There’s no doubt that ramen is a food craze that has recently stormed the city. Soho in particular is filled with it; in every nook and cranny, every tiny rentable space in the area, up pops a ramen bar. Often not much more than a few wooden stools scattered round some tables, with a modest kitchen out back, the restaurants are mostly simple with no frills.
But I like the lack of pretention and the simplicity of these spots. The emphasis is almost always on the food, which naturally shines through. However, with so many to choose from, how will you know where you can find real quality and the authentic taste of Japan?
Let me introduce to you Sasuke Ramen bar in Soho. This special spot serves up delicious bowls of ramen alongside some classic Japanese sides such as Gyoza and Edamame. Their signature dish is the miso ramen, which is served with pork, sesame seeds, sweetcorn and spring onions. It is everything a ramen should be, steaming hot, moderately spicy with exceptional flavor. The way the Japanese create such lovingly made dishes with a range of mystery ingredients will always delight me. It seems so simple but tastes so good.
The restaurant itself, looks like many other of the ramen bars but the food, I assure you, is unique. Visiting on a Tuesday night, all the tables were full with happy customers, chatting, socializing and slurping big bowls of their famous noodles. There is no delicate way to eat this dish but that’s just the joy of it. It almost seems a Japanese custom (and perhaps it is!) to slurp loudly and make a mess of it. No need to be shy, this is an environment where you can enjoy your food, unabashed and without inhibition. The staff are charming and attentive and pretend not to look when you have ramen soup half down your face.
We also sampled the gyoza and the edamame, which were both delicious but the real jewel in their crown here is the miso ramen. It’s full of rich flavor and the most comforting bowel of food you can have in the bitter English winters. Customers flow in and out meaning there is rarely a queue which is a sigh of relief when dining in central London. Sasuke really hit the spot for me, it is a classic ramen bar, the type you would expect to find in the city center of Tokyo.
Having visited Japan, I absolutely loved their noodle culture. Not only because I love noodles but because of the simplicity of it all and the passion with which they eat their food. Noodles are a staple in Japan. Tokyo is full of tiny (and I mean tiny) ramen bars where you can pop in, enjoy a quick bowel of noodles and be on your merry way again. This isn’t a place to linger for lingering is frowned upon here but it serves a very specific purpose. There are even vending machines on the streets serving what appears like a pot noodle but tastes a whole lot better!
Sasuke for me, perfectly encapsulated the Tokyo trend except for one thing; after sitting, eating and chatting for a couple of hours, the welcoming staff never made us feel rushed. It’s a perfect place for a mid-week dinner. Get it while it’s hot!