February’s favourites: 5 Ramen bars in London I love

It’s been a while since I thought about writing a post about the best ramen bars in London and whoever read my post in the previous months, knows how I was dedicated at finding the best place in town that could satisfy my ramen craving here in this cold part of Europe.

Aware of the fact that London is full Japanese restaurants and the ramen fashion is rapidly picking up, I decided to visit the most popular ramen bars in town. After careful consideration (as those many rejection email I’m receiving start) I decided to briefly describe my personal favourite places, ranking them for a precise feature that makes their product stand out.

For first starters: Shoryu Ramen. This is the first place where I had the chance to eat ramen in London after my sublime foodie experience in Japan. The Origin Tonkotsu has a pretty well balanced harmony of flavour between the the broth and the toppings. A nice place to start your ramen appreciation. Unfortunately I don’t have a review for Shoryu, because I went there before I started this blog. However I still remember a pleasant experience.

For broth: Ippudo. A bowl of ramen without the perfect broth would just be pointless (see instant ramen cups) Here the broth is creamy and milky as it’s supposed to be after pork bones are violently boiled for 20 hours and release their collagen. Taste is meaty, satisfying, but at the same time it’s almost sweet,  “clean” I would define it, meaning it does not leave a strong greasy aftertaste in your mouth. Read my complete review here.

Ippudo

Shiromaru Hakata Classic @Ippudo

For noodles: Tonkotsu. These guys make their noodles on the premises thanks to their Japanese noodle machine and the use of local ingredients (let’s not forget the research for the perfect alkaline salted water) that perfectly abide by the original recipe. I love their tsukemen noodle so much for their “bite”. Unfortunately they are available only at their Tonkotsu East location. Read my complete review here.

Detail of the noodles.

Noodles for Tsukemen @ Tonkotsu East

For the marinated soft boiled egg: Kanada-ya. Ok, I know, you think I am kidding right? Simply, I’m not. Everybody who had the chance to try a real bowl of ramen (no, the instant one you had in college don’t count) know how extremely important the egg is to the whole flavour of the recipe. It has to be still runny, so the yolk mixes a bit with the soup, and white should have nicely absorbed the soy sauce overnight or more. In other words it should be a concentrate of Umami. Kanada-ya’s egg was absolute perfection, but unfortunately it comes with an additional price of £2. This is not a deterrent to hungry customers, because it seems to sell out very quickly. Read my complete review here.

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Kanada ya. That egg over there is to die for.

For strong flavours: Bone Daddies. Considering that when on a diet, ramen in general might not be the best choice for your calorie count, Bone Daddies’ speciality requires customers who want enjoy the full flavour experience and preferably without any sense of guilt after eating. Rich (or fatty maybe?) and intense broth, contrasting aromas and different textures in just one dish. Read my complete review here.

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@Bone Daddies

The winner or should I say winners

I think it depends on the occasion and the the atmosphere I’d like to give to my meal. In fact I would definitely choose Ippudo for a girls’ night out both because the place looks a bit fancier than the other ramen bars and because the broth base has an authentic flavour, but at the same time it tastes clean, not greasy at all.

However if I wanted a foodie date without frills or a highly satisfying solo lunch experience I would definitely choose Bone Daddies’ insanely rich Tonkotsu ramen.
What about you guys, have you visited any of these five places?

A day in Naples and the best pizza in the world. Gino Sorbillo’s review.

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Vesuvius volcano.

Naples is like a lioness, beautiful, haughty and arduous to tame. The collective consciousness about the third city of Italy is made up of diehard preconceptions: a poor, anarchic and at times dirty urban centre on the slopes of a volcano. I’m not here to say this is just not true, because each and every stereotype always has a pinch of accuracy. Also, if the essence of a community remains strong throughout centuries, not necessarily the said people won’t open to change for the needs that modern times demand. What I would like to point out here is that although I come from a region that borders with Campania (the region where Naples is the main centre) and my dialect is strictly similar to the Neapolitan one, due to centuries of Neapolitan domination in the fragmented South, I also had preconceptions. I had them because the last time I visited the city I was about ten, and well, almost 20 years ago the situation was a bit different than it is now. The neglected architecture of the buildings always stays the same, just as some grotesque “personalities” you can find in the narrow alleys that form the map of the city centre. However, this time Naples felt cleaner and safer. It’s true that Christmas is a busy period for the city, because tourists from every part of Italy and the world hit the San Gregorio Armeno alley, to visit the artisan workshops specialised in the creations of nativity scenes. For this reason it would be only logical to consider the hard work of the municipality as something special for the holiday season, but apparently the city is dealing with an actual desire to change, in order to make the ancient capital of southern Italy a modern European city. Some results are already showing, just like the project Stations of Art which is aimed at changing the perspective of the city’s perception by allowing contemporary artist to take over the design and architecture of some underground stations. In fact in 2012 Toledo station was chosen as the most beautiful underground station in Europe

The wonderful mosaic of Toledo underground station in Naples. Project by the Catalan architect Oscar Tusquets Blanca. Credits: The New York Times

Where does food place itself in this context of traditions looking at the future? Exactly in harmony with everything else. Street food is a market that lures young entrepreneurs, because they have the chance to offer the classics of Neapolitan gastronomy in a new light by enhancing the traditional preparation methods, using quality Italian products and social networks to promote their business in the quickest way to the public. This is just what happened with the famous Gino Sorbillo’s pizza that I finally had the chance to try. Gino Sorbillo for whom pizza making runs in the family, is a young talented chef. His passion for the traditional Neapolitan pizza motivated him to improve it by researching and experimenting with mother dough, different organic flour blends and ingredients in order to find an excellent and easy to digest recipe. Gino Sorbillo’s research never stops, in fact it seems that he is trying to create a dough specifically for coeliac disease affected people with the same texture, taste and digestibility of the regular one used in his 3 pizzerias. The ingredients used as toppings are all the best Italian products the country can offer, with their origin and traceability stated on the menu. In other words, Quality. Yes, with capital Q.

Now let’s talk about the experience: image10 The location. You’ll recognise it from afar even though you’ve never been there before, because there’s always a queue that looks endless. You have to be patient, because sometimes it’s necessary to wait hours to get a taste of the best pizza in Italy (and the world in my opinion). My advice is to go either at the opening around 12 or after lunch time at 3. This doesn’t mean you will not queue at all, because as I said the place is always packed with people, but the wait is more “human”. image3 The pizzeria is an ancient two storey house, property of Esterina, Gino’s beloved aunt who passed the passion for pizza on to him. The decor is minimal because all the attention is concentrated on the product. Anyway, in my opinion it wouldn’t harm to modernise the retro style of the place, but retro is not to be intended as the vintage design that is so trendy right now. I am talking about 90’s Italian, so last century!

The service is very fast even though the waitresses aren’t smiley or chatty. I would have certainly appreciated some more courtesy, but I understand that heavy shifts and dealing with every kind of people at a fast pace can get easily on everyone’s nerves. For this reason, there’s no tablecloth on the table and glasses are disposable, just like their napkins. When customers are ready to leave, a waitress comes and cleans the table in a few seconds, so it’s ready for the next group of people.

The pizza. The base is light and soft but doesn’t tear up. This is the result of working the dough and stretching it by hand only, because Sorbillo refuses to use industrial machineries. To those who are not familiar with Neapolitan pizza the dough will taste as still raw, but believe me, it’s not. You will realise it immediately, because after eating you pizza you will not feel full and bloated. As I mentioned before, high-digestibility.

My Osvaldo pizza.

My Osvaldo pizza.

I got an Osvaldo pizza which is made with cherry tomatoes, smoked mixed buffalo&cow’s milk provola cheese, mixed buffalo&cow’s milk mozzarella, extravirgin olive oil and fresh basil. Only 5€.

Vittorio pizza.

Vittorio pizza.

G got Vittorio, an amazing mix of Apulian tuna, Taggiasca olives, Mount Saro’s wild oregano, Italian organic passata and mixed buffalo&cow’s milk mozzarella. Price was 7.50€.

My vote is 9. Sorbillo’s pizza is extraordinary, the best I’ve ever had, because it is a combination of harmonic quality ingredients with a digestible dough, basically the dream. I can’t give more than 9, because some aspects of the overall experience can definitely be improved, but of course I recommend you to try Sorbillo’s amazing pizza because, I can assure you, nothing will ever be the same after that.

Gino Sorbillo, Via dei Tribunali, 32, 80138 Naples.

Chef, not really a great film

Chef poster from the website beyondhollywood.com

 

Chef is a film directed by Jon Favreau who also plays the protagonist Carl, a talented chef that finds himself jobless after a fight with a well-known food critic goes viral online. Carl then accept to start a new culinary and entrepreneurial adventure cooking Cuban sandwiches on his food truck. This choice allows him to reconnect with his son and ex wife (the always gorgeous Sophia Vergara) and to rediscover the joy of cooking simple and traditional dishes. Happy ending for everyone, according to the classic scheme of the comedy film.

Pleasant film but not exceptional, in my opinion, because its message seems to be that it’s easy to grow a successful business if the food is good and it’s well advertised on twitter. Frankly, I don’t think it can possibly be true or applied as a general rule, otherwise we would be surrounded by profitable companies and we wouldn’t talk about the economic crisis.

I wish the protagonist had dealt with some difficulties during his food truck adventure; I wish he had doubted this choice; After this, I wish he had found a reason to challenge himself that this was the right thing to do, the right purpose to believe in and to reach, just as it happens to real people in real life. This is fiction though, I know.

I would also have spent a couple of minutes more about the protagonist’s rediscovered joy in cooking simple and traditional food for all people, not just for food critics. It would have been more realistic and acceptable to me.

I give this film one star (as in the Michelin Guide), but just because I feel generous and I would have eaten a couple of those Cubanos.

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And now in Italian.

Chef è un film diretto da Jon Favreau che interpreta anche il protagonista Carl, un talentuoso chef che si ritrova senza lavoro dopo che, una lite piuttosto accesa con un noto critico gastronomico si diffonde online a macchia d’olio. Carl, in seguito, accetta di iniziare una nuova avventura culinaria e imprenditoriale preparando sandwich cubani sul suo camioncino itinerante. Questa scelta gli permette di riavvicinarsi a suo figlio e alla sua ex moglie (la sempre splendida Sofia Vergara) e di riscoprire la gioia di cucinare piatti semplici e tradizionali. Lieto fine per tutti, come nel classico schema della commedia.

Un film piacevole ma non eccezionale a mio parere, perché sembra far passare il messaggio che è facile creare un business di successo se il cibo è buono ed è ben pubblicizzato su twitter. Francamente, non credo che possa essere vero oppure una regola da applicare in generale, altrimenti saremmo circondati da compagnie redditizie e non staremmo a parlare crisi economica.

Avrei voluto che il protagonista avesse incontrato delle difficoltà durante la sua nuova avventura culinaria ed imprenditoriale; Avrei voluto vedere Carl mettere in dubbio questa scelta ed infine trovare una ragione per sfidare sé stesso e convincersi che questa era la cosa giusta da fare, l’obiettivo a cui credere e raggiungere, proprio come accade alle persone reali nella vita reale. Questa è finzione però, ne sono consapevole.

Avrei anche anche voluto che il protagonista/regista avesse dedicato qualche minuto in più al alla ritrovata gioia di cucinare cibo semplice e tradizionale per tutte le persone, non solo per i critici gastronomici. Sarebbe stato più realistico e accettabile secondo me.

Questo film si merita una stella (come nella Guida Michelin), ma solo perché mi sento generosa e avrei voluto mangiata un paio di quei Cubanos.

 

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