Grub Spy: Ramen to be

Grub Spy Alan Kelly dishes the goods on Ireland’s tastiest dining destinations

Owners Marta Masnou and Kevin Hughes

One of tasty ramen dishes on offer

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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