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Ramen Resolution – Thousand Knives

Ramen Resolution – Thousand Knives

Last Saturday I took myself over to Spitalfields for the We ❤ Asian Food Festival.

Now, before I go on, a word about food festivals – in general, I think they are pointless. They’re usually overpriced and repetitive. However, at just £5 for a ticket which included a free drink, it seemed like a no-brainer, and the advert I saw mentioned there were ramen vendors! Say no more!

I did a full lap of the venue and didn’t see a single ramen stall. My stress levels were mounting.

But then, I spied a lady slurping on noodles from a box. There were ramen here somewhere, I just needed to find them!

Another lap and a half later I found Thousand Knives hidden behind a queue for a bao stall. Apparently, they have a fully fledged restaurant in Dalston, so that’s another one added to the to-eat list!

The menu options were limited, but this is essentially street food/take out noodles, so I didn’t mind too much.

I went for the signature pork ramen just as it comes, and was not disappointed. In fact, the quality of take out ramen consistently surprises me – the noodles were firm, the egg was soft (although a little cold). The spring onions could have been sliced thinner and ideally, there would have been another slice of pork. However, for £8, this is some of the cheapest ramen I’ve had in the UK.

I give them a solid RAMEN (3 out of 5), which for noodles in a cardboard box is actually pretty damn good!

Ramen Resolution – Danbo

Ramen Resolution – Danbo

There’s no shortage of ramen joints in Seattle. After trying a few and an evening googling and reading TripAdvisor reviews I decided that the place I absolutely needed to visit was Danbo.

There were some really excellent reviews, and clearly, the word had gotten around – when I arrived at about 19:20 there was a queue to the end of the block.

I took myself on a little explore and found the Elysian Capitol Hill Brewery so stopped in for a beer; my strategy being perhaps it was the early evening rush and I should just give it a while.

Wrong!

About 45 minutes later (oh, ok, it might have been more than one beer) I trundled around the corner and, if anything, the queue had grown.

The beauty of travelling alone is that in such situations you don’t have the dilemma where you want to stay but don’t want to subject anyone else to waiting if they don’t really want to. No siree, I was committed to eating here!

I got chatting to a guy in front of me in the queue. This would definitely not happen in London!

Dan was a few years younger than me and worked at a car hire firm at the airport. He regularly eats at Danbo which I took as another excellent sign! He also gave me a wonderful spur-of-the-moment recommendation for the Pink Floyd Lazer Dome at the Pacific Science Centre, which I booked there and then for later the same evening. #Spontaneous!

Danbo offers customisation options on noodle firmness, broth thickness, spiciness and richness. I think I’ve said previously, if you get a bowl of ramen with perfectly read-to-eat noodles, then by the time you get to the last noodles they are overcooked. Opting for firmer noodles so they have some durability is definitely a top tip.

I went for the classic ramen and a side of yaki gyoza.

The broth was near perfection – leaving a slight oily residue on the roof of your mouth as a little reminder of the deliciousness, and a sweet nuttiness from toasted sesame seeds. The pork was soft and salty, and the egg yolk oozed into the broth just as it should.

It’s really hard to find fault with Danbo, other than the length of the queue, but that’s a reflection of how good the food is! There will likely be no surprise that I’m giving Danbo full marks, RAMEN (5/5).

Ramen Resolution – Kiki Ramen

Ramen Resolution – Kiki Ramen

It’s that time again, time for another Ramen Review!

Heads up, I’m currently in Dublin, and writing this in an emotional and Guinness fueled haze, but I think that can only work out well for the ramen I’m about to review!

A few weeks ago I was in Seattle. I managed to find the time, in 7 days there, to squeeze in 3 separate ramen joints. The first in the hat trick of reviews is over here.

The second place was a freak accident, and by far the earliest I’ve ever eaten the noods. I was early for the St Patricks Day Parade, and apart from a bit on how they are being really good people, the Amazon Spheres weren’t free to get in, so I was at a loss for things to do.

Kiki Ramen wasn’t one of the places I had got on my google hit-list, but I had a quick scan of the menu online and there was a ‘breakfast’ option! Ramen with bacon – I needed that in my life!

The item that actually enticed me in was the Lazy Devils (devilled eggs kiki style – whatever that is) but sadly they were only available in the evenings. Undeterred, I found a table and perused the menu.

Somebody needs to take responsibility for bringing ‘brunch noodles’ to the UK. East London hipsters would lose their actual minds! The broth was a bit on the thin side, but let us look at the facts – bacon, egg, mushroom, fishcake…these were contenders for the perfect noodle.

The only other thing which let down the Kiki Ramen restaurant was that they appeared to be playing two TV stations at the same time which it was too early for my brain to process.

Definitely check it out if you find yourself in Seattle, and let me know how those Lazy Devils are!

I rate this RAMEN (4/5).

Ramen Resolution: Karaage Setsuna

Ramen Resolution: Karaage Setsuna

After a long flight and a quick trip to Kerry Park to snap the picture (below) of Seattle’s iconic skyline, I was ready for ramen!

After being mesmerised by the view for a while, I turned to trusty Google Maps to find the nearest place that took my fancy and set off in the direction of the hipster-lite Belltown district.

I initially walked past Karaage Setsuna, I paused briefly to look at the menu, but decided to see what else might lie around the corner, but I soon doubled back. I think it was the smell of fried chicken that did it.

This is not a fancy place. The kitchen storage is in the restaurant, brooms and mops are scattered about. This is an authentic neighbourhood restaurant.

Karrage Setsuna roughly translates as “a moment of fried chicken”. Therefore it was a given that the signature chicken dish would be my starter, I added a side of spicy mayonnaise and chose the Ra-Min noodles (which I assumed to be a typo).

The noodles arrived first. A little on the watery side, rather than the thicker tonkotsu broths that I’ve come to prefer, but still very tasty, and the paper-thin slices of red onion added a crunch and a sweetness. My only comment was there was slightly too much coriander, which made it feel a bit more like pho than ramen.

That said, this restaurant pitches itself a Japanese-Hawaiian fusion, so a bit of a twist was to be expected.

The chicken arrived and was piled high. The chunks of thigh meat were a little larger than bite-sized, which made eating them tricky, but perhaps that says more about my chopstick prowess. The coating was salty and crispy, with the spicy mayo adding a good amount of heat.

There were other lone diners in the restaurant, which made me feel less awkward, and there is something very normal about eating ramen alone.

I have to also commend them for the addition of Narutomaki into the noodles. I always see the white and pink swirly fishcake always as an indicator of quality (even if I don’t know what it;s made of!).

I award Karrage Setsuna a grand total of RAMEN (4 out of 5), a thicker soup and this would have tipped into a 5.

Oodles of Noodles

Oodles of Noodles

Osaki Hiroshi, the author of The Secret History of Ramen in Japan, claims to eat 800 bowls of ramen per year. At a measly 14 bowls, I haven’t even come close to 10% of that in the last 12 months.

However, I think it’s safe to say that I’m a big fan and whilst I couldn’t claim to be an expert, I do have a well-developed sense of what I like, and what I would steer clear of.

Based on what I’ve learnt during 2017, I present my perfect ramen…now I just need to work out how to make it!

  • Broth – thicker/meatier ones have the edge over thinner soy or miso versions
  • Noodle – on the slightly hard end, and ideally the straight ones rather than curly ones
  • Toppings – Egg, swirly fishcake, seaweed, sweetcorn, cabbage and add cheese if available
  • Spoon – call me weird, but I prefer a ramen ladle to a rice spoon

There are still ramen joints I haven’t gotten around to trying (and I’m always open to recommendations!). I’m not done with blogging about this just yet, but take a look back at all of the blogs so far, or skip right to my faves Bone Daddies and Monohon.

 

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
2Monohon5/5
3Sakuramen4/5
4Bantam King4/5
5Koi Ramen4/5
6Okan Brixton4/5
7Bone Daddies - Soho4/5
8Kanada-Ya3/5
9Shoryu - Kingly Court3/5
10Lingo3/5
11Tonkotsu - Soho2/5
12Hare and Tortoise2/5
13Mamalan1/5
14GoNot Ramen!