amsterdam

Sapporo Ramen SORA (Amsterdam, Netherlands): A Spiritual Ramen Experience

THE STORY

I just can't stay away from ramen.

I enjoy eating it when I'm happy. I enjoy eating it when I'm sad. I enjoy it on a cold, rainy day. I enjoy it on a hot afternoon as the sun sets. While I may devour a bowl of ramen in merely minutes, I do truly try to savor it.

This experience at Sapporo Ramen SORA was no different, yet the ramen was exceptional. The shop is narrow, much like everything else in Amsterdam. There were one or two tables that could fit parties of 4 or more, but the rest appeared to be 2-tops.

Sapporo Ramen Sora Amsterdam Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen Noodle Soup Netherlands

When we arrived in the early evening, we took the last open table in this tiny ramen shop. The menu, as always, offered quite the span of ramen, as well as some classic appetizers and cold beverages.

Sapporo Ramen SORA, however, had a slightly different energy than other ramen spots we had recently been to. Maybe it was because we were in Amsterdam, and so the crowd felt more international. Or maybe it was because the restaurant was simply full and buzzing. Or maybe it was everyone's anticipation that electrified the air.

Whatever the cause may have been, it all became insignificant when I took my first bite of ramen.

The Asian Craving Sapporo Ramen Sora Amsterdam Netherlands Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen with Cha Siu and Fried Garlic

THE REVIEW

I ordered the Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen, which is apparently the signature dish at their sister resturant Ishii.

No bite of a dish is ever as bright as that first innocent, unexpected experience of the food meeting your taste buds. That's how I felt about this bowl of tonkotsu ramen. The first slurp of broth was just as magical as the following ten. I just kept slurping and slurping and slurping, thoroughly enjoying each spoonful as its own experience, but also fearing that the ecstasy would fade.

I can no longer remember the exact flavor profile of my first bite, but I can tell you that it didn't matter to me what else was in my bowl. I've generally felt that a perfect bite of noodle soup has some combination of broth, noodles, and accoutrements.

But what if it isn't? What if the broth is all you want from a noodle soup? Does it still succeed as a good bowl of noodle soup? These are the existential questions this meal presented.

It was salty like a shoyu, and creamy like a tonkotsu, and a perfect balance of flavor, like there was nothing else I could want from it, other than to have more. Is this what umami means? Because I'm only cultured enough to know how to spell it, not to define it.

I implore you to visit Sapporo Ramen SORA so that you can at least tell me whether this is, in fact, the experience of umami perfection.


Sapporo Ramen Sora (no reservations), Ceintuurbaan 49, 1072 ET Amsterdam, the Netherlands, +31 (0)20 664 4396

Hinoki (Rotteram, Netherlands): One of the Most Popular Ramen Spots in the City

THE STORY

You may think that headline is an exaggeration, but it's not. The first time we went, we arrived at 11:50, even though it opened at noon. We happened to be in the neighborhood and wanted lunch. We weren't in a rush. We also weren't the first people to show up. When Hinoki opened their doors at noon, we discovered that there were maybe 12 tables total, four of which were immediately filled.

Ramen Marauder Eats Miso Ramen Noodle Soup Hinoki Rotterdam Netherlands

Most ramen spots in Europe have the same menu offerings: three variations each of shoyu, tonkotsu, and miso ramens, with a couple vegetarian options and specials. When I visited the states earlier this year, the offerings were either limited to two or three types of ramen, or a smattering of unique takes and twists on ramen.

Regardless, I have always been happy with my options, especially at Hinoki.

Tonkotsu Ramen Black Garlic Noodle Soup Hinoki Rotterdam Netherlands Holland

THE REVIEW

Debating between the tonkotsu black special and the Tokyo traditional, I decided to go with the black garlic ramen. It was the most popular option according to the chalk board, and for good reason. When "garlic" is in the name of any dish, my concern is that the garlic will overpower the rest of the ingredients - that was not the case here. It was a great addition to the perfectly balanced broth. And for some reason, I really noticed the corn in this one. It brightened the ramen with a refreshing sweetness I don't often find in the dense noodle soup.

The Tan Tan Men came in an unusually large bowl with an unusually large spoon. Please note the side-by-side comparison of images here:

Sterling Schuyler Tonkotsu Black Garlic Ramen Noodle Soup Hinoki Rotterdam Netherlands Holland
Sterling Schuyler Spicy Tantanmen Ramen Noodle Soup Hinoki Rotterdam Netherlands

If you are at all hesitant about spicy foods, I would not recommend ordering this. I wasn't in pain, but it cleared my sinuses (which was exactly what I needed). The spice level walked that fine line between discomfort and pleasure. And this time it was the bok choy that freshened up this dish. Maybe I just have faint childhood memories of soggy bok choy, but I've been really digging it in my ramen lately. Also, for those with peanut allergies, the Tan Tan Men may have had peanut oil in it. According to their allergy list, they note peanuts in the Tan Tan Men and any miso-based ramen.

If you have nowhere to be except sitting and eating ramen, stop by Hinoki and enjoy a delicious bowl!


Hinoki Rotterdam (they do not take reservations - you'll need to just wait outside patiently), Keizerstraat 52, 3011 GH, Rotterdam, +31 10 4133585

Pho 91 (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

THE STORY

Pho 91 is one of the reasons we have visited Amsterdam more than once. Honestly and truly.

The first time we visited Amsterdam and ate at Pho 91, it was the final straw: we would do everything we could to live in the Netherlands. That's how profoundly satisfying that bowl of soup was.

Pho91_002.jpg

Even when we visited again six months later to make sure we'd still like the city in the winter, the pho was still as amazing as we remembered. We even booked our lodging based on how easy it was to walk to Pho 91. It turns out the Oude Pijp is a happenin' place.

The restaurant only has maybe 20 seats, with large windows for lots of natural light. Much like most places that serve pho in Europe, there are only a couple varieties - we have yet to see a restaurant that offers the different combinations of meat cuts (tendon, flank, tripe, eye round, meat balls...). They are, however, one of the only restaurants that offers hoisin on their tables.

Pho91_001.jpg

THE REVIEW

The flavor of the broth - possibly the defining aspect of any noodle soup - is spot on. The salt balance is perfect, it's not oily, AND they add Thai basil. Of the 3 or 4 times we've been, we've always gotten the pho 91 (meat balls are really hard to find). I've also had the Vietnamese coffee, which is just as delightful.

If you're looking for pho that tastes like it does in the states, go to Pho 91.


Pho 91, Albert Cuypstraat 91HS, 1072 CP Amsterdam, Netherlands, +31 20 752 6880