Monohon Ramen – Japanese noodle bar on Old Street, EC1

Keeping it traditional – the tiny ramen bars specialising in chashu or slow-cooked pork belly soups that you find in neighbourhoods in Japan are rare in London. Monohon is one.

Because this noodle bar opened up near work, because I love Japanese food, and because it was recommended to me, there was absolutely no excuse but to try Monohon’s ramen one lunch time. This was my first ramen bar tasting since Ginza Bonten in Tokyo, and I was eager.

 

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Abura soba – as served

My first visit was in July 2017. I don’t think it had been open very long but it always looked full at lunchtime, so three of us went early to try and get a seat (you can’t book ahead). The only seats available were at the counter. Fine by me, no chance of slurping and splashing the person opposite’s face! A queue formed shortly after we arrived.

I had abura soba (soupless ramen) – thick, bouncy ramen noodles on a sesame-oil based ‘tare’. Toppings include spring onions, beansprouts, crispy fried shallots, slow cooked pork shoulder, marinated bamboo shoots, soft poached egg, shredded toasted seaweed, and fine strings of cayenne pepper. It’s £10.00 for regular size (pictured) or £13.50 for large.

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Abura soba – mixed up and ready to eat

Sitting at the counter, we were able to watch the staff preparing the noodles (check out the chef’s story and inspiration for opening Monohon on their website)

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Shouyu Tonkotsu – Chashu (pork belly) ramen

On a more recent visit (a cold, snowy winter’s day) I had shouyu tonkatsu – umami-infused soy sauce seasoning ‘tare’ with creamy pork bone soup, served with thin cut hosomen noodles, bean sprouts, spring onions, kikurage (Chinese mushrooms) and a slice of chashu (slow cooked pork belly) @ £11 for a regular serving or £12 large. I chose regular and had an extra slice of chashu. It was absolutely gorgeous and I’ll be hard pushed not to have this again next time. And the next.

Other optional extras to go with shouyu tonkotsu include ajitsuke tamago (soft boiled egg), beni-shoga (shredded, pickled ginger), yaki nori (toasted seaweed), etc.

 

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Monohon menu

 

 

The verdict: Monohon has all the feel of a neighbourhood ramen bar in Japan, without all the reliance on an app to translate and understand the menu. At first glance it might seem like the menu is limited with only five choices; it’s probably more fair to say they stick to offering ‘house specials’. What they do, they do well. And the lunchtime queues are testament to that.

 

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: Japanese, ramen
– Address: 102 Old St, London EC1V 9AY
– Nearest station: Old Street
– Website + menus: Monohon Ramen website
– Photos on flickr: images of Monohon Ramen food
– Location: Monohon Ramen map

 

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Chasu ramen at 銀座 梵天 Ginza Bonten – Tokyo

Slurping slow-cooked pork ramen at a neighbourhood noodle bar is a ‘must do’ in Japan

銀座 梵天 Ginza Bonten, a tiny restaurant behind our hotel turned out to be a winner with its beautiful wooden beams and stools, and tasty pork ramen and gyoza.

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梵天 – Bonten in Ginza neighbourhood noodle bar

As with many neighbourhood Japanese restaurants, you can’t see inside from the outside so it can be a bit of an adventure, wondering whether you’ll need to take off your shoes on entering then figuring out the food options if English isn’t spoken.

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Inside 梵天 Bonten – individual lunchtime diners seated along the counter

Inside, this restaurant only has about 20 covers, most of which are individual stools along the counter. With much bowing, smiling, and pointing on both sides, the host seated us at a corner table. And the Google translate app came in very handy indeed as the menu was all in Japanese.

Typical of a local restaurant like this, the menu offers a few variations on a limited number of speciality dishes, and it’s cash only.

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Owl bottle with a ball bearing lid

I order some form of fizzy lemonade that turns up in a cute owl shaped bottle (that’s perfect for holding) with a ball bearing lid. Intriguing.

We share fresh, hot gyoza (so, so good) to start, and both have chashu (marinated, slow-cooked, braised pork) ramen.

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Gyoza – Japanese pan-fried dumplings, crispy on the outside

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Gyoza – soft and juicy veggies in the middle

Check out this ramen bowl full of tender, tasty pork wedges:

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Chashu (marinated, slow-cooked, braised pork) ramen – braised in soy sauce, sake and sugar

The verdict: Best ramen I’ve ever had, by far. Excellent lunch spot, tucked away from Tokyo’s hectic main shopping streets.

What owning a ramen restaurant in Japan is like
Watch this 11 minute video – Go behind the scenes and see for yourself what’s involved in running a ramen shop in Japan (so much effort – it explains what makes the flavours so special).

 

Bonten restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: Ramen
– Address: 104-0061 Tōkyō-to, Chūō-ku, Ginza, 1 Chome−9−12
– Tel: +81 3-5579-9968
– Photos on flickr: Ginza Bonten photos
– Location + google reviews: Ginza Bonten map + reviews

Japanese Canteen on Harrow Place

So all’s been quiet on the LardButty front while recovering from the over-indulging period that was Christmas and new year.

And the first new restaurant outing for 2014 is a lunch time visit to cosy ramen bar, the Japanese Canteen, Harrow Place branch, Shoreditch.


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Chicken katsu curry – fried in breadcrumbs with rice @ £4.95


I had a chicken katsu curry – fried chicken in breadcrumbs in Japanese curry sauce with rice @ £4.95 (seriously good with generous amounts of sloppy curry sauce).


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Chicken ramen noodle soup


S had a wonton soup – little cloud dumplings and noodles in stock with spring onion and bok choy @ £5.95.

The Harrow Place branch is tiny and quickly fills up at lunchtime. If you want a seat you need to get there early (we arrived at 12.15 and took the last table today) although much of the queue is for take-aways.

And if it is full, there’s always a larger branch around the corner on Middlesex Street (formerly Petticoat Lane – the prudish Victorians changed the street’s name). And another on Creechurch Lane. In fact, they’re all over the city.


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Teriyaki salmon on mixed grain rice @ £6.95, Creechurch Lane branch


Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Japanese, Asian fusion
~ Address:13 Harrow Place, London
~ Postcode: E1 7DB
~ e: info@thejapanesecanteen.co.uk
~ Nearest station: Aldgate
~ Website + menus: Japanese Canteen website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Japanese Canteen food
~ Location: Japanese Canteen map


RELATED LINKS
More Shoreditch dining:
~ Fora – Mediterranean restaurant, City branch
~ Kastner & Ovens – great salad selection
~ Mama Thai – Indian + Thai take-away curries + noodles
~ Momo’wich – Thai + Malaysian curries, rendang sandwiches + more


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Wagamama Soho – great value, nourishing fast food

It’s almost 20 years since Wagamama first opened in London (Bloomsbury branch) and now they’re almost the McDonalds of the fast-food Japanese noodles world. They are everywhere.

Having learnt from experience that some branches are better than others (Covent Garden – a newer branch – is best avoided as service on my visits has always been terrible and my parents got food poisoning there once) we opted to eat at the reliably good Soho branch this evening.

Between us we had yaki udon (teppan-fried udon noodles in curry oil with chicken,
prawns, chikuwa, egg, beansprouts, leeks, mushrooms and peppers. garnished with fried shallots, pickled ginger and sesame seeds) @ £8.05, amai udon (teppan-fried udon noodles in a sweet tamarind sauce with prawns, egg, tofu, beansprouts, red onions and leeks. garnished with peanuts and lime) @ £8.05 and a chicken ramen (noodles in a chicken and pork soup topped with grilled chicken breast and seasonal greens, garnished with menma and spring onions) @ £8.05, along with refreshing asahi beer and sparkling elderflower drinks.

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No.42 – yaki udon

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No.43 – amai udon

I was reminded just how great Wagamama can be! It’s good value, healthy and very tasty food. At the Soho branch, service was really good and obliging – one member of our party didn’t want peanuts on their noodles, so they were served on the side with another person’s noodles (and no, it was nothing like Smithy having fish and chips with chips).

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Japanese, noodles
~ Address: 10a Lexington Street, London
~ Postcode: W1F 0LD
~ Tel: 020 7292 0990
~ Nearest tube station: Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus
~ Website: Wagamama website
~ Menu: Menu – as of Aug 2011
~ Location: Wagamama Soho map

Wagamama on Urbanspoon