You can search a city, and find the best things are close to home. Our final day in Berlin our friend Philip mentioned that he had it on good authority that a Ramen spot in Friedrichshain served up the best bowls in town. It was a stiflingly hot day, not exactly the kind of day you feel like having steaming hot broth, but the curiosity to finally find a brag-able bowl in the city was too hard to ignore.
The recommendation was right. By far the best Ramen in Berlin so far. Almost the best in Europe so far, but that crown still lays firmly on the head of the wonderful Ramen Kazu in Bratislava.
Pork = Beautifully cooked, great marinade, charred and smoky.
Noodles = Chewy, springy, solid.
Broth = A tiny bit on the thin side for me but still much more flavoursome than the other options.
Egg = Actually better at Takumi Nine, but its a small detail to fret about when the rest was good.
Condiments = Wood ear mushrooms, pickled ginger, spring onions all in their rightful place.
Service = Quick and very friendly.
Well, finding a bowl of exceptional ramen in Bratislava was not exactly on the cards. This, however, is why I always try Ramen places wherever I go, the surprise is worth it.
Berlin has its fair share of excellent dining options to suit every budget, from the swank places to the satisfying Doner at 3am on the walk of shame home. Ramen is something I had never tried on my previous visits so it was high time. We headed to Takumi Nine by the tram from Friedrichshein, struggled a bit to find it since its on a cross street and not the address on the website, sat outside and ordered a Miso and a Shoyu.
My first objection was the sight of canned babycorn in the broth. A big no-no from my perspective. Second, the token Naruto which nobody actually goes for first. Thirdly, the flabby, slimy chicken skin and thin looking broth.
All in all it was a rather clumsy attempt. The noodles were fine, the egg was the best part, the broth was watery and started to taste better a bit further into the meal, but had an off-putting sweetness which is usually offset by bursts of umami. I barely ate the chicken, and the Menma was too far soaked in sesame seed oil that was overpowering. Different strokes for different folks, but this was one too many for me.
The three of us jumped in an Uber and snaked our way through the insanity that is the streets of Ho chi Minh. I had read that this place was supposedly serving up the quintessential authentic Japanese shoyu Ramen in town. We spent the better part of 20 minutes walking in circles inside the small Japanese enclave, but finally we managed to find it before they closed for an afternoon break. The excitement was palpable. Our first real ramen experience in Vietnam. Lets see how they stand up against other countries in the region.
First impressions were great. 3 jolly Japanese chefs all small-talking in the kitchen whilst a salaryman slurped to his hearts content and offered the warmest praise whilst leaving. The bowls arrived. First sip: HEAVEN! This was up there with some of the best Shoyu Ramen I have ever tasted. The broth was deep, fatty, full of umami. The egg, perfectly cooked, the noodles al-dente, the pork melt-in-your-mouth. The Sapporo beer did nothing to diminish the charming meal. With full stomachs we gladly paid the 4 Euros and headed out into Saigon's belly with fresh optimism and belief that life is perhaps a gift, and not a chore.
It may look plain, but the devil is in the details. Those shrimp wontons are plump, perfectly cooked and delicious. The broth is rather flavoursome for being so "thin-looking". Decent noodles and not much else makes up a perfectly respectable way to spend an evening in Hong Kong.
There is always a crowd, which is proof that these cats know what they are doing.
You just knew it when you entered the place that these people had no clue about Ramen.
Look at that broth? Looks like dishwater. Pulled Pork? Squeeze of Sriracha or some other generic hot sauce? Overcooked egg, huge chunks of spring onion and a dusting of sesame seeds? NO NO FINLAND!
You have to do better than this.
Forever on the hunt for a good bowl of Ramen/Phô/Laksa/Noodles anywhere in the world, I take it as a personal challenge to try find authenticity in the unlikeliest of places. Siem Reap is one of them. Having stayed here a few times, I walked past the Old Beijing Dumpling House and decided to try some dumplings (which were fine), and to hit it with a bowl of "Authentic Beef Noodle Soup".
To say the noodle soup looked better than it tasted would be an understatement. It was irredeemably bland, despite the rich look of the broth. The noodles were tame and unflattering, and even the beef lacked any real intensity and was chewy.
This was a lesson in trial and error. Today was an error, but tomorrow may not be.
A collection of short blog posts about my daily bowls.