(Pappelallee 19, 10437 Berlin)
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.
(Panská 244/15, 811 01 Bratislava, Slovakia)
After the bitter disappointment of the Ramen place in Budapest, it was with slight apprehension that I decided to walk the winding streets to Ramen Kazu and give it a go. I read a lot of reviews online, and the average scores were very high, but since Ramen is still a "novelty" dish in vast parts of Europe you can never trust what people are measuring it against. Are they saying its better than their regular Chinese take-out? Do they know what the differing broths SHOULD taste like? One is left wondering.
I was of course overjoyed to see a bonafide enthusiastic Japanese chef in the kitchen who greeted me as I found a table. In the corner were 3 Asian ladies happily slurping away chatting at a hundred miles an hour. Another good sign. I ordered the special Shoyu Ramen (nr 1) and anxiously fidgeted with my chopsticks in a mixture of fear and anticipation.
The bowl arrived, and within a second I could tell this would be tasty. The glistening fatty gloss of the broth, the thinly sliced chashu, the menma, nori and spring onions all placed proportionally in the bowl and held together with that broth. The noodles were springy, had a delicious chew to them. The meat was perfectly soft and flavoursome. The broth was dark, huge undertones of various flavours but perfectly balanced. The egg was cooked almost to perfection if they had taken it out 20 seconds earlier. I sat there and kept eating even after I was more than full.
The price of 13 Euro is quite steep, but i'd rather pay that for a quality bowl, than 10 Euro in Budapest for something that deserved nowhere near the praise.
(Budapest, Eötvös u. 25a, 1067)
I told myself that if I went out and got slightly badgered on Friday night I would wake up Saturday afternoon, walk the 600 meters to Biwako, and allow the healing powers of Ramen to enter my system.
I followed the plan despite all obstacles, including intense rain and no umbrella. Found the place, was greeting by two lovely waitresses and an old sleeping Japanese man in the corner. Got my seat, ordered a Miso Ramen with pork and egg, and a Kirin.
To review this ramen would be easier by breaking it down into distinct categories:
THE BROTH: Average, lacking any sort of umami, no depth, no real re-spoonable taste.
THE NOODLES: Possibly some of the worst ramen noodles i've had since Sapporo in Oslo. I order mine HARD in Japan, but these had the texture of raw noodles or noodles cooked in lukewarm water.
THE PORK: Extremely salty, decent texture and flavour apart from the saline overload.
THE EGG: Utterly forgettable. Overcooked, half the yoke was missing, no marinade.
THE TOPPINGS: Dead, soggy spinach? Strange, and very overpowering intense spring onion, far more acrid than anything I had in Japan or elsewhere to be honest.
4/10 (Because the service was good and the pork, although salty, gave it an extra point)