I love ramen. One of my life’s side-quests is to find the perfect bowl. This is my attempt at tracking and ranking the places I’ve had it. Bristol, unless otherwise indicated.
The Gold Collection
Kanada Ya (London, Central St Giles)
Be still, my beating heart. A place I used to go for coffee back in the days of the Bloomsbury Office has now been inhabited by a perennially busy ramen joint they’ve somehow squeezed a dozen-ish school-desk-plan covers into, and they consistently dish up THE PRIMO RAMEN I’ve ever witnessed. Never a wrong move. They are the holotype.
Matsudai Ramen (Cardiff) – home delivered kit
Haven’t had a chance to get to the restaurant yet, but these geniuses have found a way to get legendary ramen TO YOUR HOME. Superb noodles, breathtaking char-siu, complex flavour oils, and oh my word – those broths. Divine.
Tomo No Ramen
Small outfit on Old Market with fairly restrictive hours and a bookings-only policy, it’s not easy to get into spontaneously. Delicious though and well worth making the effort.
Probably the most Bristol option on the list – a couple of Michelin trained chefs who took up cooking ramen for fun over lockdown, they don’t really seem to have a premises… you can sometimes order takeaway, and at one point they had a setup with a pub over the road where you could order ramen at the pub and they’d bring it across. Pub’s been taken over now though. Tasty though. Top drawer.
Tonkotsu (Notting Hill)
Apparently this place is a chain, and I for one don’t care a jot. They know what they’re doing.
Four Wise Monkeys
Described as “the dirtier sibling of Seven Lucky Gods” – 4WM only has a couple of noodle options on the menu, but having tried it and felt a little bit bad after having done so, I can’t wait for an excuse to go back and do it all over again.
Tokyo Izakaya (Birmingham)
Popped in here before a whisky festival one day and was glad I got in early doors, because 20 mins later and there wasn’t a spare seat in the place. Lovely lovely lovely.
As a Wagamama regular of many years I never used to rate their ramen dishes (in short: broths always a bit bland), but periodically they change up the menu (as you’d hope, for a chain that’s been around for decades) and last time I went in they had a shirodashi pork belly ramen that was just mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm! Chicken ramen and Chilli chicken ramen still look avoidy though. Can not BELIEVE Tori Kara Age is off the menu nowadays! Travesty!
Tough gig for Ippudo – we went there for the evening on the dame day we’d been to Kanada Ya in the afternoon, and the only reason we went was cos we couldn’t get a table at Kanada Ya. Decent ramen, for sure – albeit a lot more formal-seeming setting. From memory the menus had pictures in, which instantly drops it down the rankings.
The Remaining Places On This List
I just remember this being bland. If you’re gonna sell a dish based around broth, the broth’s got to have some fucking flavour. End of.
Confounding, this – quite a big barn with lots of tables and it seems to be booked out for a lot of the time… but the one time I went I found it really uninspiring, with flabby noodles, a small portion, and a broth that tasted like it was Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup. I seem to recall enjoying the Tori Kara Age. Suppose it’ll need a revisit.
Hondo Sushi (Bath)
Total shit. Bland, pointless. Don’t go to Bath looking for ramen. I gather the sushi was nice, judging by the responses of the other patrons.
Possibly a new all-time low. For one, who’s making Chicken Kara-age with breadcrumbs? Had me wishing they were chicken nuggets… and the ramen. Well. There was flavour in the broth, but it felt rushed and crammed. The menu talked about their secret char-shu recipe, and I’m confident that secret is “We buy leftover sliced of roast pork from the Toby Carvery up the road”. You might enjoy this if you’d never had ramen before.