One of the real treats of visiting Tokyo is being able to eat ramen at any hour of the day.
In that effervescent capital every noodle counts, from the 5-star bowl in the Marunouchi district to the “take your ticket” hole in the wall catering to pre-dawn, post-karaoke, cosplayers.
My first encounter with ramen came after a double red-eye to Haneda. After 22 hours in the sky, I needed food, real comforting food. Upon recommendation from the concierge at the boutique hotel – a former “love motel” – I had checked into, I only had to sway a few blocks amidst neon lights to reach noodle heaven.
Two key words, “konichiwa” (good afternoon) and “arigato” (Thank you) were enough for the ramen master to read my mind. After presenting my select-by-the-picture ticket, a bowl of broth garnished with seaweed, a boiled egg, some bamboo shoots and steamed noodles turned up at the counter.
It was an unforgettable meal. And it introduced me to Japan’s ramen ecosystem, which is as lush as cherry blossoms in the Imperial Gardens and as dedicated as the knife merchants in Tsujiki fish market.
Back on familiar ground, Bogotá is catching up on ramen culture. Even though it appears simple, ramen is actually an elaborate dish which dates back four centuries to the kitchen food of Confucian missionaries. To get a taste of Tokyo, try these five delicious ramen restaurants.
At WOK, a pioneer of South East Asian cooking in the capital, the ramen offerings on the menu have been expanding to offer clients greater variety.
From the WOK ramen with egg, mizuna lettuce, and chicken ($17,900) to the vegetable and shitake mushroom option, the bowls are generous, yet miss that “je nais se quoi,” which makes ramen anything but a run-of-the-mill meal.
WOK’s inventiveness allows for variety, however, and their miso soup combinations are savoury and enjoyable as a lunch or dinner dish.
Watakushi is best known for its sakes and elongated sushi bar. Even though their rolls and temaki are house favorites, they also steam noodles the ramen way.
A very traditional Japanese restaurant, both in décor and hospitality, Watakushi has been catering to Bogotanos for almost two decades.
Carrera 12 No. 83-17
Hatsuhana is best known for its extensive sushi “à la carte” but the venue offers a suimono rice noodle soup as a starter. Catering to business executives, Hatsuhana is best enjoyed in a group.
Ramen may not be their forte, but it’s as Japanese as you’ll get in Bogotá.
Carrera 21 No. 100-43
Knowing this essential word will get you through the door at Arigato, a small, unpretentious restaurant whose menu includes steamed dumplings, sushi platters and a delicately prepared tuna sashimi. There is also a house ramen, prepared with the warm hospitality and attention to detail this venue is known for.
Calle 80 No. 11-28
Ramen bars have been sprouting up as an affordable lunch option in the business districts of Calle 100 and Avenida Chile. Tomodachi means “friend” in Japanese, and in the Zona G this new addition to the ramen rave opened its doors recently with limited seating and an interior design reflecting Tokyo foodie decorum.
From the noren draped entrance to pine wood tables, their menu is all ramen with several smaller options, such as Otumani (sides) and Gohan (rice) to enjoy. The ramens are priced between $26,000 and $28,000 and you can add additional ingredients to your Shoyu, Komen and vegetarian Yasai.
Diagonal 70-A No. 4-66
Bogotá has been on an ethnic food adventure for some time now. In as much as you can grab an excellent curry or enjoy American Chinese at PF Chang’s, you can delve into the rich tapestry of Japan’s culinary arts. So enjoy some noodles of note. Sayonara!