Grub Spy: Ramen to be
Grub Spy Alan Kelly dishes the goods on Ireland’s tastiest dining destinations
Much like my feelings on pizza, when it comes to ramen, I can be a finicky old fusspot and scarily unforgiving. Most normal people couldn’t give a hoot. Not me. I can give an abundance of hoots.
So when I find a ramen joint that caters to my finickiness I feel lucky. I think it all started many years ago when I went through a Pot Noodle phase.
NOMO RAMEN 4 Harcourt Hall, Charlotte Way, Dublin 2 Four stars Food: €24; Drinks: €2.25
A favourite lunchtime snack was to mix a sachet of noodles through some Knorr chicken soup and a hefty lash of black pepper for good measure – and to be honest it wasn’t half-bad. Of course that was back in the pre-ramen era, when ballast was more important than flavour.
Nowadays it’s all about quality and taste and the all-important ‘authenticity’.
Situated just off Camden Street on Charlotte Way, Nomo is one of those gastro-gems that reeks of authenticity and always seems to have herds of hungry diners crowding the door waiting for a table. That’s especially so around midday, when servers expect you to order as soon as your bum hits the seat, and ‘wham’ your bill is there just as you finish eating. Which, I might add, with the assistance of friendly smiling staff is the speed required on a busy lunchbreak.
The only way to enjoy ramen is immediately, in-store, straight from the pot. Its grub that really doesn’t travel well, which I discovered after a couple of lockdown home-deliveries when necessary reheating resulted in steaming-hot cartons of spicy mush.
With a menu that is pleasingly short and sweet – four starters, four ramen mains and a single rice dish – the guys at Nomo understand this.
Straightaway I am served perfectly cooked custom-made al-dente noodles swimming in a white heavenly flavoured 7 hour simmered chicken tonkotsu broth. In every sense that’s a mouthful. Toppings and extras include a strip of delicious falling-apart chashu pork, a bunch of freshly chopped leek, a blob of blood-red chili rayu (just with the right level of spicy heat) and a flawlessly boiled hanjuku tamago egg i.e., proper hard-boiled white and a yolk that resembles an oozy bubble of runny gold.
The end result is a nuanced deeply satisfying ramen feast saturated with bracing flavours. It’s almost too robust and flavoursome, but not enough to make me stop slurping like I haven’t eaten in a week.
The only misfire is a mushroom karaage starter with hoisin mayo dipping sauce. Expecting a crunchy crispy karaage batter, I am disappointed with a rather floppy bendy excuse of a thing. The dipping sauce is fine, and I know taste is always subjective, but for me this does not work.
It’s so easy to understand why ramen is such an important part of Japanese cuisine. I read somewhere that there are over 10,000 ramen outlets in Japan. And I must say our homegrown versions are getting better and better.
In this job, because of copy restrictions, I don’t often have the time to revisit places I fall for. There are some places, however, that I always make time for. Nomo is now one of them.
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