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Ramen Resolution – Nanban

Ramen Resolution – Nanban

It’s been a couple of months since a ramen review. I did go somewhere not so long ago, but work has been crazy busy and I didn’t get chance to post about it; now I feel like it’s too late.

However, conscious that there were only two days of 2017 left, I wanted to squeeze in one last ramen adventure!

I took myself to Nanban in Brixton.

There were four factors which influenced this decision:

  1. It’s only about 20 minutes from where I live
  2. I have walked past it previously and always thought that it needed to be subjected to my pointless reviews
  3. One of their dishes was recently voted THIRD BEST DISH in London
  4. The restaurant is the product of former Masterchef winner Tim Anderson

I arrived at a half full restaurant at lunchtime. This time of year it can be difficult to decide if that is a sign to avoid, or that people still have leftover turkey to eat. I was shown to a bar stool and provided with an extensive menu, additional seasonal extras and special’s of the day.

I ordered a cocktail to sip whilst I waited; a plum bramble. I wouldn’t recommend this, I usually love a bramble, but the addition of plum wine was overpowering.

I think the first thing I noticed was the eclectic music choices. A fusion of Carribean and Radio 2 soft rock. As an aside, why don’t restaurants take a leaf out of Joe and The Juice’s book and curate Spotify playlists?

After a brief glance at the menu (I’d checked it out online first) I plumped for the Winter Chicken Karaage to start, followed by the Lamb Tam Tam Ramen. I also added an Onsen Egg.

A brief interlude to talk more about Onsen Eggs…

The Japanese eat a lot of eggs. It’s estimated each person eats 320 eggs per year, which is almost an egg a day. With that many eggs to eat, they have a variety of ways to prepare eggs which go beyond the standard fried/boiled/scrambled options.

Onsen Eggs are cooked in their shells at 67 degrees. This soft-sets the yolk and turns the white into a delicate custard. Traditionally they would be cooked suspended in baskets at the hot springs (onsen) but a similar technique can be used at home.

All the items arrived at the same time. The ramen broth smelt strongly of aniseed or sambuca.

I have no idea how they managed to get chicken as crispy as this. The only possible explanation is some sort of Christmas miracle. I didn’t really get much of the herby flavour, but there was plenty of yuzu mayonnaise which added a citrusy kick.

The broth was delicious. Creamy, thick, slightly spicy, deep meaty flavour. Heaven. I got to the bottom of the aniseedy flavour – a lone star anise lurking at the bottom of the soup, which blended perfectly with both the minced and sliced lamb.

This being my first Onsen Egg, I wasn’t really sure how to eat it. I tipped it into the broth. I’m sure that’s some kind of sacrilege. What was surprising was that the yolk was cold – I’m not sure if that’s intentional or not.

At just over £33, it was on the expensive end of the scale, but I justified it with the ‘it’s Christmas’ excuse that I typically employ between November and February.

I’m giving Nanban a solid RAMEN (4/5). It was a great way to complete the Ramen Resolution, and will definitely go back. Until then, I’ll be drooling over their food porn on Instagram.

RamenResolution has reached the end of its year…

It’s been fun having a project and I’m sad it’s over. What’s surprised me most is that the process of writing has actually taught me quite a lot.

Writing food reviews is difficult! I have new found respect for food critics, who have to find different ways of saying things are delicious!

I also think I should have thought about my rating system more at the start. Just a score out of five is hard. It should have been more nuanced, but if I’m honest I didn’t really know what I was doing!

Have you enjoyed my reviews? I genuinely would be interested in feedback. I’m not doing this for any particular reason, other than to document my adventures, but it’s always interesting to know how it comes across and if there are ways I could make it ‘better’.

There is every possibility that, in the absence of any other resolutions for 2018, I’ll continue blogging about ramen, and might branch out into other things. Whether you’ve read this or not, Happy New Year, all the best for 2018, and in the words of Bridget Jones…follow me on Twitter.

Ramen Resolution – Tonkotsu

Ramen Resolution – Tonkotsu

A long time ago a trip to London’s glittering soho used to mean luminous cocktails named after popstars and wristbands for free entry to Heaven.

These days if I find myself in that part of town it invariably means I’m seeking out a noodles.

How times change!

Tonkotsu is a place I have walked past loads, but only just gotten around to visiting. From the outset the signs were good: no empty seats when we arrived and windows fogged up by ramen steam. They’re also the proud as punch about their made-in-store noodles.

Weplumped for the ‘eat the bits chilli wings’, steamed brocolli with Japanese mayonnaise and the signature Tonkotsu ramen. (One of the many motto’s which guide me is that you should always sample dishes with the same name as the restaurant).

The chicken wings were delicious. The chilli sauce was fantastic, not the punchy heat that I was expecting, more of a slow burn, lingering in your mouth.

The ramen was ok. On the downside, the egg was too hard and the pork chewy, to the point where Adam left his. But on the upside the broth was silky-smooth and salty, and the bamboo shoots were incredible – tiny little sponges which had soaked up the broth.

I think I’d probably built Tonkotsu up in my head. They have a great menu, and it’s got a modern yet really authentic vibe. If only the food had been cooked to perfection, it would be up there in the leaderboard. As it is, with regret, I award it a RAMEN (2 out of 5).

Oh, and check it out…I now have a leaderboard, I just need to work out how to hyperlink the entries to the blog posts. That that can be a project for another time!

#RamenResolution Leaderboard

1Bone Daddies - Old St5/5
4Bantam King4/5
5Koi Ramen4/5
6Okan Brixton4/5
7Bone Daddies - Soho4/5
9Shoryu - Kingly Court3/5
11Tonkotsu - Soho2/5
12Hare and Tortoise2/5
14GoNot Ramen!
Ramen Resolution – Mamalan

Ramen Resolution – Mamalan

Confession: This is not actually a ramen review.

It should have been, but we panic-chose where we were eating and assumed (incorrectly) that an asian resturant in trendy Brixton Village would be purveyors of ramen-y goodness. We had spotted a free table, which at 7.30pm in London is not insignificant, so we plopped ourselves down before we had really studied the menu.

Instead, Mamalan is full on Chinese. We’d already gotten this far, and needed to be at a friends house soon, so we ordered the closest equivalent – noodle soup.

Obviously we also ordered a starter (and I think my new thing is getting a starter to share that I don’t fell quite so full afterwards).

The mama wings were spicy and tangy, with juts the right amount of heat for me. There was a strange vinegar on the table and we whacked a bit of that on too.

This was not ramen. The soup was far lighter and fresher. The noodles were different in texture. There were different vegetables lolling in the soup. There were wontons.

It was delicious, and it felt very nutritious, and like it was probably far healthier than ramen. But alas, ramen it was not, so sadly I have to rate it RAMEN (1 out of 5, and that’s just for the wings and the cocktails).

FYI, there is something to do with free noodles on their Instagram at the moment.

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