Rating: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Locals are always right? Right? I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say "it depends".
Almost every tip I got in Japan from locals about ramen ended up being an exercise in fat-management. Each place that was hotly tipped ended up being swimming in fat globules, or containing enough carbs to see you through a winter in Siberia. Whilst I can understand the fact that if you grow up eating something, your tastes continually push further and further to the point where a newcomer would question your palate if introduced to the deep end of the pool.
When it comes to ramen, I am a middle-man. I like neither the thin, lifeless broths, nor do I like the extremely gravy-like, thick, "heavy taste" soups that are dished out to famished salarymen in every neighbourhood in Japan. I have partaken in their earthly lusts, and I have suffered with bouts of nausea for days afterwards.
Yoiko Ramen was most definitely for those inclined to dine at the greasy trough of experienced digestion.
Let's rewind a little.
The day started as most did in South Jakarta, waking slightly past 11am, having a shower and a coffee and peering out the window to see the sun shining on the pool. I had read a blog about the ramen scene in Jakarta by the hiphop artist Ramengvrl who seemed intoxicated with the promise of divine broths. During my stay there I tried 3 of her recommendations and one was superb, one was mediocre and this particular one was goddamn iffy. I will clearly state, this is personal preference, and I am in the minority when it comes to avoiding the "fat-back" ramen pourings so cherished in South East Asia.
Fast Forward, avoiding unecessary gripes about the Jakarta traffic, entering the place, heading to the 4th floor doubting myself but trusting the signage reassuring a lost soul. Entered the brightly lit rabbits warren with more rooms than P-Diddy's mansion, greeted the exhuberant chefs, sat in the furthest corner affording nice light for photography, and ordered my bowl.
With enough cholesterol to fuel Scotland, I was greeted to the shimmering product of that smiling kitchen. I spotted the gargantuan icebergs of pigfat floating amidst the cloudy wash of future stomach complaints. The egg thankfully hadn't been dunked in the effluence, and therefore protected it's integrity. I fought waves of fear seeing the fat curdle on the sides of the bowl that were slightly cooler. The broth stared at me with a menacing "I dare you motherfucker, I dare you".
I crossed myself out of petrification, picked up the spoon, and dipped it beneath the frothy catastrophe. Sip one coated my entire mouth with the broth of a dead farmyard animal. It's pungent fattiness caused me to gag. The underlying hit of dry fish didn't sit well with me in this context. I poked at the noodles and slurped up a few just to test the cook on them, decent. Next I turned my attention to the egg which I had foolishly plunged into the soup to add colour to the photo. It was sickly sweet, even tho cooked to perfection.
I added some togarashi hoping to cut the fatty taste a little, but it was pointless. The soup tasted good, but it was literally like eating a stick of butter or liter of duck fat. I only managed 1/3 before I had to throw in the towel or face a re-run of Tatsunoya where I had to down miniature bottles of Aquavit just to keep the broth down.
I understand completely why this is super popular with Japanese expats in Jakarta, as this is the comforting taste that they crave being away from their homeland. It would potentially be the same as me offering an Indonesian or Japanese a slice of brown cheese from Norway or a packet of Pickled Onion Monster Munch from Britain. Those tastes to an untrained palate would be like a blowback from a shotgun, and I highly doubt they would find them pleasing.
A couple of days later I tried a spectacular bowl of Ramen in Jakarta, just the way I like it, but that story we'll leave for another time.
All these recommendations are just personal opinions based on my palate, things change, chefs get fired or replaced, places open-close, relocate, so take it all with a pinch of MSG and discover your own gems too. But please do try a few of these, they have been researched exhaustively.
"Sadness is tempered by umami, grief by the motion of slurping, hope restored by the ladling of glistening, fatty broth"