January 25, 2013

Ramen Wars!

London has entered into an interesting time for foodies. In recent months three large ramen noodle bars have sprung up around the city offering delicious bowls of ramen made of slow cooked broths and fresh made noodles.  The city is buzzing about the options and the different atmosphere of each noodle bar.  I've tried two so far and and this is a bit about each!


My first London ramen experience was Tonkotsu in Soho.  Tonkotsu gives you an authentic noodle house experience.  When you enter, you walk past two large vats of slow cooking, steaming broth and into a super crowded space.  On their homepage, Tonkotsu says "No booking required. ....we'll find a table for you.".  And they do not exaggerate this statement at all.  Chairs and people and pints of Japanese beer are all crammed across entire lengths of long tables.  The people on the outer edges have to get up in order to let you past them so you can get to your seat.  It's really an atmosphere well suited for the British if you think about it.  Everyone is politely ignoring bumping elbows and overreaching waiters.  I could just imagine Dallas diners being a little overwhelmed by the tight quarters.  As far as the food is concerned,  the broth is made by slow cooking pork bones for 18 hours and adding pillow soft ramen noodles along with pork and eggs.  My ramen was really quite tasty.  The broth is super smooth with a deep, rich flavor.  The garnishes were fresh and the egg and pork were perfectly cooked.  I'm always a little weary of the pork because it can sometimes come out a little over cooked and dry.  This pork was very enjoyable.  I'll go back.

Bone Daddies

Bone Daddies is a little bit different in that the ambiance is definitely more rock and roll.  And, I mean that in a vinyl-record-player-blasting-hair-band-ballads sort of way.  When you walk into Bone Daddies, you have to squeeze past a small, yet posh, bar where hipsters crowd together and sip Japanese whisky.  I will say, though, the authenticity of the ramen bar still finds you in that you still get squeezed into impossibly cramped tables.  The other thing that sets Bone Daddies apart is their extensive snacks and extra toppings offerings on the menu.  We noshed down on yellowtail sashimi and pork ribs before our ramen.  The pork ramen was smooth and had a little more spice to it than Tonkotsu.  I felt like we were served a little less broth here, though.  The pork was cooked nicely and the extra egg was a nice final touch.

The tables at Bone Daddies have garlic cloves and garlic presses available to enhance your ramen -- this was my first time seeing this option in a ramen house.  My favorite touch is the jar of black hair rubber bands at each table just in case a lady's hair is getting in the way of her ramen enjoyment.  Brilliant!
Our next stop on this ramen tour MUST be Shoryu Ramen.  I can't wait to see what they have to offer.  By the looks of things, they have also have an array of sides to choose from, similar to Bone Daddies.  I'm not sure we have a clear winner or loser here.  Both noodle houses have great food and unique atmospheres.  I guess we will just have to keep trying new ramen places until we find a definite winner in these Ramen Wars!..... that's going to be my excuse at least. :-)

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