There has been a surge of soup noodle/ramen places in the Northern Quarter lately. Japanese soup noodles, also known as ramen in its native country, is a very common food in Japan. I’ve been a big fan of Shoryu, a famous chain serving ramen since it arrived in Manchester Piccadilly. I was surprised to see competition in the ramen trade popping up! Intrigued to see whether the hype lived up to reality, I took my Korean friend in tow to try out Tokyo Ramen.
Tokyo Ramen interior
The inside of Tokyo Ramen isn’t huge, as might be expected from the other units in the area; Oké Poké and Bird and Blend share similar units. The open kitchen means people can see their meals being prepared. Seating is limited with a few tables and stools and some bar stools. It was a cold day and I came in wearing a coat and scarf, but there was nowhere to put your items except on the floor. Having some coat hooks dotted around would have been helpful, given you cannot really put your coat on your stool.
We were shown to a table by a rather disinterested staff member, who continued to give off the same vibe throughout the course of the service. The chef, however, was cheerful.
Tokyo Ramen menu
The menu is simple one so making a decision is fairly easy. I believe the menu changes every so often. At the time I visited, we had 3 ramen choices which all cost £11.75 each:
Chicken bone broth, koji fried chicken, fermented chilli oil, roast garlic-sesame taro, kale and lime
Chicken bone broth, pork belly, pickled mustard greens, spring onion, taro, nori seaweed
Mushroom dashi (broth), burnt onion miso, pickled shitake, enoki mushrooms, brown butter, sweet potato
There are also 4 side plates you can choose from:
- Beef Yakiniku £7 – Beef with black garlic and coal taro
- Koji Fried Chicken £6.75 – Served with sweetcorn mayo, Ssamjang (tangy and spicy paste) and yeast furikake (seasoning)
- Octopus Karaage £8 – Served with chickpea miso and ink ponzu (sour dressing)
- Nikkei Tofu £6 – Served with smoked avocado, yuzu kosho (seasoning which is spicy, sour and salty) and tigers milk (citrus marinade).
There are also a few drinks, including a couple of beers (Kirin and Asahi), highballs, soft drinks, juice and green tea.
I ordered the Miso Ramen and unfortunately, I did not enjoy this. The broth was very thick as the burnt onion miso took over the mushroom dashi. The ramen, therefore, felt very dense and heavy to eat. There was no balance in flavours to this bowl. As I moved from noodles to the broth, to the sweet potato, it was just one heavy item after another, after another. There was nothing refreshing to clean the palate so I can appreciate each ingredient for what it was.
My friend ordered the Tantanmen and this fared a bit better, but again, suffered from dense flavours and a lack of balance. I know this might be odd to some readers, but the balance of flavours really matters to me and my friend. It is in fact, very common in East Asian cuisine to seek balance in a set meal. If we have one deep-fried dish, we must also have something fresh to counter it.
We also ordered a side of the Koji Fried Chicken as it contained Ssamjang, a sauce familiar to my friend. The sauce used was not this, or at least wasn’t what she knew as being traditional Ssamjang. In addition, the dish arrived much later compared to our ramen bowls, we almost thought they forgot about it entirely.
Overall Rating and Comments
3/10, -1 for the lack of hooks for hanging up coats, – 2 for the service, -4 for the lack of balanced flavours in the ramen bowls themselves and in the menu choices. There is nothing I can call, refreshing, in the menu. Everything was salty. Perhaps part of this is that Tokyo Ramen aims to target the night scene in Manchester, so they needed a menu that would pair well with alcohol or beer? If you drink, you might like this place.
Would Visit Again?
No, I would not return personally.
Address: Tokyo Ramen, 55 Church St, Manchester M4 1PD