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‘Sure it’s only spaghetti in water, I don’t see what the big fucking deal is!’ this is the words of someone voicing their opinion of the Japanese delicacy that is Ramen. Once more, they’re mine. Or at least they were, spoken several years ago during a conversation with friends over where we should eat. Someone suggested Mao’s, several seemed enthused by this, so that was my response. Forgive me as I was so very young and wrong about so many things that have been put right since. So now I totally kill for Ramen. I also don’t wear stupidly baggy t-shirts and realise that the music of Fred Durst and Kid Rock were never ever, ever, ever, anything but total shit on a stick.
Skip forward to last week and I’m the LUAS into town, when I find myself with a sudden desire for anything involving noodles that verges on ‘third-trimester’ level of craving intensity. Being the good boy I was this year I’m now the proud owner of an iphone. And if you think that’s me gloating I’d just like to point out that I had my previous phone for nearly six years. A phone so old that I’m pretty sure it’s preceding model was two baked bean tins connected by a piece of string! I Google ‘Dublin, noodles’ and scroll through the results, there’s a few options but being not exactly flushed for cash I’m looking at the more informal and fiscally approachable end of the market. It’s then that Yamamori pops up. I’d been there years ago for dinner with college friends to celebrate graduation. But it being a few years ago my opinion wasn’t far from the opening words of this post. I decide to right the wrongs of culinary ignorance and reckon today Yamamori seemed to fit the bill.
I arrive and am seated in about a minute flat. Good start. I then look around the room and guess that there must be close to 50 – 60 people sitting at this moment. By the time I leave, close to an hour later, three of four tables around me will have been turned. From the off one thing is clear, this is not a place that fucks about with getting food out. Remember this is Tuesday lunchtime; I try imagining what this place is like on a weekend and how frantic the kitchen must get. And then I have to stop because I start feeling faint as my eyes tear up. I look at the menu. Yamamori is a Japanese restaurant so the menu offers a range of sushi, grilled dishes, sides, stir-fry and one section devoted just to Ramen. A glance-over draws my attention to the Yamamori Ramen. Then suddenly the menu went blurry as all the words became unreadable. All except this dish and its description, which was crystal clear and surrounded by flashing neon lights, as two blonde cheerleaders danced either side of it. It boasted of mixture of grilled chicken, pork, prawns, seaweed and crispy tofu. All yours for less then a tenner! I ordered it and a bottle of beer at the next possible opportunity.
I wait, expecting my beer to arrive shortly. So I continue to wait and it still fails to show. My waitress has forgotten, but hey, we’re all human and it’s a busy place. She’s probably looking after at least a dozen other customers, all in different stages of their meal. It happens. I get her attention and remind her as politely as possible. She apologises but her tired expression means I still can’t help feeling like a dick. What the hell is that anyway? Is it something in our Irish – Catholic DNA that means guilt and shame are automatically hardwired into our system? Only in
would the train of thought be, ‘You made the mistake, I’m pointing it out, yet I’m so sorry for doing so.’ You see that shit just wouldn’t fly in Ireland , ‘Forgot my drinks did you, right and how much of a tip were you expecting? Now dance, dance my little server monkey!’ So my drink arrives, ‘Busy one today?’ I ask. She sighs, ‘You could say.’ as a table of twelve is seated ten feet away. Shortly after this my meal arrives. My meal in this case being served in a bowl the size of my freakin’ head! Not only that, but damn-near overflowing with the aforementioned goodies the menu promised. I grab my chopsticks and dig in. New York
The broth boasts the meaty punch of pork and chicken. Thin strips of pork are tender if a little anaemic in both appearance and taste. The chicken is just above room temperature and a touch dry. The prawns, they’re fine. The crispy triangles of deep-fried tofu give a good variation in texture, but my advice would be to eat them first as after a while they became soggy and I became less keen on them. Now while these may seem like scathing criticisms, let’s just put things in perspective. I’m looking at a bowl containing five forms of protein (there was also a hardboiled egg sitting on top) swimming in a broth that tastes like someone has actually put some effort into making. And an overall portion size that’d give the Incredible Hulk concerns of finishing. And it’s less then ten quid! So although I noticed these things, did I care? Eh, no.
However by the end I found my palate had reached a kind of plateau affect. Where, by sheer volume, any variation in texture or flavour had been numbed into a monotonous experience. Any subtly or nuance now lost, not even refreshed by the occasional acidic bursts of scallion or pickled ginger. But again, in no way did I consider this a bad thing. As the last of the chunks and noodles disappeared, leaving only broth, I picked up my spoon for the last push. I looked around. The waiters now dashing around like coked-up honey bees. I saw one dropping a drinks order at a table without stopping, like drive-by serving. The waitress comes to clear my table, I’m slumped back in my chair and rubbing my belly like content Buddha. I try to say thanks but I'm so full that all that comes out is an incoherent mumble.
My bill says the Ramen was €9.95. I also got a side of pickled daikon for €1.50 which just wasn’t for me. Older and wiser then my first visit, on sheer value alone I’d recommend Yamamori for whenever you’ve in the mood for spaghetti in water.