56 Manor Street
Right now, its all about ramen, and, if you’re not enthusing about it, the social media foodie crowd will think you're just so passe. After all, It's the latest star to strut the catwalks of our tastebuds.
Ramen is basically a bowl of noodles in a broth, topped with meats, seafood, vegetables, nori (dried seaweed), beans, scallions, bamboo shoots, spices, and whatever takes the fancy of the chef. It originated in China and migrated to Japan, where they put their own twists on it.
The powers of a good stock are held in high esteem by many cuisines – like the French chefs who traditionally always had their stockpot on the go, or the Jewish mothers who firmly believe in chicken stock as the miracle cure-all. A good ramen chef will tell you that it takes hours to develop their broth from chicken, fish or beef bones. Indeed ‘bone broth’ is so eulogised now, some people claim it's better than botox!
Set in the hottest place for casual eateries in Dublin right now, Stoneybatter, the Ramen Kitchen is as dark and ‘authentic’ looking as what you might find in a little village in Japan. It probably seats a couple of dozen at its high tables, and those beside us turned over two or three times with quick bowls of noodles being slurped.
It's not just restricted to ramen; there's lots of other popular Japanese stalwarts. A dozen or so starters had yakitori, gyoza, and, of course, the bao bun. There was a section of Donburi Katsu curries and Battered Tendons – yes tendons – plus Bento boxes, and a great selection of Sushi including Maki – filled rice rolls; Temaki – nori cone shapes; Ngiri – fish or vegetable laid on sushi rice; Hosomaki – nori-wrapped rolls; and finally sashimi – thin slices of raw fish.
We kicked off with yasai (vegetable) gyoza, which was a long plate of crimped half-moon-shaped green dumplings, lightly-seared on one side, and served with gyoza sauce; while Ebi Tempura, a quintet of tempura-battered jumbo prawns, were hot, crispy and absolutely delicious with a tempura dipping sauce.
We followed up by sharing a soft shell crab roll from the sushi maki section, which was superb, both by way of its contrast of textures and its flavours. Cut into eight pieces, it was filled with crispy tempura-cooked soft-shell crab, mixed with slivers of avocado and a delicious spicy mayo, and topped with masago – little bright red eggs of caplin fish roe – with pickled ginger and wasabi. Now that’s a keeper!
So now to the famous ramen. Six varieties included Spicy Kimchi beef with black garlic; Miso with pork; terriyaki salmon; tofu or rolled chicken breast. Our shared tonkotsu chashu ramen would keep any trencherman happy. It was a hearty bowl with pork broth, had bamboo shoots, spring onions, sesame, bok choi, two good slices of roast pork belly, a pickled egg, and nurutomaki – cured fish roll.
There were a half dozen red and white wines, with the cheapest in each colour being available by the glass or a small carafe, as well as four varieties of sake, plum wine and Junmai (pure rice sake). There was also an eclectic selection of beers including Japanese, Hawaiian and Chinese varieties.
It’s no amateur operation, and it wouldn’t surprise me if there were more Ramen Kitchens appearing in the not too distant future - perhaps it's the start of a Ramen empire.