It’s Ramen Wars! The next contender is Ittenbari Soho, a small and spartan Ramen house just off Piccadilly Circus. Ittenbari was actually one of the first ramen joints I tried in London (back in the good ol’ days of Ramen Club organised by the effervescent Josy) and I remember it fondly. So, naturally, I needed to go back and check it out again. Service is very efficient and this place is geared to get you in, get you fed, and then get you out the door to make room for the next customer.
What you need to know:
- There are only four choices for your Ramen
- You can upsize to a “Deluxe”for a couple of quid which gets you extra pork and egg
- Still hungry and have leftover broth? You can order a second portion of noodles
- Pricing is a tad cheaper than its competitors at £8-11 for a bowl
This isn’t the place to hang out and wait for a group. Conveniently, there are plenty of places around including a fairly decent gastropub right next door and another standard boozer across the street. If you fancy something a little more upscale, check out Bar Americain in the basement of Brasserie Zedel just around the corner which is top notch if you are in the mood for a classic cocktail in an art deco period bar.
What to eat?
With only four options, the decision making process is fairly streamlined. You can choose between the house special (seafood broth), a soy-based broth, and a miso-based broth. The fourth option, for those of you counting, is a veggie option although I can’t recall what the soup base is.
I opted for the Ittenbari house special and upsized it to a Deluxe for all the extra goodness. Given that it’s Ramen Wars, I’ll be considering a number of criteria: noodles, soup base, toppings, egg, and general satisfaction.
Noodles: Tender yet elastic with a touch of chewiness. Ittenbari gives you a reasonable portion to fill you up.
Soup base: The seafood base is smooth and well balanced but lacks the punchiness of my preferred Tonkotsu-style pork base. It’s good for those looking for a lighter meal or perhaps in a slightly warmer month.
Toppings: Ittenbari’s toppings for the house special consist of the various parts of a spring onion finely chopped or julienned and then slices of char siu pork. The pork itself is very much “melt-in-your-mouth” and has a mild flavour that balances well with the delicate notes of the soup base. I was a bit disappointed at the lack of variety with the rest of the toppings – where were the bean sprouts, sweet corn, or garlic?
Egg: I’m not the biggest fan of eggs, but I love a marinated ramen egg. Unfortunately, here Ittenbari falls short as the egg is simply a soft boiled egg without any seasoning.
General happiness: Overall it was a satisfying bowl of ramen. Was it the best I’ve had in London, no, but it ticks the boxes for a quick and filling meal in the winter.
Noodles: ★★★★☆ Soup: ★★★☆☆ Toppings: ★★☆☆☆ Egg: ★★☆☆☆ Happiness: ★★★☆☆
Ittenbari also has a range of traditional Japanese dishes including curries and a limited selection of sushi. We tried out the gyoza (a bit small but tasty) and the kara-age (tender fried chicken but in need of a dipping sauce or seasoning). The katsu curry the table next to us had looked delicious and it was absolutely massive so I think it’s something to keep in mind for the next time.
What about a drink?
The house sake is £8 for a 280ml bottle which isn’t too bad. Between the three of us, we finished off two bottles with our meal which was just about right. I’d suggest getting it cold as the flavours meld together and it provides a cooling contrast to the hot soup.
Worth the dosh?
Yep. While it’s not a luxury dining spot, it’s a very affordable meal in the middle of tourist central London and you’d be hard pressed to find a better value proposition given the quality of the food.
Find Ittenbari here
84 Brewer Street, W1F 9UB