I have a confession: I’m new to the ramen scene, and mostly my experience has been underwhelming. I had been to both Shoryu and Tonkotsu, and I found both of the bowls of ramen to be overpriced and boring. The tonkotsu broth was rich and fatty, but so incredibly bland that the only thing that could save it was adding about half a container of chili sauce in order to give it any sort of interesting characteristics. And I was paying something like £14 for what, ultimately, is boring noodle soup. I mean I know ramen is really popular in Japan, but I’m pretty sure they don’t charge the equivalent of £14 there. (Maybe I’m just naive about it. I don’t know.) So when some of the Boozy Bunch thought Ramen Wars would be a fun idea, my response was a giant “Meh”.
That is until a friend wanted to meet for lunch. And since Restaurant Seto is basically around the corner from both our work places (well around the corner for him, a bit further for me), I suggested it as a place to meet up for lunch. Plus, the set lunch for ramen is only £8 which is a much more reasonable price in my head for ramen. None of this insane pricing. So I booked it, and we met up for a nice catch-up. My only expectation going in was that I probably wasn’t going to be a fan.
Knowing my disappointment with tonkotsu broth in the past, I opted to go for the miso ramen this time. My friend got the kimuchi ramen (basically the ramen with kimchi on top). I was also tempted by that one, as I’m a huge kimchi fan, but I stuck with my original miso choice. We also split an order of the salmon gyoza (6) to share for a starter.
The gyoza were nice and crisp on one side and soft on the other. The salmon filling was incredibly tasty, and I used the vinegar dipping sauce they brought on the side instead of soy. So far, no complaints, but gyoza isn’t really ramen; they’re dumplings. I love me some dumplings. The ramen arrived, and it looked lovely. It was a rich, brown color from the miso. For £8, there isn’t a whole lot of extras in the bowl. There were the requisite noodles and broth, plus the chashu pork, bamboo shoots and bean sprouts. There were also a few greens on top for color. I dug in. Was this ramen going to change my mind about all future ramens?
Soup: The broth was absolutely fantastic. There was the richness of the regular broth, but with the added umami from the miso. It was like eating a very large bowl of a rich miso soup (with noodles). It was everything I had every really wanted in a bowl of ramen, but had been denied in the past. Yum. I added in some chili oil just to notch up the spice level a bit, but I needed far less than my previous ramen excursions. I tasted some of the broth in the kimchi ramen, and both my friend and I agreed that mine was far superior.
Noodles: The noodles were brilliant and had a nice bite to them. Even at my slow eating pace, the noodles at the end still held up.
Toppings: The bamboo shoots were a great textural addition. The bean sprouts gave me a bit of veg, but didn’t add a whole lot to the dish. The little bit of greens were really tasty. And the chashu pork completely melted in the mouth.
Egg: Unlike other places, there was no egg. But for £8, I’m really not complaining.
General Happiness: Bliss, utter bliss. Cold, dreary day. Rich, umami, spicy soup. Does it get any better?
Noodles: ★★★★★ Soup: ★★★★★ Toppings: ★★★★☆ Egg: N/A Happiness: ★★★★★
Seto may have made me a ramen convert. Maybe some of these other places people rave about are actually worth trying (as long as I can book, you can guarantee there’s no way I will queue for them). Clearly I need to steer away from the tonkotsu and branch out into the lesser known world of ramen. Maybe that’s my bag. But given Seto has completely changed my view of ramen, they deserve all my praise.
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