I was all ready to publish this article when another ramen restaurant opened in Amsterdam, which just goes to show how hot the ramen trend seems to be right now… It seemed like a waste not to try it and make this list a little more complete, albeit I’ll have probably failed in my quest for completeness by the end of the week – such is the pace of new openings.* But before we get into all the noodly details, let me start with a caveat: I’ve never been to Japan. I’ve never even eaten ramen outside of Amsterdam. I’m comparing these places on a level playing field – but I’ve never played on another field, as it were. So I’m no expert – I’m simply speaking as I find, according to my own subjective tastes. With that in mind, and without further ado, I bring you my Ramen Amsterdam Roundup: what you should eat at 11 ramen restaurants, and how I rate them against each other.
*Since writing this article in October 2017, I’ve updated it 3 times to include new ramen joints that have opened in the meantime!
Tokyo Ramen Takeichi
A relative newcomer on the Vijzelstraat, Takeichi gets packed with locals and tourists every lunchtime. The occasion I visited, I got the Nouko spicy chicken ramen with egg. The flavour of the broth was good (savoury and spicy), but a bit too thick for my taste and overly salty by the bottom of the bowl. The toppings in general were a highlight: I liked the little chicken meatball, thick slices of chicken, and spring onions. I wasn’t so keen on the raw yellow onions and slimy brown things that said they were bamboo shoots but had a texture very like mushrooms. The egg (which cost extra) was perfectly cooked, although seemed to have been chucked into the soup from cold. Unfortunately, the seaweed was also an optional extra so I didn’t get to taste that. In fact, a general point I’d make is that several of the newer ramen places seem to offer many of the toppings as optional extras – so what starts out as a €14 bowl of soup quickly tots up to €20 if you add in all the elements you’d actually want.
- What to order at Tokyo Ramen Takeichi: Nouko spicy chicken ramen
- Ramen rating: 3.5/5
- Cost: €14 plus extras
- Website: takeichi-ramen.com
In the same vein as Takeichi and also a newcomer, Vatten Ramen serves mostly chicken-based noodle soups – so once again I went for the spicy variety. The broth was slightly thinner than that at Takeichi but tasted good – I think I preferred it, but then again I dislike any soup that feels gelatinously thick. The toppings, however, were less impressive: the chicken char siu was just simple white chicken with little flavour. The egg came whole and was hard-boiled – which meant it was missing the gorgeously orange, rich, oozy egg yolk you’d expect. Also in the bowl were wilted greens (but more like spinach than seaweed), raw and fried onions – they tasted good, but again I missed the sea-fresh umami hit you get from seaweed (it was, once again, an extra).
- What to order at Vatten Ramen: Spicy chicken ramen
- Ramen rating: 3/5
- Cost: €14 plus extras
- Website: vattenramen.com
I liked Umaimon so much the first time that I went back again four days later; the first time was a press event – the second I was a regular paying customer. Umaimon Amsterdam is “powered by” Takumi Düsseldorf – where Japanese chef Saeki has been peddling noodles for over a decade. And with good reason: they keep their ramen noodles in a special temperature-controlled cupboard, only getting them out when they’re just about to be cooked. At the press event,
For something less rich, try the Teriyaki Wantan Ramen, which has a much lighter broth but is still generously stuffed with wantan parcels and all the other trimmings. The Butatama Miso Ramen is also a hit – a sweeter, miso-based broth plays host to thin slices of pork and what I assume are lightly caramelised sliced onion. Whatever you order, it’s pure comfort in a bowl.
- What to order at Umaimon: Noujou Tori Soba
- Ramen rating: 5/5
- Cost: €15.50 (but includes everything)
- Website: facebook.com/UMAIMONamsterdam
Sapporo Ramen Sora
Tucked away behind the tiniest shopfront on the Ceintuurbaan is Sapporo Ramen Sora – judged by many to serve some of the best ramen in town. I have to say I disagreed: the pork bone broth that made up my Tonkotsu Shoyu ramen was thin and strange in texture – it looked like it had split. Meanwhile, the Charshu Shoyu’s broth was just a bit salty and uninteresting. Although I did appreciate the seaweed in both. The usual boiled eggs were off the menu due to the Dutch egg scandal the time I visited, which was a shame – and we weren’t offered anything else to make up for it. The venue itself is pretty basic and lacking in gezelligheid, which would be no problem if the ramen was better – but I remained unconvinced.
- What to order at Sapporo Ramen Sora: ISHII’s Tonkotsu Shoyu ramen
- Ramen rating: 2/5 (Editor’s note: I’ve had significant push-back from the many people who agree that Soro serves the best ramen in Amsterdam. I’m prepared to accept that they may have been having a particularly bad day in the kitchen, and will go back and try again. In the meantime, I’d appreciate it if everyone could refrain from further death threats!)
- Cost: €14
- Website: ramensora.nl
Taka Japanese Kitchen
Serving lunch Wednesday through Sunday in the cooking studio on the second floor of Toko Dun Yong, Taka Japanese Kitchen keeps its menu extremely simple: Tonkotsu or vegetarian ramen for €10 a bowl. With Jasmine tea at €1 a cup, this is probably the cheapest ramen experience you’re likely to have too. The tonkotsu is made with a combination of pork and chicken bones, while the vegetarian has a miso-based broth. So what of the tonkotsu? Both the noodles and the broth were fine – not mind-blowing but perfectly good – and not excessively thick or fatty. Things I loved: surprise additions of kimchi, pickled ginger, and black truffle. Things that slightly let the side down: the egg was hard-boiled, and the pork was a little dry. However, for €10 a pop, you can’t do better for a ramen fix in Amsterdam – and I think all the customers with their ADE hangovers who were at Taka when I was there would agree.
- What to order at Taka Japanese Kitchen: Tonkotsu ramen
- Ramen rating: 4/5
- Cost: €10
- Website: facebook.com/ayanokouji.sasuke
Hakata Senpachi has been around long before all the other contenders, but its location out near Amsterdam RAI means I only visited for the first time very recently. It certainly feels authentic, and the chef there only makes ramen at lunchtime on weekends – presumably to ensure he has enough time to devote to his bone broth. The rest of the week he serves other Japanese food (which I’ve not tried so I can’t vouch for it). The ramen menu is a little confusing, but when we asked a few questions it transpired that the broth is more or less the same but you’re looking at three different types of noodles. Mr Foodie got the thinner noodles (that apparently Japanese people generally prefer) while I got the thicker noodles that are more favoured by Europeans. Having tasted both, I can confirm I am European (should I have needed more proof). The noodles had good texture and bite, and the boiled egg had been perfectly cooked so it was runny in the middle and full of flavour. The pork belly in my Tonkotsu Buratama came two ways: essentially thinly sliced and thickly sliced (do I sense a theme here?) while the rest of the bowl was taken up with beansprouts and seaweed. But what about the most important bit: the broth? It was fine – warm, comforting, creamy, but just fine. It lacked some depth of flavour for me, although many Amsterdammers swear by it as the real deal. As always with ramen, it’s entirely personal!
- What to order at Hakata Senpachi: Tonkotsu Buratama ramen
- Ramen rating: 3.5/5
- Cost: €15.50
- Website: hakatasenpachi.com
I first reviewed Fou Fow back in January 2015, although I’ve been back several times since. It was arguably the first place to be serving proper ramen in Amsterdam, and as such holds a bit of a special place in my heart. Fou Fow offer their noodle soup in three sizes, with various different bases to their broths. Pig addict that I am, I usually go for the pork broth which is served with more pork, various types of seaweed, and half a boiled egg (which is both warm AND oozing with yellow yolk). The first time I went, I was warned that the pork broth had “a stronger flavour” than the regular chicken, vegetable or miso broths. Bring. It. On. I loved every spoonful.
Having now tried other ramen places in Amsterdam, I realise that Fou Fow’s broth is not as thick as some of the other contenders – which I actually like as I find some ramen too rich and cloying. So if you want to try the pork broth without slipping into a food coma afterwards, this is the place to do it. Plus, they now have two locations: Elandsgracht and Van Woustraat.
- What to order at Fou Fow: Tonkotsu pork ramen
- Ramen rating: 4/5
- Cost: €10-15 depending on size
- Website: foufow.nl
Ramen-Ya is in the Red Light District, which can be handy when you have visitors to show around. I’ve tried various versions of their wide selection of ramen since I first reviewed Ramen-Ya in December 2016: namely the “Kimchi Ramen”, the “Hakata Deluxe” and the “Veggie”. The former comprised chicken broth with kimchi (obviously), pork char siu (essentially BBQ-ed pork belly), black wood-ear mushrooms, half a boiled egg and, of course, the noodles. The ramen themselves had great bite and flavour to them; the char siu was melt-in-the-mouth; the egg was perfectly cooked with a rich orange yolk; the mushrooms tasted like seaweed (luckily for me); and the kimchi added a welcome sour kick. In short, I loved it.
The vegetarian ramen was slightly disappointing compared to its meaty counterparts, but I guess it’s difficult to recreate the rich creaminess you get from bones in a broth made from vegetable stock. The Hakata Deluxe was a pork broth (far creamier and stronger in flavour than the chicken broth of the Kimchi Ramen) with soy sauce and a fattier variety of pork char siu. The Honey Badger loved it the first time, but I found the richness of it all a bit overpowering. With that being said, the last time we went to Ramen-Ya, either a different chef or a different recipe was being used and the pork broth was so thick and fatty that even the Honey Badger couldn’t finish it and ended up feeling pretty ill afterwards. Another foodie friend gave me a similar report just the other day. It’s a shame, but if you avoid the Hakata and stick with the Kimchi you should still be ok.
- What to order at Ramen-Ya: Kimchi Ramen
- Ramen rating: 4/5
- Cost: €14.50
- Website: ramen-ya.nl
Given that I get a ramen craving at least once a fortnight, I clearly needed to find an alternative to my tonkotsu addiction during Vegetarian January. Enter Men Impossible: a communal-dining experience in the Jordaan, at which for €25 you can eat your fill of vegan ramen plus a veggie starter, drink and tea. I’ll leave you to read the full review for the rest, and here I’ll crack on with the main event: the Red Dragon Ramen. These are tsukemen – dipping ramen – the noodles hand-rolled, and the broth a thick, umami-rich, spicy, miso- and tomato-based soup. I must admit the noodles had an extremely satisfying bite and the soup was very generous in flavour, despite the lack of animal products. It also came with some shredded vegetables (raw carrot and red cabbage), cooked courgette, crispy fried onions, and a mushroom that I steered well clear of. Better still was the accompanying spoonful of black garlic oil that added an extra depth and savoury note to the whole dish. I doubt Men Impossible will be replacing my ramen fix once Vegetarian January is over, but for now I’m happy to have found out that vegan ramen is – after all – possible.
- What to order at Men Impossible: Red Dragon tsukemen
- Ramen rating: 3.5/5
- Cost: €25 (includes starter, one drink and tea)
- Website: facebook.com/MenImpossible
Yama Ramen (Hinata)
At the time of adding my review of this ramen restaurant (April 2018), Yama Ramen was undergoing a change of brand name to Hinata, which apparently means “where the sun shines” in Japanese. I hope they realise they’re in Amsterdam… Branding decisions aside, Yama Ramen is doing pretty well for a newbie. I tried the Kara Miso Ramen, mostly because it was spicy and I was hungover. The broth was excellent – creamy (but not too creamy), rich in miso, and with a signature flavour of sesame seeds, which gave it an extra nuttiness. The noodles were also excellent, with great texture and bite. Only the toppings left a little to be desired: the pork char siu was dry (I’m not sure what cut of pork they’d used, but it didn’t seem like the right one), and the egg was hard boiled so that the yolk was chalky. It’s a shame because the rest was great – although in theory those should be the easiest things to change. My one other criticism is that the kitchen and front-of-house staff seemed to be endlessly bickering and arguing about who was doing what and how things should be done differently. Continuous improvement is no bad thing – but please refrain from discussing it in front of the customers in an otherwise quiet restaurant.
- What to order at Yama Ramen (Hinata): Kara Miso Ramen
- Ramen rating: 3.5/5
- Cost: €12.50
- Website: yamaramen.nl
The TonTon Club in Westerpark isn’t a ramen restaurant per se, but they do serve a dish that at least calls itself tsukemen – or “dipping ramen”. Cold noodles, pak choi, enoki mushrooms, a soft-boiled egg, and either pork belly or chicken katsu (breaded, fried strips of chicken). The soup was warm, but not warm enough to really heat up the rest of the ramen ingredients that were designed to be dipped into it – all of which were served fridge-cold. Plus, the broth tasted artificially thick, cloying, and overly sweet and salty. There are many other good reasons to go to the TonTon Club (the ramen burger is fun, as are the arcade games), but the dipping ramen isn’t one of them.
- What to order at TonTon Club: anything but the Tsukemen!
- Ramen rating: 1/5
- Cost: €13.50
- Website: tontonclub.nl/west
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