I’ve made this resolution before, and haven’t always delivered on it, but again in 2024, I want to get back into posting blogs more regularly. So I guess I can make a start with the next #RamenResolution instalment!
For anyone who hasn’t been following along, a resolution that I made in 2016 was to eat more noodles, and I’ve been blogging about all of the places I’ve tried ever since. I gave up issuing ratings to the places a little while ago because food, like music, is so subjective and just because I like it doesn’t mean that you automatically will (but it’s ramen, so really what is there to dislike?!).
Some people have called Tori Soba Zagin Honten “ramen heaven’ and they were not overstating things. This is up there with some of the best noodles that I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying.
Many of the recommendations for places that I ate in Jpan came from Tiktok, but this particular recommendation for Tori Soba Zagin Honten in Osaka was from a friend, who described it as a “must-visit” location.
It was a little off the beaten path in a business district so took a little while to find the unassuming restaurant; in hindsight, we could probably have planned the day better to end up nearer the location instead of making a special trip from our accommodation around 30 minutes away. However, I think it meant we found at least one additional Eki Stamp (cute ink stamps at most train stations and tourist locations that collectors can add to books to chart their travels).
I’m not usually a massive fan of soba noodles in the UK, I find them a bit sour. So whilst I trusted the recommendation, I also was managing my expectations a little.
There was a short queue when we arrived, but we placed our order using the vending machine (see previous post for details) and took a seat on the small bench outside. After less than 10 minutes we were ushered inside perhaps one of the most serene restaurants I’ve set foot inside, it was like taking a breath. It was virtually silent, with most diners eating alone, and hushed conversations in the open kitchen.
There is only one variety of ramen on offer, chicken paitan, so menu selection was easy (although they do lots of other non-ramen dishes). We added the beef sushi and the chicken karaage.
Already creamy chicken soup is blended with a hand mixer which aerates it, making it smoother, and lighter in colour and leaving a frothy head. As well as fairly common additions of soft-boiled egg, beansprouts and onions there is a giant slice of pork and a thicker slice of chicken, and the whole bowl is loaded with fried burdock root which adds a crunch (at least if you eat it quickly before it soaks up the broth).
I really like seeing ramen prepared before your eyes – watching the precision and ritual that Japanese chefs take in adding all of the elements and ensuring it’s presented properly is captivating. Because the restaurant was so quiet it felt like even more of my focus was on watching the ceremony.
The chicken was wonderful – with salt and pepper added to taste. The beef sushi was incredibly good, although I hadn’t quite mastered the swish and flick to wrap the extra-long slice of beef around the rice in the way other customers did.
And then the main event. Ramen heaven. The broth was sublime, the blender adding air bubbles like a nitro-infused cocktail or a Guinness before it has settled, which made it taste lighter but still with the collagen stickiness that makes ramen incredible. The burdock root was earthy and added a nice texture, and the egg was cooked to perfection.
Please, if you are in Osaka, visit Tori Soba Zagin Honten. If ratings were still a thing this would be a 10 out of 10! You will absolutely not regret it. And the best part is the price, a bowl of some of the best ramen I’ve tasted cost the equivalent of £7.