The Ra­men Bar

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - SEVEN DAYS | EATING OUT -

Kokoro

51 South Wil­liam Street Dublin 2

To be smoth­ered with a head cold is a su­perbly evoca­tive ex­pres­sion. It so ac­cu­rately de­scribes what it feels like to be, well, smoth­ered with a head cold.

Eat­ing with a cold is a strange ex­pe­ri­ence. You can’t even tell if you’re hun­gry and your abil­ity to taste and smell is se­ri­ously in­hib­ited. Your mind is so fuzzy that you can never re­mem­ber how the old rhyme goes.... is it feed a fever or feed a cold? Which one am I sup­posed to starve? It’s only a par­tic­u­lar type of food that can cut through this cloudi­ness and, for me, the great­est rem­edy for a foggy head is a bowl of noo­dle soup.

But, boy, is it hard to find a de­cent bowl of noo­dle soup in Dublin. The Fum­bally do a great bowl of ra­men ev­ery once in a while as a spe­cial, and I really like the sweet and unas­sum­ing broth in the bowls of pho of Aob­aba on Capel St, though their noo­dles could be im­proved.

In terms of ra­men, I have long been on the hunt to find a bowl pow­er­ful enough to take down the com­mon cold, or at least of­fer some re­spite from it.

Af­ter read­ing my col­league Cather­ine Cleary’s pos­i­tive words on The Ra­men Bar a few weeks back, I dragged my­self from my sick bed on a quest for a lunchtime cure. The Ra­men Bar is at the back of Kokoro Sushi Bento on South Wil­liam St is one of three Kokoro sushi spots in Dublin’s city cen­tre, owned and op­er­ated by model Yomiko Chen and her hus­band Iain Con­way.

They opened The Ra­men Bar in spring of 2016, af­ter ex­ten­sive ra­men re­search in Ja­pan. This in­cluded squeez­ing se­cret noo­dle and broth recipes from some of Ja­pan’s busiest and best ra­men bars, as well as bring­ing home a noo­dle-mak­ing ma­chine that would al­low them to make their own noo­dles on-site ev­ery day.

The room is dark, which suits my sore head, and the staff are friendly and sweet, also ap­pre­ci­ated. From my seat, I sneak a peek into the kitchen and I can see a chef rolling and lay­er­ing the noo­dle dough in thin, beau­ti­ful sheets. It turns out that these noo­dles have a lovely bite to them, and hold their own in the bowl of broth. I’ve gone for the chicken-based spicy tor­ishio ra­men (¤11), and I’ve been able to choose be­tween mild, spicy and hot. I go for spicy and it’s just right for me – mel­low enough to al­low room for the other flavours in the bowl but with a lit­tle kick to cut through that head cold.

I use the wooden, long-han­dled la­dle supplied to sup the soup, let­ting it soothe my ail­ments. The broth is cloudy and dot­ted with pearls of tasty chicken fat, dot­ted with sesame seeds. It is a broth made from a se­cret com­bi­na­tion of chicken bones, veg­eta­bles and other in­gre­di­ents sim­mered for six hours, a method that Con­way de­vel­oped based on knowl­edge gleaned from ra­men chefs in Ja­pan. The chicken chashu, slices of braised, suc­culen chicken, is mar­i­nated in a char sui sauce overnight, be­fore be­ing char­grilled and then baked be­fore serv­ing. The bowl is packed with sweet­corn, pick­led gin­ger, bean sprouts, spring onions and a por­tion of baby pak choi that I’ve added to mix for an ad­di­tional ¤2.

Even though I’m smoth­ered, I can taste the heat, the umami and, most im­por­tantly the time that’s gone into the broth. It’s time that makes a ra­men, or any food, spe­cial. This isn’t a quick job of throw­ing a few bits of meat and noo­dles into a bowl of in­stant stock.

This broth has been sim­mered and cared for. In the case of the pork tonkotsu broth fea­tured in the pork ra­men, it’s been sim­mered and worked on for up to 14 hours, and I find that in­cred­i­bly com­fort­ing. It’s like the care that has been put into the soup trans­fers it­self to me. It gives me the en­ergy I need to drag my­self home again, back to bed and bad TV, which is no mean feat.

It ap­pears my head cold has met its match in The Ra­men Bar’s bowls of noo­dle soup.

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