|The table settings|
|Today's menu and our lucky 3 of hearts place card|
|Pork Gyoza and Free Range Chicken Kara-age|
|Little morsels of pork gyoza|
|Seafood (Sea bass, clam, and prawns) Ramen|
|An empty bowl, after some satisfying slurping *Slurp* *Slurp*|
Remember back when you were a child and your parents promised you a treat/reward when you've been good, and how you will be all excited for days waiting for the promise to be fulfilled? Now this is exactly how I felt once I booked the Tsuru Ramen tickets.
It has been a while since I last had a bona fide bowl of Japanese Ramen. Not to be dismissive here, but after bowls and bowls of disappointing ramen from various restaurants and of course, the main culprit being the overexposed Wagamama chain. I have sort of given up on ever finding a good bowl of ramen. I had fond memories of this noodle dish as back in the days when I was living in Singapore, there were lots of excellent, authentic ramen restaurants serving proper labour-intensive ramen that pack a punch in terms of flavour and freshness.
The anticipation just kept building and the continuous good feedbacks and reviews from twitters and blogs have just excited me further. I was too late for the classic Tonkatsu and Hokkaido Ramen, which were sold out unfortunately, and I have been kicking myself since. Thankfully, I have still the Seafood and Tokyo Spicy Ramen to look forward to.
Finally, the day has arrived. Like an obedient child, I have washed and dressed up for the ceremonious occasion. Yes, I was that excited! Arriving at Liverpool street station with my partner, we slowly made our way to the location, following the direction on my google map apps on the iPhone. The rainy weather didn't dampen my excitement . Upon arriving at the Tsuru restaurant in Bishopsgate for our 3 o'clock sitting, we were shown to a quiet table in the corner right next to the toilet. But after some hesitation, we quickly asked to be moved to the table by the window instead.
Laid out on the table, was the menu for today's Seafood Ramen. The ramen and a drink were included in the booking which was £15 per head. On offer were some side dishes that were meant to go with the noodles or as starters. We promptly ordered the pork gyoza, free range chicken kara-age and two bottle of asahi beer. The waitress took our orders, went away and immediately came back with a poker card, 3 of hearts. She placed that on our table and then gracefully danced away to work the room. By now, the restaurant was almost filled up, apart from the two seats next to us. There was certainly a buzz going on in the room. Everyone seems excited and laughter can be heard, especially from the table behind us.
'Them lot seems to be having a good time, they are onto their second pint now and they haven't even eaten!' my partner whispered conspiratorially.
Now, under normal circumstances, the interior of the restaurant plays a big part in creating the ambience to the dining experience, but this is different. Tsuru has not yet open a ramen restaurant. All these pop-up events are just their way of testing the water or should I say testing the palate, so to speak, while they look for a suitable venue for their ramen venture. And what is quite admirable is that in order to pursue the authentic ramen recipe. Emma (the co-owner of Tsuru) and her business partner, Ken (The Japanese Chef) have been making regular trips to Japan in search of the perfect ramen, kind of reminds me of the film Tampopo. However, I did notice the origami cranes that were handing down from the ceiling, which coincidentally is what Tsuru means....nice touch!
As I was taking all these in, the starters/side dishes arrive with a friendly smile from the waitress.
'Here you are, can I get you anything else?' asked the lovely waitress as she reach over across the table, to grab the poker card, which my partner has unwittingly moved to the hidden corner, thinking that it was intruding our private space,'and I'm just going to move this over here, so we know what you've ordered.' With a smile, once again, off she goes.
I went straight for the gyoza, which was my favourite and swiftly took a bite. The juicy and sweet pork, accompanied with menma (fermented bamboo shoot) in an al dente skin were just beautifully cooked. Although it is a tad under seasoned for my taste, but the freshness and the 'porkiness' somehow turn this into a delicious morsel. The chicken was just as flavoursome, the subtle fragrant from the ginger is just divine. On this occasion, three is just not enough as we had to fight for the last piece of the chicken..trying to divide the chicken into equal halves with a pair of chopsticks is not easy.
After devouring the starters, our plates were cleared and that's when the waiting game began. After about what felt like forever, the star of the show made its entrance. What a magnificent sight! The first thing I noticed was the sheer size of the pan-fried sea bass that topped the ramen. Was this even allowed?! And then I noticed the gentle, bobbling soft boiled egg. I plunge my face as close to the noodles as I can managed, without actually drowning myself, and took a deep breath. It smelled absolutely amazing. One whiff and immediately I was transported back to when I last had a proper ramen in Singapore. The richness of the broth gives off a wonderful fresh and pungent aroma and together with the sweet, fresh sea bass, is just superb.
'Can I have a fork please?',this is when I was rudely interrupted by a pleading request from my partner to the waitress.
I know this was going to happen. What are the odds, it appeared that other than partner no one else has made that ridiculous request.
After weeks of anticipation, this is it. I took a mouthful of the noodles, together with a spoonful of the broth, and gently brought them to my mouth and what a treat that was. It tasted just as good as it smell. 20 hours of laborious brewing of the soup base seemed to be worth it after all. Even without the presence of the MSG, the umami of the broth is apparent. I then move on to the soft boiled egg, and that was just divine, easily the best thing in that bowl. Curd-like texture and the consistency of tofu, well seasoned with shoyu, was just a joy to eat and not to mention the sea bass, clam and prawns, each were cooked to perfection. Even the ramen noodles itself, were bouncy and tender to the bite, just how it should be. All these were definitely worth the wait and a jolly decent attempt.
I am impressed, very much so in fact. I am also delighted that this much effort has been put into creating the perfect ramen by Emma,Ken and their team. After years of wandering in the ramen wilderness, I am glad that someone has finally make a stand against the mediocre effort by the so called 'authentic' ramen chains. I am now even more looking forward to the grand opening of the first Tsuru ramen restaurant. But in the meantime, Tokyo Spicy event on 3rd March is emblazoned into my diary.
If you are a ramen aficionado and want to find out more about the future events and the progress of Emma, Ken and their team, please go onto their blog http://tsururamen.wordpress.com/.