(Central Park, Jl. Letjen S. Parman No.28, RT.12/RW.6)
Sometimes the hunt for perfection takes a sudden turn and spurs you headlong into an out-of-body experience, where life flashes before your eyes, memories of loved ones flood your sight-field, and a deep welling erupts from within at the first sip of broth.
Today was one of those days.
A literal hour spent in heavy traffic, driver blasting Ed Sheeran, finally arrive at the ramen spot and my heart sinks, there is a huge line. I hobble to the front and ask the server if I can just sit at the counter, since there are spaces for solo revellers. They go "Oh yes of course". I rush in, enormously relieved to turn my back on the screaming kids behind me, order the special Tonkotsu adding some bean sprouts..
After what felt like an eternity, the steaming bowl is placed before me and I knew instantly that this would be a winner. I took my first sip. BOOOOM! This is exactly what i'm talking about, rich, umami bomb of flavour, but not swimming in grease or fatback. Ironically enough, the place was rammed to the rafters with Japanese ex-pats too so I guess everyone appreciates a break from the gut-pummelling broths of other places here.
Noodles full of texture, chashu pork that filtered into oblivion at the mere touch, egg cooked to perfection and marinated in the exact way I like it, and the broth.. that deep, unctuous, divine broth that never got sickly or overpowering down to the last drop.
10/10 TAKE A BOW
(Jl. Mahakam No.11, RT.1/RW.6, Kramat Pela)
The curse of authenticity strikes again.
Drawing rabid adulation from the 20,000 strong Japanese ex-pat (immigrant) community in Jakarta, this ramen house is on the tip of everyone's tongues as being the place to go.
I read various blog posts about the Tonkotsu ramen here, and stumbled upon one by Ramengvrl who raved about it's dodgy exteriors but delicious food. Once again I summoned a Go Jek scooter, today was slightly milder so the ride was more pleasant. I'd read that its on the 4th floor of an unassuming office building and has a rather washed out sign outside. The scooter pulled up, I saw the faded sign, asked the guard and he pointed and said "4th floor". I climbed the first set of stairs which honestly looked like you were entering an abandoned building, and found the elevator. Walking out is like entering a mini labyrinth. The place is HUGE but is all dissected into seperate rooms, one brandishing an old Bar, another the "smoking room", and the one I chose was full of windows overlooking the city.
Tonkotsu Ramen, cold coke.
The chefs watched eagerly from the kitchen as I took my first sip. Hmmm... incredibly rich, with a slightly fishy aftertaste. It was decent, but no better or worse than many before it. The troubling thing was the manner in which 0.5cm lumps of white fat were floating on the surface like icebergs ready to sink the titanic. I tried to spoon them to the side and tried the egg. Marinated, cooked well, but far too sweet for my taste. The pork also was slightly disappointing, it wasn't super tender at all and was cut too thick. I added some togarashi hoping to cut the fatty taste a little, but it was pointless. The noodles were perfect ramen noodles. The soup tasted good, but it was literally like eating a stick of butter or duck fat. I only managed 1/3 before I had to throw in the towel or face a re-run of Tatsunoya where we both had to down miniature bottles of Aquavit just to keep the broth down.
I understand completely why this is super popular with Japanese people because in Japan every time we were recommended a place it turned out to be incredibly fatty or "heavy" taste. The only exception was when the 63 year old owner of JBS recommended the old school shoyu place Kiraku, which has forever remained the first stop I will ever go to in Tokyo after I land. Epic depth of flavour but no swimming pool of fat on top. Of course its a different style, but Kiraku, Danbo and plenty others manage to create immense depth of flavour and umami out of their Tonkotsu stock without it being sickly overwhelming.
(Jl. Radio Dalam Raya No.9 RT)
The last time I was in Jakarta was in 2001 after an insane cockroach-infested 28 hour ferry ride from Singapore. The city was flooded, and we just headed for Jalan Jaksa like every clueless backpacker and left 2 days later on the train to Surabaya. I hadn't given Jakarta a real chance. Well, now was the time.
I headed to Mondo Bar and within 5 minutes a severely inebriated Japanese man came over introducing himself and offering me Sake! I gladly obliged, and sat with him for a few minutes chatting. He had lived in Jakarta for 15 years and immediately asked me if I liked Ramen. Well, yes.
Chicken broth Ramen: Seirock!! OISHI!
I woke up a tad worse for wear, and grabbed a Go Jek motorbike and rode 20 minutes through swarming traffic and the cough of exhausts. He dropped me off right outside the restaurant which boasted a huge NO PORK RAMEN sign outdoors to assure the Muslims. The ground floor was completely packed, and the sweat started appearing at the thought of having to share a table. The waitress came over and motioned for the 2nd floor... Hallelujah! Almost nobody upstairs, so I could find a distant table on which to focus my attention. I had heard good things about their Shio Ramen so I opted for that as an introduction. It came surprisingly fast along with a cold coke to mend the discrepancies of last nights enthusiasm.
This was a good bowl of ramen, in fact, it was a great bowl of ramen. There's only one problem. It was totally authentic, made for the Japanese palate, and not for westerners. This is a good thing, of course, but one thing that stumps me always in Japan is when the soup is too "thick", "heavy", "rich". Its literally like drinking gravy out of a saucepan, something that could be delicious for a couple of mouthfuls and then begins to tire you completely and cause your system to shut down.
I can't fault them for the execution, it's literally just down to what you're used to, or grown up with. Some things you can adapt to over time, for sure, but some things are just a stretch too far (like stinky tofu in Taipei).
Noodle-wise, they were excellent. Chewy and textured.
The brown meat of the chicken was superb, really flavoursome. The white meat was rather dry and tough, much like the chicken in the fridge the second day of Christmas.
The egg was nicely seasoned but slightly overdone for my taste.
The broth was unctuous and rich, but incredibly fatty, so much so that your entire mouth was coated with it long after.
Thank goodness not all Ramen shops follow the "Heavy-Taste" ethos, so the rest of us can escape after our meals without having to lie down and drink gallons of Aquavit to cut through the curdling oils and fatback pieces. Each to their own
Jalan Sunset Road Blok 4 - 5 No. 225X
A mans gotta do, what a mans gotta do.
Craving a bowl of proper ramen after multiple failed attempts I took matters into my own hands today and Go-Jek'ed 10 kilometers to Kuta (Hell spawn of evil satanic underworld) after reading that they had an Ikkousha there.
The time spent on clogged roads with a driver blasting the Spice Girls was all worth it when the bowl of Tonkotsu ramen came, oily, glistening, perfectly cooked egg yolk staring back from a half-submerged stance, and the promise of thick-noodles lying underneath.
It didn't disappoint. The noodles were great, slightly thicker which I love, and cooked to perfection. The pork literally offered no resistance. The egg, albeit not marinated, had perfect texture. The broth was deep, fatty, oily but not overpowering. A triumph in the back-alleys of Kuta. A reason to live.
(Jl. Tukad Batanghari 10 B, Denpasar, Dauh Puri Klod)
In the hunt for great bowls of Ramen all over the world, one has to contend with disappointment. It's part and parcel of narrowing down the search and finding those golden tickets in the most unlikely of locations. Today was not one of them.
I should have trusted my gut instinct upon entering the shabby interior with paint scraping off the walls and one waiter playing with his phone in the far corner, oblivious to life. I perused the horribly out of focus menu and decided to risk the Tonkotsu Ramen because the other one bragged about "lashings of sweetcorn", which in my book does NOT belong... it's like pineapple on pizza.
Here it came. Thank goodness I ordered the small portion. First taste: butter..... butter... BUTTER? This wasn't Sapporo style where they frequently lob a huge chunk of butter in for shits and giggles. The taste was overpowering and ruined the whole broth for me. Besides, this wasn't close to Tonkotsu broth, it was neither rich nor milky from hours of cooking down bones. The egg was nothing to write home about. The noodles were completely over-cooked so they stuck together, but the biggest disappointment was the Chashu. It was so tough that some parts were impossible to bite off. The flavour of the pieces I could wrangle away were decent, but the whole point is "melt-in-your-mouth".
Steer clear of this place on all accounts.
(Jl. Raya Puputan, Sumerta Kelod, Denpasar Tim)
Literally a few hours ago on Bittermanreviews I was waxing critical about the severe lack of decent Pho in Bali. I had set out to hit up a Ramen spot around the corner from my hotel, but ended up wasting my 20 minute walk because it was closed on Tuesdays. I then decided to head to the mall to stock up on some red wine for later, and as I was passing the supermarket I noticed a small Vietnamese Pho place tucked in the corner. Curiosity got the better of me, and thank God it did.
I skimmed through the first page which introduced the restaurant and had some story about an immigrant moving to Australia from Ho Chi Minh and starting there, thus ending up becoming a chain. Now, in most European countries Chain Restaurants are usually met with scorn, but in Asia (and specifically in Vietnam + Japan) a lot of the best Ramen + Pho come from places with multiple branches, so it's nothing to scoff at.
I ordered the regular Beef Pho with meatballs (which arrived later, hence are not in the photo), and first of all sipped the broth before adding anything to it. Totally decent. Good background notes, nothing too overpowering. The noodles were fair, the condiments all in their place, the beef a tad on the chewy side, meatballs good and the little jar of chilli sauce they had on the side was excellent.
Overall the best Pho I have had in Bali, and even beats a few places in Vietnam too.
(Jl. Gootama No.13, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571)
Having spent the better part of the morning reading blogs and articles about the food scene in Ubud, this restaurant kept popping up consistently, with many people raving about their Coconut Curry Noodles with Chicken. Not one to fancy missing out on an epic bite, I gathered my thoughts and headed over two blocks west. The small restaurant was already packed to the brim with smiling customers, and the familiar complaint of a foreigner saying "It's too spicy, I cannot eat".
I ordered the "legendary" Chicken Coconut Curry Noodles and an ice cold Bintang.
The dish was immensely attractive when it arrived at the table, laden with fresh herbs, vibrant colours and a rich peppering of chilli (I asked for it spicy, and after checking twice, she agreed). The food was spot on in terms of noodles, tender chicken, great assortment of herbs, spices, vegetables to give it depth and diversity. The only issue with almost all things coconut-milky, is that it gets very heavy to eat after a few spoonfuls. I face the same issue in Thailand with Green Curry, unless the restaurant thins it out which is preferable.
All in all, this was a good meal, just bordering on the nauseating after consuming half the bowl. Perhaps if a couple went they could share this along with another dish and that might be the perfect amount, because you really can have too much of a good thing.
(Jl. Monkey Forest, Ubud, bali, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571)
My past experiences with Pho in Bali have been utterly disastrous. The place in Canggu almost made me angry at how far from the real-deal their Pho was. Here in Ubud, Pho Hwitta had the highest ratings and some favourable reviews, and after watching a Matty Matheson clip on youtube where he started the show by saying "I could eat Pho every day for breakfast", I got a sudden pang to eat some.
Hobbled onto my scooter, shot through the small town, filled up gas, drove through the Sacred Monkey Forest (little hitlers), and parked outside the shop. Order came pretty fast, service=exemplary as usual.
The first thing that struck me was the murky colour of the broth. Pho is usually almost like a consommé in its clarity, but this was more like a muddled beef stock. Onto the tasting:
- Broth was actually quite decent, looks aside.
- Noodles were fair.
- Beef was acceptable.
- Condiments were appropriate although the basil looked like it died 2 weeks ago.
Overall the best Pho I have eaten in Bali, by a landslide, but thats not really saying much.
(Petulu, Ubud, Gianyar, Bali 80571)
I struggled to decide whether a Ramen blog could post about a noodle dish (sans-broth), but came to the conclusion that this was worthy of a space here, and Tsukemen noodles are similar just with a dipping bowl on the side. Anyway.
Late night beers at LaRamona guided me here. I casually asked the chef if he knew of any great noodle spots in town and he immediately said "Fu Shou". I wrote it down, planned on visiting the day after and midway through the afternoon I found it a short scooter ride from my hotel. The owner was in the kitchen and immediately smiled at my RAMEN t-shirt. We ended up having a good long chat after what ended up being a great meal. I ordered the farm-raised Chicken Noodles and a Wonton Soup on the side. The home-made noodles were full of texture, great chew, great flavour and had been lightly tossed in soy/sesame seed oil. The chicken was also moist and delicious.
It was a perfect lunch, and i'd never imagine finding such quality noodles in a small storefront in Ubud.
16, Jl. Goutama Sel., Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571
I walked a mile through small alleyways to find the most reputed Babi Guling place in town, found it, sat down, ordered the ´spesial´ and waited. About 5 minutes later the waitress returned to inform me that they were out of pork skin (half the reason I went), so I politely cancelled my order and walked towards home. On the way I spotted La-Mien and remembered the chef from Laramona saying their ramen was pretty decent. I don't need much encouragement.
The service was exceptionally friendly, as is in most of Indonesia, and I quickly ordered their Shoyu Ramen and sat in the window patiently.
It was a half-success. The broth on first taste was pretty decent, the noodles had a nice bite to them, the mound of vegetables was actually relief for the salty attack of the soup, the egg was a definite fail and the pork had some tender delicious spots and other tough, dry ones. As happens with many bowls, sometimes if its a bit "strong" or overpowering in the first sip, you get very palate-bored of it by the halfway point, and this was no exception. I struggled to finish more than half of the soup and concentrated instead on polishing off the noodles.
A decent effort, but with a bit of guidance this could be a winner.
(Jl. Monkey Forest, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571)
As anyone knows, after a few days in a new place I get cravings for Ramen. Today I woke up fairly late and decided to walk all the way to the restaurant from my guesthouse. A good 40 minute walk in the humid Balinese afternoon.
I ordered the Shio Ramen, partly because the other options were Shoyu and a fish-based broth which I am not usually a fan of.
The ramen took forever to arrive, which is not normal in Japanese restaurants. It was not worth the wait.
The noodles were fairly acceptable, and still had some chew to them. The pork was excellent but I only got one small slice. The egg was literally just a hard boiled egg, no seasoning or marinade and a few minutes off perfection (to my taste), but the biggest disappointment was the most important thing: the broth.
Totally devoid of any flavour, depth, umami, just a really bland chicken stock with some sesame seeds strewn on top like an afterthought.
( Jalan Pantai Berawa,Tibubeneng, Kuta Utara, Tibubeneng, North Kuta)
So you're in Bali, and everywhere around you are shops with freaking EAT PRAY LOVE bowls and Avo-Mash-Spirulina-Wheatgrass bullshit smoothies. I'm sorry, but after a heavy night of inebriation, the best remedy is not this healthy foo-foo, its a bowl of gawdayum Phõ.
Unfortunately, my hotel was 200 meters away from this one, and it came recommended by some backpackers who probably have never even been to Vietnam. I rolled up there, sunglasses on, sat in the furthest possible point away from other human beings, ordered my Beef Phõ and sucked down on my cold coke. The weather was hot. It was humid. Nothing was helping the hangover so far. My soup finally came, and I could tell just by looking at it this was all wrong.
-The noodles were not rice noodles they resembled tagliatelle
-The beef was horrendous.. Overcooked, chewy, complete disaster
-The basil was not Vietnamese so it threw off the entire flavour
-The onions were cut super thick which messes up the whole balance
-They heaped a huge spoon of Hoisin sauce IN the bowl without asking
This was an exercise in futility. I slurped as much goodness as I could gain from this mediocre bowl of sustenance and left shrouded in fear and longing. There must be better ways to cure the aching of the soul in Bali.
(Jl. Subak Sari No.14, Tibubeneng, Kuta Utara)
After meeting a Japanese couple the night before at my guesthouse and talking Ramen for the better part of an hour, I woke up this afternoon with the pangs for a hearty bowl. I googled RAMEN NEAR ME and lo and behold, there was a Ramen shop run by a Japanese fellow 800 meters away. I hurtled over on my scooter, sat in a place that afforded privacy and introspection and ordered the spicy miso ramen.
The service was good, albeit a bit too attentive. The food came quickly and I remembered to take a photo before digging in. The broth itself was pretty standard, the weird kimchi-style relish on the top was a bit odd and in retrospect I should have discarded it instead of mixing it in with the soup. It created an unpleasant raw-garlic flavour to the whole dish and even now 45 minutes later I can still taste that sharp, acrid flavour. The pork was flavoursome but tough, the egg was overcooked completely, and the noodles were standard.
I won't be back again, but i'm glad I tried it so I can warn other travellers of their impending fate.