Sapporo Ramen - Oslo, Norway
"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?
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The quest to find a decent bowl of ramen in every country on earth.