I'm not going to go through the usual rant about always wanting to try Ramen wherever I am. I spent an obscene amount of time at the immigration office getting my papers in order after my journey through Transnistria. Popped into a pub for a few beers to calm down afterwards and then ploughed through the rain to Kotobuki to try their ramen which came highly recommended.
The broth was pretty fair. The noodles were crap instant noodle pack ones so that was a let down. The egg was overcooked and not marinated, BUT the pork was some of the most tender pork I have eaten. Really superb. That bumped the ratings up by a full point due to its perfect melting deliciousness.
Never discount the fact that ex-pats live all over the world and some of them are passionate about food, so it's always worth trying out.
Opting for the most local place suffering from intense jet-lag and a nagging cold from Oslo, this place was 300 meters from my hotel and the reviews were promising.
I got a slight feeling of apprehension upon seeing it was a street stall with seating inside a shopfront because in Thailand that works for local food, but i've never eaten Ramen at a place like that. Buoyed by my excitement at being back in the big city, and serious withdrawal symptoms, I headed on in and ordered the special.
The service was polite and fast. The food, massively underwhelming. The noodles had a nice chew to them, the egg was acceptable, the chicken pretty tasty, but what let this down was the broth. It was so thick and rich that it felt like you were eating Christmas gravy that had been reduced far too long. It created a gluey sensation on the palate and left me feeling a bit queasy. Needless to say, I didn't finish it.
At 140 Bhat it's definitely not on the expensive side, but when eating ramen in Bangkok its worth spending a bit more and getting a lot more quality.
The best Khao Soi I ever had was in a now demolished hotel in Chiang Mai back in 2003. Memories of that bowl always flood back to me whenever I take a chance on a new spot, and invariably I am left comparing what was to what could be. Coincidentally, last night I was chatting with 2 chefs in a bar and both of them highly recommended Hom Duan saying they eat there twice a week religiously. I grabbed a cab, headed to Ekkamai, found the spot, noticed only 1 foreigner in there and a packed restaurant full of locals slurping down big bowls of hot soup. Ordered at the counter, within 3 minutes my Khao Soi arrived with the regular mustard greens, lime slice and shallots on a small side-plate.
I dug in.
The broth became more and more complex the further down you got, a characteristic I prefer since you don't get tired of it as easily as super rich flavours. I read a few online reviews and one mentioned that the cumin content here was a tad higher than normal places. I can't say I would have noticed that without the words ringing in my brain, but I did think it was a touch too much. However, this hardly took anything away from what was a great bowl of Khao Soi, and priced at 90 baht with a coke you could hardly complain.
I'll be back here if i'm in the Ekkamai area again.
With jet-lag still punishingly strangling the life out of me, I awoke at 01.00 am, fell back asleep at 7am, got up at 1pm and decided I deserved a good bowl of Ramen.
Ikkousha was a short cab ride from my hotel, and had very favourable reviews online. The fact that the broth looked good in photos also helped, as that can very often be a litmus test in such cases.
The service was quite slow, but friendly. The prices were reasonable. Ramen arrived with a glass of soda water, and I dove in (taking photos beforehand of course). The broth was solid, slightly more fatty that Kio but not as rich as Bankara, the egg was cooked well but not marinated so it was a little boring, the noodles were regular ramen noodles and cooked well, the pork flavourful but lacking a bit in the tenderness department. All things considered a very decent bowl, but not pushing for the top 3 spot yet in Bangkok.
Knowing my propensity for pleasure found at the bottom of a bowl of noodles, it didn't take long to find another one. I landed late last night in Kochi after an uneventful flight from Malaysia. Managed to find the guesthouse and hit the hay around 3am. Woken numerous times by screaming kids, then by adults screaming at the screaming kids, I gave up sleep around midday and started searching for lunch.
Just down the lane was a highly rated Tibetan place which was perfect for a brunch-type deal. It was located after the turn in a very narrow alleyway, and another Indian restaurant had sprung a genius plan of sabotaging the Tibetan place by having a huge banner saying MOMOS on their wall so that the unsuspecting tourist would think this was the spot. In fact the real place was out of view around the corner. I almost got duped but had seen photos of the interior online so I knew something was fishy.
I sat upstairs, away from the German tour groups peering eyes. Chicken Thukpa, Lime Soda plain no sugar no salt.
The broth was rich and delicious, the noodles were the packet-type affair, the chicken was tender and the vegetables added a nice crunch. Delicious start to my 2 months in India.
Seriously? Third day in a row?
Yes. I have just spent 5 months in Norway where I have not been able to find a decent bowl of ramen, so coming to the land of Thai food it sound incredulous to spend my first few days gorging on ramen, but I am an addict.... and I am not ashamed to say it. Besides, I already had a couple of great Thai meals and will be here another month so there is plenty of time.
Now onto the ramen. Uma Uma, never been before, took a cab, ordered, waited patiently in the hopes that this could be the next best thing... it ALMOST was.
Noodles were of the ultra-thin type which is not my personal fave, but still had some bite to them. The broth was deep, rich, not too fatty, perfectly balanced, the Chashu was up there with some of the best ever: MELT-ON-YOUR-TONGUE tender, full of flavour, absolutely incredible. Egg was cooked a few seconds the wrong side of perfect, but made up for it in leaps and bounds with the marinade, a deep smokey soy flavour. I also love when anyone puts bean sprouts on as garnish, adding that crunchy element. All in all this doesn't topple Bankara or Kio but sits strongly in third place. A crowning achievement and proof that you should always try new places.
The holy grail for Shoyu Ramen in Bangkok has surely been found? Upon publishing my review of Uma Uma, one of the managers kindly wrote to thank me for my review, but also suggested if I wanted a great Shoyu Ramen, to head to his personal favourite. Since it was just around the corner from Studio Lam, and a 15 minute walk from my hotel, I simply had to try it today for lunch.
The spot is a small, cosy ramen shop with counter space up front and seating in the back for families and bigger groups. I hid on the corner part and ordered their speciality Shoyu with extra pork. The menu described it as the stock being a mix of vegetables, chicken and pork bones, and bonito (which can polarise some people due to its "fishy taste") so I already had in mind what it would taste like. However, this was flavour +
Dark, umami-packed broth, absolutely sensational pork (some of the best I've ever eaten), and a well cooked egg along with the slight difference of Soba Noodles instead of "regular" ramen noodles. The soba were cooked to perfection, the chew was excellent and the overall texture was spot on.
I was dying to find a good Shoyu place in town since its not every day you feel like eating a calorie-laden bowl of Tonkotsu, so I am forever grateful to the Uma Uma person for tipping me off about this. In the years to come this will feature heavily on my Bangkok agenda.
Ichiran and Ippudo are simultaneously average, but sometimes offer a glimpse of real ramen flavour if you visit late at night or have gone months without. This time around I hadn't had a ramen in almost 6 months, and was at the airport with 3 hours to kill. Burger King, McDonalds or Ippudo. I went for the latter.
Having tasted their Tonkotsu broths before and never been largely impressed, I opted for the special Shoyu Bowl and found a quiet place away from people at the back. The bowl came, I kinda knew straight away this was going to be average. First sip the soup, SALT BOMB! I know it's Shoyu but holy hell this was literally just soy sauce. The pork was chewy, the egg was alright, the noodles were standard and the menma ok.
A disappointing bowl, but you know it as soon as you enter. Its the lesser of a few evils.
Another day, another adventure. This time the rain was a sheet of impenetrable glass, so I was forced to use a Grab taxi to seek out yet another Ramen place that lay untested and untried. I had read a lot of good feedback online, and it was highly rated despite its bizarre location.
The Grab driver had no idea where it was and the address didn't show up so I had to get off a couple blocks away and walk. Approaching the tiny soi where the place was stood an old lady who just looked at me and shouted "RAMEN?" and pointed. I walked in, was told I had to wait since it was packed (good sign), shown my ordering sheet, perused the menu, went for a spicy Tonkotsu to ward off the chills, and sat back waiting until a spot at the counter opened.
Within 10 minutes I was seated between 2 strangers (the fear started), my heart trembling at the thought of raising the spoon to my mouth and having the contents shake off in utter nerves. The bowl came, the chef spoke to me shortly asking "How the hell did you find this place?". He was Thai but had just left a head-chef position in New York to open a Ramen spot in his hometown. "This place desperately needs good ramen, they have everything else except that, and I hope I've created that now". I spooned in my first mouthful of broth. Excellent. The menma was on the sweet side but crunchy and good, the egg was perfectly marinated and cooked, the noodles totally decent but not amazing. The only thing that let it down slightly was the Chashu. It was quite firm and toothsome, which I can definitely forgive when the rest of the bowl tasted as it did.
I actually managed to clear the whole thing, paid, tipped, complimented the chef and headed off in the rain to order another cab back home to wait it out until calm was restored.
As the Aussies would say: Yeah, Nah!
I wound up in yet another Grab taxi hurtling my way to the night market to try this Khao Soi place that always creeps onto top 10 lists in Chiang Mai. My driver was confused as to why it was called Islam? I didn't have an answer for him other than the owners were probably muslim (they were). He added that the world is going to hell because of the Chinese building hotels and casinos everywhere and putting locals out of work, I gently nodded.. hungry.
The spot was in a small soi, a giant place with a rather unnassuming facade, I wandered in, found a vantage point as far away from people as possible and ordered "Khao Soi Gai".
Within 2 minutes flat the food came. Worryingly fast. It wasn't hot, the chicken was tough, the noodles were cut into small pieces like kids spaghetti, the "crispy" noodles became mushy after 10 seconds, the curry soup was thin and uninspiring and doused with soy sauce so much that it overpowered everything else.
I left most of the bowl, paid, smiled and vowed to tick that one off the list and never return.
Nothing brings violence to my hearts core more than Tofu. Crippled sole inserts from 30 year old shoes laid out in rubbery fields to soak blandness up from dead rivers, only to be "kissed by the flame" in a void attempt of imparting any more flavour than nothingness possesses. Anyone who could make me eat Tofu and actually prefer it over literally any other ingredient on earth, deserves a Night-hood.
This bowl of Vegan Ramen at Zest did indeed include the torment of Tofu, but had enough other options to disguise the floating particles of polystyrene. The broth was a deep shiitake flavour rounded off with some specks of chilli, seeds and fresh herbs. Noodle-wise, this wasn't a miracle, favouring the overcooked standard packet noodles you get all over India. Some cleverly selected vegetables and a surprising amount of depth from the broth left me only missing a nice piece of chashu or a perfectly boiled egg.
Kudos to the chefs for obtaining so much umami from meatless, boneless stock.
Propped up at the counter at Sanmai Ramen, I took a moment to ask the chef if he had any recommendations about good Khao Soi joints in town. He thought for a moment, then said "Mae Sai does great beef bowl". I noted it down on my phone and went about my business for the next couple of days, always planning on visiting it at some point. Another random night 2 Thai chefs sat down next to me at a bar and started talking about food. I told them about my slight addiction to Khao Soi and they immediately beamed at me "Khao Soi Khun Yai, many many tourists but very good food".. I told them I ate there and it was spectacular, the other guy then blurted out "Khao Soi Mei Sai does very good beef version". Then and there started a cycle of 5 consecutive mornings where I tried to get up before they were closed, and failed miserably.
Today was the day! I set my alarm, headed out by Grab to hunt it down in the small soi baked on with sweltering heat. I grabbed a table (unfortunately had to share, it was packed), wrote down my order and sucked down on my ice cold coke to try regain some temperature balance within.
Bowl arrived. You knew it was going to be good. Slightly thinner "curry" than at Khun Yai, but packed with flavour. Incredibly tender beef that still kept its texture, great noodles, good crispy noodles, and a bloody hot chilli sauce to pour on if the broth was too tame.
Definitely worth tracking down since it's a little outside the main drag, but this bowl is up there, but just didn't have the depth to knock Khun Yai off it's throne.
In true idiot abroad style, I actually got back to the hotel, drank some water, and decided to head out for one last bowl (3 bowls in one morning) before retiring from Khao Soi for at least a few months.
Samerjai had featured on a lot of "Best Khao Soi" lists, been recommended by my Thai friend Amit, and also been highly recommended by another couple of "food-forward" people. I was starting to like sitting in the back of Grab taxis. The drivers barely talk to you, the cars are generally clean and the AC has been blasting all day. You can just gaze out the tinted windows and suffocate on life's emptiness for a brief spell.
Another out-of-the-way spot, housed in a huge canteen style building with rows of food stalls. The Khao Soi stand was right at the front, which is why the punters come here. I was served mightly quickly, but the food was steaming hot so that's always a plus. First look, I kinda knew where this was headed. It would taste good, but it would be too rich/creamy for me. Spot on.
The noodles were a solid bunch, the chicken was nice and flavoursome, the crunchy noodles on top were unsatisfactorily "sweet", and the broth had far too much coconut cream (or condensed milk) in it to deliver a deep punch. The flavours were all washed out in this creamy-sweet overload which did not abate when mounds of chilli paste were added.
I can see why people like this Khao Soi, the flavours were good but the over-riding flavour was sugar and cream. Two things I try to stay away from in everyday life.
Having sworn off Khao Soi after eating 3 bowls in one day, I found myself unwillingly checking out one last spot since Andy Ricker said it was his favourite spot in Chiang Mai, and SP Chicken was closed.
Housed in a large, old wooden building this Khao Soi institution is barely a stones throw away from the ever popular (and too sweet) Samerjai. I ordered the chicken bowl, slightly recoiling when the words left my mouth. A cold glass of water was produced, and ten short minutes later a bowl set before my eyes. It looked good.
Personal taste aside this was a very good bowl of Khao Soi, however, for me it was a tad on the sweet side too. The curry sauce was packed with flavour and had a slightly thicker consistency than Islam, but lacked the altogether luxurious depth of Khun Yai. The noodles were proper, the meat was flavoured well, the side plates and chilli paste added texture, heat and complexity to the dish. However, all things aside, I see why Andy may love this place, but i'm a Khun Yai addict and will be forever more.
I know... I know... Odessa, Ukraine? RAMEN? WTF?
After gorging myself silly in Kadikoy for 2 weeks straight, I just had to have a bowl of Ramen to restore peace and order in my soul. I was googling frantically the night before I flew to Odessa and noticed they had a spot that did Momo's & Ramen. How could I not try?
Situated downtown, about 3 blocks from my Airbnb I ventured out on a blistery midday (perfect for ramen), and sat in the far corner, opposite to where the 20 or so other people were busy laughing, watching their iPhones and engaged in conversation. I found a corner with no neighbours and a wall to stare at. The bowl arrived. It looked rather odd, broccoli floating on top (I had asked for them to omit the corn, which they did) and all sorts of veggies that normally don't end up in a bowl of Ramen.
Putting my predjudice aside, I sipped the broth.... actually pretty ok. Dashi-Shoyu-ish flavour. The noodles were far overcooked an mushy, the pork tasted good but was just regular stewed pork and had no marinade flavour. The egg was actually superb, very well cooked and marinated nicely. Shockingly enough, this was a better bowl of ramen than I have had anywhere in Oslo (shame on you), so never discount a place based on it's location. Last year, remember, Kazu in Slovakia had one of the best Shoyu Ramen outside of Japan.
If you're ever in Odessa.., Try it.
It's always a gamble trying "ethnic fare" in small, strange places. However, sometimes you get a positive surprise.
Christina had mentioned that there was a small Pho place in a market area on the outskirts of Odesa. Curiosity got the better of me and I summoned an Uber and headed off for the 15 minute ride. The weather was blisteringly hot, but thankfully the restaurant had an indoor area with AC. I ordered a beef pho, and twiddled my thumbs in anticipation.
What arrived at my table was actually pretty darn decent. It tasted better than some Pho i've even had in Vietnam, because the most important part (the broth) was on point. They had a few cultural differences including a hard boiled egg, but i'll let that slip. The beef wasn't exceptional quality, but the price reflected that. Everything else was surprisingly good, and I left with a full stomach and google translate compliments to the two Vietnamese chefs.
My first day in the beautiful city of Lviv involved walking down a small side-street to find a Borscht restaurant. On the way back I saw a group of people hunched over bowls of what seemed like Ramen, so I had to go have a better look. Sure enough, Noa was newly opened, and serving up Lviv's answer to Ramen. I had to try it.
First off, every country has their own peculiar spin or style of ramen, the Eastern Europeans seemingly love lettuce and other vegetables like broccoli in theirs, which isn't always a success. I ordered the Chashu Ramen, hold the corn (and throw it into a dark dungeon somewhere). I'll start by pointing out that this chashu pork is up there with some of the best i've tried outside Japan. Utterly faultless, texture and flavour just utterly mesmerising. The egg too was perfectly cooked, perfectly prepared and the soy-marinate was not too strong or sweet. The broth itself had some staying power but was a little lacking in deep flavours, but the main culprit were the noodles. Home-made but with the texture of spaghetti thats both al dente and over-cooked at the same time. A bizarre experience.
I went back another day to try the beef one (below) and the broth was better, fattier, deeper but the meat itself was chewy. Everything else was about the same as the Chashu bowl. Still, a medium-good bowl of Ramen trumps a lot of other things in my books.
This was the second time I ate at Pho Mai, the first visit being a good one. Having heard numerous reports from friends that the quality varied drastically from almost sublime, to bath-water, the knot in my stomach tightened with every labored step. I arrived to find the lights off and doors locked, 2.10pm, said they opened at 2 online. I decided to call my sister for a few minutes and lo and behold, during my call the owner came out and opened the door.
Inside I just ordered the Beef Pho, forgetting to even look at the menu. I chose a vantage point that offered my back to the counter, and a view through a window. My bowl arrived after 5 minutes, placed down by the cheery older owner. He mentioned he was from Saigon, and beamed at the bowl before me quietly adding "This one is better than in Vietnam". Tho I won't call him a liar, he was stretching the truth. The Pho in Oslo doesn't hold a candle to most places in Ho Chi Minh, but far be it from me to go down memory lane now.
Soup was almost perfect. Deeply flavoured, nice hints (but not overpowering) spices, tender beef, solid noodles and a plate of accompaniments that you'd hope for. The addition of the small ginger slices was a treat, and after a few splodges of garlic-chilli paste the bowl sung wonderful melodies.
Mark Wiens travels the world to eat. I do the same, but just don't appear on camera, or get paid for it. After he spent some time in Chiang Mai he concluded that this spot had the best Khao Soi by far of anywhere else in town. Not a man who's opinion I take lightly, I had to go try it out for myself, because of course: taste is subjective.
I finished off my superb bowl at Mae Sai, and hailed another Grab taxi, got stuck in a huge traffic jam and managed to find this tiny shack miles out of town down some small streets that the taxi driver actually felt unsure driving down "I don't think Khao Soi here"... "Yes, yes.. straight and right side".
Found it. The friendly old ladies were in good cheer. They were out of Chicken so I settled for pork Khao Soi since the North is famous for it's pink gold. Sorrow washed over my face like a slow monsoon. The contents of the bowl stared back at me almost mirroring my grief. Thin, watery soup lay speckled with dots of red oil, suspended above were some crispy noodles and pieces of pork that looked tired and rubbery. Truth be told, the most unforgiveable part of this bowl were the noodles, raw, undercooked, gluey, pasty noodles that immediately were pushed to one side. The soup had some flavour but lacked any real umami, thin and desireless. Pork slices were tangy but dry. I ate what I could of the crispy noodles before they too became sodden in neglect. Embarrassed about leaving 3/4 of the bowl, I walked into the kitchen and just handed the lady a 100 baht note and didn't wait for change.
As I hurtled down the street away from my own sins of gluttony, she shouted after me "Change go to poor children".. I smiled and waved back. At least one good thing came of the visit, but good food it wasn't.
"Try everything twice"- I've been known to scream in brazen euphoria. Putting it into practice throws up more practical obstacles.
Sapporo Ramen was the first official shop-front Ramen place to open in Oslo in the Ramen-rush of 2016. Sure, I was part of starting the pop-up Tanpopo Ramen in Oslo the year before, where we fiddled around with online recipes and no experience at all with mass-broth-making, facing the complete lack of procuring any decent noodles, and mastering the annoying task of soft boiling and peeling hundreds of eggs. That wave came and went, and people went onto other cloaks and other chefs knives.
With the announcement of Sapporo coming to town, my instant thought was "It's going to be shit", followed closely by: "But I have to try it". The lack of a neighbourhood ramen spot to quell the aching hearts of downpours and ennui had burrowed deep in dark souls like never-ending roundabouts. Sadness is tempered by umami, grief by the motion of slurping, hope restored by the ladling out of glistening, fatty broth.
I went, faced with the dilemma of wishing for it to be good, but hoping it would be bad so we could continue our pop-up. In short, it was a dire love-extinguishing journey into the very root of inane trespass. The flame of anticipation dealt a murderous plunge. I decided there and then, never to return, and further more, to knock on door and gate with evangelical zeal warning people of the charlatans in white robes.
Just shy of 4 years later, on a befittingly miserable, rainy day, I walked down Telthusbakken to drop off some bottles at the Rema 1000. On the escalators up, I saw a virtually empty restaurant, and decided to tempt fate one more time, and see if improvements had been made. They had.
The spicy bowl was sufficiently red, potentially because the Thai woman was working and they love to kick up the spice a notch. I still needed to add a good few shakes of Togarashi to pep up the pleasantries. Sadly, they use the same noodles as their incomparably disastrous sister-branch at Ezo; the curly noodles that lack pleasing texture. The egg was eons better than Ezo, but still bang on average. This time around the pork had been taken further in its cuisson, and shone a golder brown. Parts of it were dry, parts of it were tasty. Menma was menma-ish, spring onions don't need more than a mention, the most important thing in ramen is the broth. Ultimately, the broth had some umami, balance and depth to it. It was far, far better than the first visit when literally everything was unworthy of digestion.
This ramen would get lost around half-way up to the summit of Broth Mountain, but taking into account we are in a nation raised on taco-fredag, this was a pleasing attribute to the Asian food proliferation in Oslo. As is the case here, not one place does it perfectly, but if you combine the strongest elements of each you could come up with a pretty damn good bowl.
(P.s. Just look at the MISERABLE bowl I had last time and tell me why any sane person would return?
With trepidation colouring my optimism, I stood outside Hrimnir Ramen waiting for my friends to turn up. Bicycles dismounted, we stood in line, placed our weary bodies at an outdoor table, perused the menu, ordered and sat waiting for the hype-ship to approach, dock, and spill it's wares.
My main sticking point with previously avoiding Hrimnir was the notion of "Nordic Ramen". Whilst not adverse to evolution, ramen is something I tend to prefer in traditional constructs. However, after the overall disappointment of Oslo's other noodle-shelters, I decided it time to brave the waters. On recommendation from a few people I trusted, I opted for the Spicy Miso Ramen and a side of Chilli-oil. The service was polite and observant, the outside seating soaked up the dying rays of Oslo's translucent summer, the prices a little on the steep side considering Ezo (in all it's diabolical atrophy) was a full 60 Kr cheaper.
Thoughts of the budget conscious were cast aside upon closer inspection of the arrived bowl. It shone with care and contemplation. No short cuts here, no fooling the customer. What we ate was a bowl of Nordic Ramen which if slightly edited could be on the way to glory. To fully explain this I would have to wade into the waters of personal preferences, and honestly nobody cares to hear that. I shall therefore just critique what was in my vessel.
The soup (with the addition of the chilli oil) was rich, flavoursome and had a mild hit of heat. The pork neck, tho not my favourite cut since it tends to resemble boiled ham as opposed to the luxurious texture of pork belly, delivered on flavour and was sufficiently tender. The noodles were the straight, wheat variety, still retaining some bite. The only slight diversion was the egg, which, tho perfectly cooked, was aggressively salty even for a salt-fornicater. The addition of the charred cabbage neither added nor subtracted anything from the meal, but was highly preferred to tinned sweetcorn (satan). The "famous" Jerusalem Artichokes, tho not my personal OMG moment, served their purpose in cutting through the richness of the soup with pops of acidity. I just feel they could have used half the amount.
Overall, a much better experience than I (needlessly) feared, and most definitely the best bowl of "Ramen" you can hope to find in Oslo. At least this place is staying true to their philosophy, and making a bowl that they are proud of, and whether you think Ramen can be bastardised is your own moral dilemma, i'll happily eat this over anything else in town for the time being.
In most situations I will try to not slaughter a restaurant due to the fact that tastes are subjective, and more often than not the driving force behind it is a person who's trying. Well, in this case I have to open the gates of wrath.
I have tried Inage's food before. His other branch of ramen at Sapporo, was a gargantuan fuck-chamber of mediocrity when they opened up a few years ago. I remember it so distinctly that I never went back. The poor fuckers couldn't get ANYTHING right... Well, now he has branched off due to his "success" in feeding noodle soups to a loyal customer base who I stress to venture have never had a good bowl in their lives, or smoke too many cigarettes, He pushes the thread of authenticity under a blanket of jumping on a bandwagon and actually having no natural ability to re-create Ramen in an edible form.
Ezo, his new flagship spot next to the dazzlingly vomitous facade of beard oil merchants next door, shines with a brave announcement of intent. Come here for hipster, fashionable ramen. One positive, he doesn't hike up the price towards the 200 NOK mark like so many other places in town, cough cough. At 140 Kr for the Shoyu Bowl, you can't at least argue with the cost. However, after completion of said bargain, you realise you'd happily pay more for something edible.
The noodles had this magic power of tasting over-cooked and under-cooked at the same time. The pork was not trimmed properly or rendered so the fat had that awful raw-white-fat taste that would make you send a lamb rack hurtling back to the kitchen, the soup was devoid of any depth and sweet like christmas pudding, the sprinkling of spring onion the only thing that tasted as it should, because it hadn't been barbarised by the chefs hand. To add final insult to the frostiest of injuries, the crown of golden yolked redemption (the egg) was bitten into and subsequently discarded. How they manage to almost hard boil it and then dunk it in vinegar so that it soaks up all of the astringency but no flavours of mirin, soy, that it's supposed to have. Wonders never cease in the realm of cluelessness.
I am starting to have severe suspicions of this man's intentions, because by my experience the Japanese are very studious in their approaches to food and do nothing half-assed. Well, this my friends is the epitome of half-assed. It was downright embarassing.
If you've read any of my articles on Oslo food, you'll know that I pine for the old days of Hai Cafe. Since they shut, there have been rumours of a re-opening, but nothing reached fruition. Dalat was visited once almost a decade ago, and I remember not being overly impressed, and honestly quite put off by the over-riding smell of wet dog and dried fish. Times have changed, and without Hai to tempt my hardly earned Kroners, and others more recently tested, I made it a point to give them a second chance and see if things had improved.
In short, they had.
The smell was rather more pleasant. The service was friendlier than I remembered (tho i'd take a grumpy asshole and retching odours if the soup was up to par). I ordered their Beef Pho and sat watching the ice cubes in my water glass melt quicker than was reasonable. It was a scorching day.
Bowl came a'balancing, and I sipped the broth clean before pouring and tearing in condiments and improvements. It was better than I remembered, but also had that over-sweet taste that I wasn't the biggest fan of. Too much cinnamon or star anise tilting the balance. The beef was rather dry and chewy, the meatball standard and the noodles were as expected. Garnishes aside, since they generally are raw ingredients bought in, the chili garlic paste had a pleasant kick, and added much needed tempering of the sweetness.
Ultimately, the bowl was a good substitution for the vacuum left by Hai, and probably ranked as the best bowl of Pho i've tried so far in Oslo, since Pho Mai swings so wildly in consistency.
I purposely chose the bowl without canned sweetcorn due to my pedantic avoidance of such vagaries. The location was agreeable to dine & depart, although the acoustics were treacherous. The Nagoya bowl arrived at my table from the friendly server, and my accomplices Tonkotsu bowls. I noticed the pool of oil floating on mine, and was slightly hesitant about the repercussions of such excess.
Half way down the bowl, the verdict was in. A totally acceptable bowl of noodle soup, but nothing more than that. The noodles had a slight chew to them, the egg was standard, the addition of crisp bean sprouts is always a plus, and there was an underlying trace of chilli, but it didn't do enough to counter-act the sweetness of the broth. I know some ramen styles are supposed to be oily, but this pushed the envelope onto the fringes. I had a sip of my friends Tonkotsu and if it had been toned down for the local palate i'd understand, because it lacked the deep richness and body that real Tonkotsu possesses. However, for what it was, it was.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. If the intention was to make authentic, grandma style Pho, then this was an abject failure. If the proposition was to create a hip, nu-viet style restaurant pandering to the locals who's couldn't even point out HCMC on a map, and serve them some strange distant cousin of Pho Bo, then they marginally succeded. In theory at least.
It was delightful to be able to sit outside on this bright and cheerful day, the server was exceptionally friendly and professional, the menu was cut down due to "pandemic limitations" and therefore the only bowl on offer was their signature Pho.
To cut to the chase. The broth was overly sweet, and unduly aggressive on the black pepper. The meatball had a very firm, tough texture. The noodles were not great. The actual beef slice was fairly prepared, and the tiny smattering of accompaniments took the entire joy out of having a heaped plate full of culantro, cilantro, basil, lime, chilis, etc with which to conjure magic.
At 189 kr for a bowl that wasn't even half-filled up, i'd say the price point was also disappointing.
I really hope they get their act together and start taking more care with the details, otherwise I think the people seeking out Oslo's best pho will be forced to look elsewhere.
A collection of short blog posts about my daily bowls.