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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!
Ramen Review – Mamalan

Ramen Review – 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 Review – Hare and Tortoise

Ramen Review – 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!

 

 

Ramen Resolution – Bone Daddies

Ramen Resolution – Bone Daddies

As much as I like to think I am, I’m definitely not cool enough to live in East London. Wonky haircuts, Dr Martens, skinny jeans…it’s  just not my aesthetic. However, I lured Adam and Melissa there this weekend to visit a cat estate agent.

That’s correct, an estate agent for cats!

It’s an art thing. It’s a charity thing. It was a bit of a let-down if I’m honest, but here’s cat Taj Mahal…

After schlepping all the way to Old Street, I needed sustenance, so we located our nearest ramen joint.

I have previously reviewed Bone Daddies, so I was initially hesitant to return so soon, but the only other nearby option was closed. I have to say that I wasn’t a fan of the location of the restaurant – it felt like a bit of a soul-less ‘mixed use development’, but once inside the rock music added much needed atmosphere.

I have lost count of the number of times I’ve had the Korean chicken wings. So in an effort to broaden my culinary horizons we decided to share two starters between us. We chose two kushikatsu (breaded and fried meat and vegetables).

One (on the right in the photo below) had cheese, bacon and padron peppers…definitely not very Japanese. The other was spicy chicken and spring onion. They were nice, but I don’t think I’d get the chicken one again, it was a bit too spicy for me.

Strangely the ramen arrived before the starters, which was good because it meant I wasn’t fully already when I tucked into my Tonkotsu. It’s 20-hour pork broth was delicious, almost like gravy. If anything it was a little too rich, but incredibly tasty.

I have noticed that none of the ramen I’ve had since January have had the white and pink fishcake. Presumably this is because of some regulation or other, but that little floating thing does make a bowl of noodles look a bit more special.

This is how a bowl of ramen should look…

Sadly the tonkotsu came without many extras, just spring onion, beansprouts and bamboo shoots, so I added lots of nori, which I’d recommend.

Sidebar: Nori originates in the Asakusa area of Tokyo, where I spent more than a hour browsing in kitchenware shops in the Kappbashi district.

Adam and Mel shared some cold broccoli which came with a spicy mayonnaise; but they ate it too quickly and I didn’t get to have any.

This is, I’m not overstating here, the best ramen that I have eaten in the UK. I think I’d add mushrooms as well next time, but the broth was simply divine and the pork literally melted in my mouth.

The bill came to just over £75 for the three of us, with drinks included. I’m awarding this meal my first RAMEN (5 out of 5) of my Ramen Resolution.

I was literally full for the rest of the day too! Bonus!

In short; go to Bone Daddies, order the Tonkotsu, thank me later.  Or if you can’t get there straight away, go drool over the foodporn on their Instagram.

 

Ramen* Resolution – Gỗ

Ramen* Resolution – Gỗ

Nothing says ‘traditional Good Friday activity’ like a trip to the selfie exhibition at the Saachi Gallery. Highlights included me taking a selfie with (potentially) the first ever selfie and witnessing the genius of this monkey selfie. I’ll let you take a moment to fully appreciate how excellent this is.

Topping that was always going to be difficult, but maybe a steaming bowl of ramen would do it. A quick google revealed another list of the top 10 Ramen places in London and we headed off in the direction of the nearest one.

Or so we thought!

Unfortunately we got to Dozo on Old Brompton Road to find it closed between lunch and dinner services. Yes, I know it’s 2017 and I could have checked opening hours, but what sort of restaurant closes on a bank holiday?

Adam pointed towards Gỗ, a Vietnamese place opposite and looked at me.

Side note: There seems to be some debate about how to pronounce pho. The consensus online seems to be ‘fuh’, but our Vietnamese waiter definitely pronounced it ‘faux’.

To celebrate Easter we started with Lychee Martini’s. I’d have been happy to cancel my food order and just have more of this deliciousness. “We need to get lychee juice!” Adam exclaimed.

We shared starters, grilled chicken wings and ribs. Both came with pickled veg and a sweet vinegary sauce.

 

Then our bowls of organic chicken pho arrived…I tried to capture the steam in this gif.

The soup was a 16-hour beef broth. SIXTEEN HOURS!! Not too salty, I added a squeeze of lime and a dash of fish sauce, as well as the beansprouts and various herbs. Adam loaded his up with a spicy Sriracha-style sauce.

I’m not always a fan of rice noodles, which can sometimes be a bit soggy and look insipid, but these noodles were yummo.

The Easter celebrations carried on with a second cocktail and I went ‘off menu’ with the waiter’s recommendation a Saigon Colada. A Vietnamese take on a Pina Colada, which seemed to involve the not-unwelcome addition of passion fruit.

The total bill came to just over £70, which for two courses and two drinks is reasonable for London, but I suspect quite extortionate compared to authentic pho!

If I’m honest, I think I would have preferred ramen, mostly *I’m racked with guilt that I’m dangerously close to bending the rules of my resolution. However, this is by far the best Vietnamese I’ve had in London recently, and would recommend you go to Gỗ if you’re in the South Kensington area. There is also a sister branch in Soho, which I’ll make a point of checking out too!

I’ll be back with ramen next time I promise!