ramen noodle soup

Umamido (Brussels, Belgium): Big Ramen Bowls in a Small Space

THE STORY

As usual, my day centered around visiting this ramen spot, which opened at noon. This meant I had time to have coffee and a bite beforehand.

I decided to visit a Portuguese bakery (because why not?) within a healthy walk’s distance from Umamido. This way I could have my coffee and small breakfast bite a couple hours before destroying a bowl of ramen.

While walking to Umamido, however, I decided to eat a pastel de nata I had purchased to go.

Rookie mistake.

I didn’t need the pastel de nata. I just wanted it.

Umamido Ramen Restaurant Flagey Brussels Belgium Asian Japanese Noodle Soup

When you go out for ramen, it’s good practice to show up hungry. Of course, this can be dangerous if you’re also walking the thin line between appropriately hungry and hangry.

When I finally arrived at Umamido, I worried that I wasn’t hungry enough. But it seemed too late for another walk around the block.

Umamido Flagey Brussels Belgium sign graphic design

Umamido has five or six 2-top tables inside, and maybe four seats at the bar. The space is so intimate that I couldn’t get into my seat without brushing against the table next to me. There’s just the chef and the waiter - any more than that and it’d be a crowd.

THE REVIEW

I had the Ramen of the Chef, which is described as “The ultimate ramen, spicy, fatty, salty, totally Umamido, the bowl that feeds the soul.” This description is not wrong.

This was a bowl of ramen unlike any other I’d ever had.

Ramen of the Chef Umamido Restaurant Flagey Brussels Belgium Asian Japanese Noodle Soup

What was most intimidating was the bacon, if that’s what you would call it. Just one look at these two slabs of crispy, meaty pork and I knew I was doomed. There was no way I could finish this bowl.

But I happily accepted the challenge.

And instead of corn, there were green peas. While not as sugary sweet as corn kernels, they still added a refreshing flavor and texture. The raw red onion and rocket were also a wonderful surprise.

With the added pinch of kimchi, this ramen was spicier than I expected. But that’s what beer is for.

I recommend this spot for ramen lovers both new and veteran. It’s not a traditional or typical ramen joint, but you’re also not a traditional or typical traveler if you’re seeking ramen in Brussels.


Umamido Flagey (there are seven locations, one food truck, and no reservations), Chaussee de Vleurgat 1, 1050 Elsene, Ixelles, Belgium

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

Tensai Ramen (Rotterdam, Netherlands): Handmade Noodles in the Center of Rotterdam

THE STORY

I remember in our early explorations of Rotterdam, the Ramen Marauder and I were on the tram heading back home. We passed the sign for Tensai Ramen, and we quickly saved it on our Google maps. Later, it popped up on my Instagram newsfeed from Liyen Food Moments, and recently Lazy Pig Passion mentioned they are making a video about Tensai.

It was all promising information. People were raving about the newly opened ramen shop and only had good things to say.

Tensai Ramen Restaurant Black Tonkotsu Noodles Rotterdam Netherlands Holland

What made me less eager to try it were the pictures of the noodles. Why weren't they yellow? Why didn't they look curly and springy? I had read that they were made in the shop, but I just wasn't convinced by the photos that these noodles were worthy of my attention.

But since when did food photography become the authority on what to eat? I kept reading that these noodles had great texture, and that this is quickly becoming a favorite spot in Rotterdam, so we checked it out.

Tensai Ramen Restaurant Interior Rotterdam Netherlands Holland

At this bustling intersection by the Beurs train station, Tensai Ramen has large windows that keep the noise to a minimum. The inside is modestly decorated, with (as seemingly always) a handful of tables.

We went around 4 p.m., when the restaurant was at a lull. By the time we left, however, the tables were filling up quickly, and some were eager to take our table.

Tensai Ramen Restaurant Black Tonkotsu Noodle Soup Rotterdam Netherlands Holland

THE REVIEW

Look at this bowl of black tonkotsu ramen noodles. When I look at this picture, I see that perfect little soft boiled egg nestled in a bed of broth, the corn gently sprinkled across the bottom of its yolk. A couple strips of bamboo lay beside it, sharing a piece of nori like a pillow, resting on a bed of noodles. It's peaceful, like the calm before the storm of my spoon and chopsticks coming to destroy.

This is a bowl of ramen that you will want to savor. Enjoy a spoonful of just broth, then maybe a pinch of noodles, followed by a spoonful of broth, noodles, and a few kernels of corn. Take a moment to appreciate the texture of the bamboo and the black mushrooms, contrasted with the crunch of the corn and the spring of the noodles.

I always try to save the egg towards the end of my ramen experience because I want to savor the richness the yolk adds to the broth. Sure, I could beat it up with my chopsticks and mix it into the soup to be enjoyed throughout the meal, but more often than not, I just can't. The few bites I was able to take of that egg, accompanied by a spoonful of broth and noodles, were luxurious.

I highly recommend Tensai ramen for the seasoned ramen eater. A newbie will also enjoy it, but beware: it may ruin other ramen shops for you.


Tensai Ramen, Schiedamsedijk 1, Rotterdam, Netherlands 3011 EB