I wrote the first draft of this article way back in 2017, when the ramen trend had just taken off in Amsterdam – in a big way. Since then, the pace of new openings has slowed down, but arguably the quality has improved. You’ll now find everything from ramen holes-in-the-wall to fine dining ramen experiences. And I’ve had to update this post on an annual basis just to keep up.
Ramen Kingdom opened in early 2019 but it took me a while to get there. That’s at least in part because it’s so close to Centraal Station that you have to fight your way through the tourist crowds to reach it. But now I’m gutted that I didn’t run the gauntlet sooner: entering Ramen Kingdom feels like you’re 9,000 kilometres east. The majority of customers are seated along a counter, which borders the long, narrow kitchen. The restaurant – which can’t hold more than about a dozen customers – is adorned with artwork from Japanese manga and anime series Dragon Ball. Food-wise, I can’t recommend the spicy pork ramen enough. The char siu was some of the best I’ve ever tasted – potently porky but also full of umami and slightly sweet, in both cases from light caramelisation of the meat. The noodles were thinner than some I’ve had in Amsterdam, but with no less bite. The broth was also less thick than many I’ve tasted, but still full of flavour – and, crucially, spicy heat. Ramen Kingdom’s eggs were perfect: the yolk still oozing, the white properly marinated. The rest of their ramen toppings were equally impeccable: black fungus; wilted spinach; super-fine spring onion; and a dollop of minced pork and sesame. This, foodies, this is Ramen Nirvana.
A bowl of ramen might not be something you’d readily peg as fine dining. But Fuku Ramen is here to prove us all wrong. Opening in spring 2023, word of mouth quickly spread about this Japanese restaurant with its regularly changing fixed five- or six-course menu, culminating in some of the finest ramen Amsterdam has to offer. But before you get to that, you’ll be treated to all sorts of tasty morsels, plus a whole range of sake. On the evening we visited, highlights included lobster gyoza with lobster-head cream and oyster leaves; monkfish with BBQ bimi, burnt butter and a sauce based on sake residue, which made it taste almost cheesy; and an umami-tastic fermented tomato dish. All this was followed up with a rich tontoksu broth housing homemade noodles, smoky pork loin and the usual ramen trimmings. A memorable meal that left me more than a little impressed.
I first reviewed Fou Fow back in January 2015, although I’ve been back dozens of times since. It was arguably the first place to be exclusively serving ramen in Amsterdam, and as such holds a bit of a special place in my heart. Fou Fow offers 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 an 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. I loved every spoonful and I’m always going back for more – whether it’s for their tonkotsu or their tantanmen. Fou Fow now has two locations for ramen, on Elandsgracht and Van Woustraat, and one location for udon on Prinsengracht.
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. The first time I visited Umaimon at a press event,
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 in 2018. 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 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!
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 latter 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.
Since Hinata apparently translates as “where the sun shines” in Japanese, I hope they realise they’re in Amsterdam… Branding decisions aside, Hinata is doing pretty well. 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.
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 you can eat your fill of vegan ramen plus veggie starters, drinks and tea. The day I visited, the main event was the Red Dragon 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.
Tokyo Ramen Takeichi
Located 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 ramen places seem to offer many of the toppings as optional extras – so what starts out as a €15 bowl of soup quickly tots up to €20 if you add in all the elements you’d actually want.
In the same vein as Takeichi, 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).
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.
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