Ramen Ramen


IT’S a cheery early evening crowd in Ramen Ramen tonight, filling the seats, slurping from basin-sized bowls, chattering noisily and in the case of one woman sitting over beside the window laughing loudly, distinctively and occasionally infectiously at something or other.

Waiting staff bounce in and out with plates of endamame spring roll, crispy shrimp cake and those octopus-stuffed tagoyaki balls that James May was on about recently in his new-ish Netflix series on Japan. And, of course, ramen.

Paper lanterns hang from the ceiling, Bath Street twinkles out one set of windows, West Nile Street out the other and in a Blade Runner-ish style twist entering the restaurant involves a momentarily confusing jink up stairs into an office block, past signs for the Astute Fire Engineering Company and His Hair Clinic, before taking a sudden sharp turn left into here.

Walls are warmly plastered with multi-coloured post-it notes praising the food, or recording a visit or leaving a message. Whether they’re fake or genuine or both I can't tell and it doesn’t really matter.

If you so wish staff will do that glazed-eye reverential thing where (in restaurant owners' heads anyway) the music stops playing, and a choir of heavenly angels sigh soothingly as the number of hours the broth has been simmered is recounted. I think it’s 20 here but I may have slipped off during it. The quality of the bones and texture of the marrow is also tirelessly detailed. I’ve heard this schtick so many times in so many restaurants now that I just smile warmly and try not to encourage them too much.

Know this, though: when the Black Tonkatsu Ramen arrives (and in tiresomely modern style it’s before most of the side dishes) the creamy-coloured textured lake of broth is crowded with chopped spring onion, crispy-crunchy garlic flakes, a shimmer of black garlic oil, a half-boiled egg, two seared and very tender slices of pork belly and dark leaves amid a wide sargasso sea of noodles. It looks terrific.

Frankly? I’m not big on soups but as this one carries its flavours right down to the very bottom of the bowl. I head down there pausing occasionally to surface for bites of the arriving crispy Edamame Spring Roll (£5.90): crisp green shell, soft slippery beans inside (awful chilli jam); Crispy Shrimp Cake (£8); warm, moist block of pressed shrimp in fried breadcrumb and Pumpkin Croquette (£5.90); like the shrimp except very sweet.

Due to a mix up I end up with pork gyozo instead of James May’s tagoyaki which isn’t the disaster it seems as I suspect the tagoyaki is unlikely to be much different from the other uniform-looking, slightly processed-feeling fried dishes and these gyozo are hot, slippery and very juicy with pleasant crunchy bits from the hot plate.

I’m persuaded to try a Japanese cheesecake to finish on the grounds it’s pretty different. It is. Light, aerated, spoiled a little by a squirt of processed cream on top but otherwise mild and inoffensive. Would I order it again? Not sure.

Now the early evening hubbub has gone, the place has emptied and there’s only me and one other customer left while the chefs in that open kitchen clean down the grill and shut up shop (they close at 9.30pm).

It’s only now I have one of these breath-quickening, brow moistening (for food critics anyway) realisations that I have reviewed entirely the wrong restaurant. Easy done with ramen places. Honest Injun.

The bill seems to be from somewhere called Maki & Ramen, the menu I now notice also says Maki & Ramen and I realise the T-shirt the waitress has been wearing all night does not say Ramen Ramen but is emblazoned with a logo for, uh-oh, Maki & Ramen. Awkward? Turns out Ramen Ramen is an offshoot of the Edinburgh Maki and Ramen chain that doesn’t do Maki (hence the name change) and they haven’t got round to making new logos. Phew. How we laughed.

Ramen Ramen

21 Bath Street


0141 353 0678

Menu: Lots of pictures of noodley ramen-filled basins, tappanyakis, endamame spring rolls, yakitoris. Japanese food as we have come to know it. 3/5

Service: Cheery, pleasant and knowledgeable. Go on, ask them how long they simmer the ramen broth. 5/5

Atmosphere: Off-street, slightly upstairs corner spot with lanterns, post-it notes, open kitchen and plenty of warm, comfortable street-food vibes. 5/5

Price: They’re not shy about charging. Those shrimp cakes are £8, gyozo and croquettes just under £6. Ramen bowls hovering around £12. 3/5

Food: They do a very decent black tonkotsu ramen, crammed with flavours and textures. The rest of the dishes I had were pretty inoffensive. 6/10