been to a traditional tea ceremony in Kyoto I know the significance they place on simple gestures such as this.

The broth was alright, a bit thinner than I had expected. I re-read them menu and realised it was a combination of pork and chicken, so I assume that’s the issue. Nearly every time I’ve chosen a chicken option I’ve been disappointed. I think the lesson from this year will be that chicken-based ramen just isn’t for me.

A great thing about some ramen joints is the ability to order extra noodles if you have excess soup. the second helping of noodles was firmer, which I preferred.

The egg though. Let me tell you about the egg. The Tonkostu X doesn’t come with an egg as standard, but google pictures of ramen and there is invariably egg. I’m no purist, but there should always be an egg. This egg was perfection.

I’m a bit sad that I didn’t try an onigiri rice ball. The lady seated next to me had one and it looked great.

The overall bill came to just over £51, which I thought was pretty average value for London, and good considering it’s the first time we’ve had kaedama (the noodle refill). Overall I liked Kanada-Ya, but feel a little let down by my choices, which just means I’ll have to go back!

On this occasion I’m rating a middle of the road RAMEN (3 out of 5), but really any points taken away (other than the stringy chicken) are my fault rather than theirs.

Ramen Resolution – Sakuramen

Ramen Resolution – Sakuramen

I did a lot of walking in Washington D.C. Like, a LOT!

My wandering in Washington took me to Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park. A short stop on a bench to watch a girl hula-hooping and I instinctively reloaded the list I’d found of the best ramen joints in D.C.

To my luck, one was just around the corner. Not just any old ramen, this was the one which offered the option of adding cheese!

The Japanese don’t seem to be massive dairy consumers, so this is far from typical, in fact, something I have never seen before. I HAD to try it!

I psyched myself up first with a summer negroni at Roofers Union before crossing the road to Sakuramen.

The restaurant is in a basement, so from the outside it looked pretty quiet, but inside it was about half full and rock music playing. For a while I was on my own at a giant communal table #BillyNoMates.

There didn’t seem to be an alcoholic option, so I plumped for a Sprite. I then ordered the fried gyoza and the DC miso ramen.

Sadly, the gyoza never showed up, but I didn’t complain because I realised I probably didn’t need it anyway!

It was possible to just see into the kitchen, which seemed to be really busy, but my noodles arrived quickly.

An American couple came in and joined me at the long communal table. Like me, they knew exactly what they wanted before they had sat down! Sakuramen must do a roaring trade in cheesy noodles!

Another kamoboko gently floated in the broth, and there, lurking at the side of the bowl, a small mound of shredded Monterrey Jack cheese.

I sampled all elements separately just to taste, but then stored in the cheese. It gave the broth a slight sourness, without it being flavoured like cheese. It also added to the creaminess of the liquid.

The egg was perfect and pork itself was incredible, maybe some of the best I’ve had. The fashion in America seems to be to cut up the slices of pork, which makes it a lot easier to eat too!

I would highly recommend Sakuramen. It’s such a shame that my starter didn’t arrive and that there wasn’t the option (that I could see) of a cocktail or a sake, so I have to dock points for that. However it did make the meal super cheap, coming in at $18. The addition of the cheese though, that was a revelation! Something I could see becoming popular in the UK, or in my kitchen at least!

Even with the missing starter, I rate Sakuramen a RAMEN (4 out of 5).

Ramen Resolution – Bantam King

Ramen Resolution – Bantam King

Back in January I committed to a year of eating more noodles. This has had the added bonus advantage of making dinner choices so much easier.

If ever I’m stuck, pondering what to eat, a simple solution is ramen!

That was the case this week in Washington D.C. Sure, I could have had a burger, or a Philly Cheese Steak, or a kebab from one of the thousands of trucks. But I’m committed to my quest for noodles, and I wanted to see what they would be like in a land that invented cheese in an aerosol can.

After some extensive research* I had found the 14 best ramen joints in the city.

With just 72 hours there, it was a tall order!

The first place I tried was Bantam King, where the speciality was chicken-based broth, rather than the more traditional pork. It was a really vibrant place, and I got a sense that it was where locals eat, which I always take as a good sign.

I’ve had chicken ramen before from Bone Daddies, so I was interested to compare and contrast.

Eating alone is a strange affair, but there were at least 4 others in the restaurant without dates.

Bantam King were off to a good start…they offered a special yuzu chuhai cocktail. Which was a no brainier, and as delicious as one would expect.

I ordered the KO Wings and a Shoyu Ramen (with an added marinated egg).

The wings were a slightly less spicy, more sticky version of those at Bone Daddies, and the scattering of spring onions (scallions?!) added a slightly more savoury note.

The ramen arrived, steaming and delicious! I don’t think I’ve seen sweetcorn in a bowl of ramen before, and as much as I love it usually, I wasn’t convinced.

Let’s take a moment to recognise that there was a Kamaboko (the swirly white and pink thing) which is a Ramen Resolution first!

Every bowl in actual Japan had one of these bad boys. I guess the food restrictions in the UK mean they are banned? Either way, serious authenticity points!

The broth was a bit thin (maybe it’s a feature of chicken broth?) and the egg, although tasty, didn’t have the same golden colour that I like.

I really enjoyed Bantam King! The highlight was the wings, which I’d have gladly eaten again!

I also had to have another chuhai so it was pretty pricey ($39) but the staff were super friendly and helped explain different menu options, which is something that hardly ever happens in the UK. I’d definitely recommend, and rate them RAMEN (4 out of 5).

* Or just chose the top result on Google

Ramen Resolution – Koi Ramen

Ramen Resolution – Koi Ramen

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…Friday night is noodle night! 

After one of the longest weeks at work in a while (I’ve clocked up 102 hours) I couldn’t be bothered cooking. I didn’t fancy the typical takeaway staples, but thankfully found the nearby Koi Ramen on Deliveroo!

I was skeptical about what they would actually be like when they arrived, but anything was better than slaving in the kitchen!

This is sort of what ramen is all about, a quick, tasty and filling meal, with few frills. Noodles came packaged in plastic cartons which I’d associate with Play D’oh. But as is often the case, appearance isn’t everything.

The menu options are limited. Choice of three types of gyoza (we tried all of them, obvs!) and choice of three types of ramen – spicy, normal and veggie. There was an option to add an egg (why would anybody not?!) but this was not the customisable affair offered by other Ramen Resolution places.

On our trip to Japan we sadly didn’t get chance to go to the gyoza museum in Osaka, but I understand that they’re relatively recent additions, only really becoming popular after the Second World War.

The crispy gyoza were excellent. I think the chicken was my favourite.

The miso pork bone broth was up there with some of the best I’ve had, and did that ‘stick to the roof of your mouth’ thing that, to me at least, indicates goooooood ramen.

This is also the cheapest ramen that I have had since starting out on this quest. Admittedly we didn’t have alcohol but the whole lot came in at £28.50 between two of us.

I’m giving a solid RAMEN (4 out of 5), but I have to add that this feels unfair.I’m marking it down only because I was eating it at home. I will definitely have to check out one of the three Koi Ramen popup restaurants for the full experience.

The discovery of noodles to the door could be the start of a slippery yet delicious slope!

Ramen Resolution – Monohon

Ramen Resolution – Monohon

Six months in to my ramen resolution I’m averaging one new restaurant per month, which, frankly, is rather less than I had hoped for when I set myself this goal way back in January.

Mohohon translates from Japanese as “The Real Thing”, a very apt name for the ramen that we tried out last weekend, which are up there with some of the best I’ve had.

I’d spent the day drinking incredible cocktails at The Alchemist near Liverpool Street but didn’t have dinner plans. A split second later, we leapt into the back of taxi and headed to Old Street, placing our faith in Google that there was a ramen place somewhere near Old Street.

From the outside Monohon reminded me of Okan in Brixton. Small frontage, slightly steamy windows and a prominent and vibrant kitchen on the left hand side.

However, the menu was like nowhere we have eaten before. Even in actual Japan (although that could be because of my rudimentary Japanese).

The choice was limited to just four dishes; two soupy ramen, and two soup-less. Not even a starter in sight! I was apprehensive about no soup, but decided that it was worth the gamble.

Having enjoyed the Dracula ramen from Shoryu, I chose the Taiwan Maze Soba, which promised ‘spicy garlic’, but I swapped my poached egg for the more traditional soft boiled egg. You can see the insane amount of crushed raw garlic that was served!

Meanwhile Adam, lover of the slow cooked pork, opted for the Aruba Soba, also sans soup, although his was a bit wetter than mine! I have no idea what he was looking at…maybe the same thing as the guy in the background!

Oh. My. Days. The made in-house noodles were delicious (apparently they’re boiled in spring water rather than London tap water).

Our experiment paid off. Soup-less ramen might not be monohon, but they are bloody delicious and I’ll definitely be going back for more! After seeing a picture on their Instagram, I already know what I’m going to have!

As you can see, we also treated ourselves to a cold sake, but to be honest this wasn’t that special.

Overall it came in at £25.50 between us, which is one of the cheapest that we’ve had. Bonus!

Maybe I was drunk, maybe I’m getting soft, but I’m awarding Monohon my second RAMEN (5 out of 5) of the series!



My challenge to emergency planners in the wake of Manchester

My challenge to emergency planners in the wake of Manchester

I want to preface this short post with two caveats

  1. I think the responders in Manchester have done, and continue to do, an incredible job. Not just the emergency services, not just the NHS staff, but everyone who has helped in any way. It’s a clear demonstration of the many supporting the few.
  2. My sincere condolences are with all the families of those killed, and with anyone affected by Monday’s events. I encourage you to dig deep and donate to the appeal fund to help support them through the difficult months and years ahead.

I didn’t know any of the victims or casualties from Monday’s attack, but I did follow one on Twitter. He brought his infectious sense of humour to my news feed. His name was Martyn Hett.

Martyn was 29. Facebook was launched when he was 16, Twitter when he was 18. He, and millions of others (myself included) have grown up not just with ‘IRL’ friends, but a whole network of online friends and acquaintances. Communities for whom sharing the same geography isn’t a factor.

I’ve seen outpourings of grief online from people that never knew Martyn. I’ve also seen those people supporting each other, showing compassion and kindness. The ripples of the incident go far beyond the physical communities within which he moved.

With more of us being connected through social media (or other platforms the internet has to offer), I think this needs to be a factor in how we design emergency response.

The world, our cities, and the people within them are constantly changing. It’s difficult (perhaps impossible) for large organisations to react quickly to every single one of those changes.

My hope is that emergency planners, especially those digital natives who have grown up online like Martyn, continue to challenge current processes, ensure arrangements reflect changes in society and above all, don’t forget that you’re doing this for anyone who is affected by an incident, no matter where they happen to be.