Wednesday 16 July 2014

Ramen Sasuke, Soho

In London, we're lucky that we can get virtually any cuisine under the sun, and with varying degrees of authenticity. Ramen is one of the new trends that I welcome with open arms; sure, I've never been to Japan, but I know what I love and that's a noodle soup. Bone Daddies is probably the furthest from Japan one might get - I seem to remember cheese being a feature on a specials ramen some time ago -  though this is no bad thing. Their premise is based on the traditional ramen, but they pimp it to maximum effect. Though I know many fans of it, I can't take the tonkotsu broth; it's too much for poor little me, too rich for my delicate self. Instead, I usually opt for their kimchi seafood offering, or the spicy tantanmen if I'm feeling really hungry. 

Shoryu Ramen, from the Japan Centre, is closer to its homeland; they've expanded to three sites pretty rapidly and they have a vast range of ramen available. Carnaby Street's yuzu tonkotsu is pleasantly citrus in flavour, but ultimately, over-whelmingly salty. 

Of the lot, Tonkotsu's noodles are king. Bouncy, springy and chewy, they're only let down by slightly unimaginative toppings, and on my last visit, chashu pork that was far chewier than it should have been. But those springy noodles! Every noodle-lover's dream.

My latest discovery is Ramen Sasuke; hidden down a Soho street, it feels even more Japanese than Shoryu does. As you enter the staff greet you in Japanese. Wooden benches and tables are pared back in detail, no fancies or fripperies. The menu is limited to a few ramens, some katsu curry options and on the back page, the lunch deal offers your ramen of choice, a slightly smaller-than-usual side dish for a £1.50 charge, and a free bowl of rice should you want it. It reminded me of Ippudo, where alongside your ramen you get rice with a topping for an additional $3. 

With my order of spicy miso ramen, I was given a surabachi - a traditional Japanese pestle and mortar - in which to grind the toasted sesame seeds to garnish my noodles with. It was a nice touch; some were ground to a fine powder, others I left whole for a little texture contrast. 

The spicy miso ramen came in a deep bowl, piled incredibly high. Beansprouts, marinated bamboo shoots, spring onion and sweetcorn come as standard along with a slice of incredibly tender pork. For an extra £1, I added the option of a sheet of nori and half a marinated egg, nitamago. The soup was sweet with miso, rich and flavoursome - I thought it could have been a little spicier, but easily solved by the chilli oil on the table. 

Crucially, the soup wasn't too rich and it didn't become a struggle, as I've experienced with other overly piggy broths. The noodles were in abundance; thick, yellow and appropriately springy. I didn't manage to finish them, much to my own astonishment. My friend's shoyu ramen (opening picture) was more demure, a clear broth sitting lightly on the stomach.

My side of gyoza, reduced down to 3 dumplings for the £1.50 charge, were good value. Crisp bottoms and delicate pastry up top, the filling could have done with more seasoning. 

My friend's chicken karaage was a great example of it. The batter was crisp, bubbled and light, encasing juicy chicken. The mayonnaise it was served with proved superfluous, though I enjoyed the wedge of lemon squeezed over it. 

I really loved Ramen Sasuke; it's a calm, peaceful place and on our visit was populated by only a couple of Japanese men in suits, slurping quietly away. They don't have the flamboyance of Bone Daddies, nor the variety of menu of Shoryu, but what they do have is a really good quality bowl of noodles, for a great price; all that with a drink set me back £15. 

Ramen Sasuke

32 Great Windmill Street
London W1D 7LR

Closed Mondays, no reservations

Sasuke on Urbanspoon


meemalee said...

Sasuke rose from the ashes of Mitsukoshi which explains why it feels like Japan ^_^

By the way, weirdly, cheese isn't as un-Japanese as you would think, though it's of the American kind - eg cheese curry and cheese ramen exist and are fairly popular. My favourite izakaya snack is cheese mochi - mochi baked so it's crisp outside, chewy inside, with a layer of molten cheese on top.

Frank said...

I crave the richness. It makes me feel a little queezy at the end - but it's so glorious!

sakura said...

I love their tsukemen, the noodles are thicker, chewier and a little more udon-like and the dipping broth is a little fishier but go well with the noodles. Menya Sasuke has quickly become my favourite ramen place in London.

Hollow Legs said...

MiMi - Oh did it? I thought Mitsukoshi closed all their branches across Europe? Is it the same people then?

I thought this would come up - I've heard the Japanese do use cheese in their ramen, in fact Ivan Ramen - you know, that American who has a ramen shop in Tokyo! - has a cheese mazemen on their menu. But I meant 'traditional' japanese, I should have clarified. I love cheese & Japanese - as wrong as it sounds, SushiSamba's salmon nigiri with melted mozzarella was surprisingly delicious.

Frank - you are a stronger man than me.

Sakura - excellent, good tip - I'll try it out next time!

Kavey said...

I'm glad to read your thoughts on Bonedaddies as I felt like I was somehow bucking the hive opinion when I tried their tonkotsu and found the broth too rich and greasy for my taste -- and I'm hardly someone who eschews fat!

I've somehow still not managed to get to Tonkotsu but have made mental note of your saltiness comment, as I don't like overly salted broth either.

I do enjoy Shoryu very much, their broth is just right for me (feel like the brown version of Goldilocks saying that) and I like that they've now introduced different choice of noodles as well.

So I'll definitely head to Sasuke to try their offering. Sounds like I'd really enjoy it.

One of the sides we enjoyed in a ramen place just by our Kyoto hotel on our last trip served these crispy cheese snacks which were sort of a cheese-filled version of gyoza, deep fried. They were good though actually I liked the gyoza better!

Niamh said...

Actually, for me Bone Daddies is the most authentic, and I have had cheese ramen in Japan too! On my last trip I did lots of ramen places and also the Ramen Museum :) Ramen is very personal and very diverse.

Tonkotsu is good, however, I have tried Shoryu 4 times and always found it limp and disappointing.

I will have to try this one.

Hollow Legs said...

Niamh - Yes, do try and let me know what you think.

Hollow Legs said...

Kavey - sorry, i think crossed wires - Shoryu's broth was a bit salty for my tastes but I guess all fine for you. Maybe I had an off experience. Those gyoza sound AMAZING!

Hollow Legs said...

Kavey - sorry, i think crossed wires - Shoryu's broth was a bit salty for my tastes but I guess all fine for you. Maybe I had an off experience. Those gyoza sound AMAZING!

Anonymous said...

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