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Apr 20, 2010 02:51 AM

the london soho shoyu ramen awards

hi all, i'm usually on the Los Angeles board, but after a few recent trips in which i ate as much ramen as i could find, i decided to post this little rundown. tried out six shops in the soho brewer st./wardour area (i'm sure i missed a couple at least - the japan centre being one of them) but anyway here's my take.

in a nutshell:

most authentic ramen:

RYO, which feels like a casual izakaya/bar come straight from tokyo. the ramen too is authentically (coincidentally) similar to sano-style ramen from an hour out of tokyo, with a delicate, crisp shoyu broth.

most authentic old school shoyu ramen:

TEN TEN TEI, with its stern chef and a deep, steeped shoyu ramen soup that would actually be semi-passable in japan, soup-wise.

most WTF were they thinking:

OSATSUMA, which is essentially a wagamama knockoff with a pretty generic menu. their noodles are actually not bad, though, compared to other places around.

the "stop pretending" award for japanese restaurant impersonation:

EATTOKYO - precisely because it's korean-run, the disclaimer outside the shop touting traditional japanese food made by japanese chefs is annoying. that and the instructions for how to make sushi posted behind the sushi counter. the noodles themselves are pretty bad, they only have gigantic portions, and they soak up the soup before you have a chance to finish them.

secretly chinese:

RAMEN SETO - the wonton ramen tastes suspiciously like any bowl of wonton noodle soup you'd likely find in chinatown just around the corner. not bad, just not ramen in the japanese sense of the word.

lifetime achievement award for being ok but kind of strange:

TARO - with ginger in the shoyu ramen and an overall kind of strange funk to the broth, it's decent, but i think something got lost in translation on the way to europe.

so overall, some of the soups are pretty serviceable, but it seems as though a lot of the ramen shops in the UK (taro, ryo, ten ten tei, i'm looking at you) use this kind of spongy fluffy noodle which leaves something to be desired. wagamama appears to be the ubiquitous option for ramen, but even they've never got their noodles right, which are far too floury and mealy to be good (kind of like hawaiian saimin, which is a whole different animal).

here are more details, photos, and extended reviews for each shop, if you're so inclined :)

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  1. ah, rameniac - been an avid reader of your site for a few years.
    Glad you got to see what a shambles the London ramen scene is..

    You actually missed the 2 best stores - Nagomi in Mayfair, and Cocoro in Marylebone High Street.

    hopefully Koya, the excellent Udon specialist that opened last week will raise the bar, and we'll see some decent Ramen specialists soon too....

    2 Replies
    1. re: foreignmuck

      ah thanks! yea i had my eye on nagomi but couldn't make it over there in time. 3 of these shops i literally crammed in in one day, and fell victim to that darned break between lunch and dinner when japanese restaurants tend to take a siesta. hadn't heard of cocoro though, i'll def have to check it out.

      1. re: rameniac

        Let us know how you'd rank Nagomi vs. Cocoro vs. Ryo vs. Ten Ten Tei.

        What type of ramen is used at Nagomi or Cocoro? It sounds like Ryo and Ten Ten Tei uses Tokyo-style men - the curly yellow noodles most commonly found in the refrigerated ramen packets - I'm gleaning this from rameniac's review, am I correct in this assumption? Does anyone offer Hakata-style men - the thin, white, straight noodles like the ones at Ippudo (NYC)?

    2. great post mate, thanks for this

      1. Great post. I loathe Wagamama's noodles.

        1. Rameniac - like foreignmuck, I've been a fan for years now. Recently went to Tokyo and survived on a few of your recommendations ;)

          Shame you didn't try the best we could offer (ie Nagomi as pointed out by foreignmuck) but in all honesty it will not blow your mind by any imagination.

          Thanks for your brave attempt at conquering the ubiquitous "authentic" Japanese restaurants. As a Londoner, I'm actually quite ashamed that you subject yourself to the thing we call ramen. Hopefully one day, a truly decent ramen specialist surfaces itself and educate the European palate on what they have been missing.