Dublin's New Ramen Shop Opens To All The Buzz
What's the story?
The hype train certainly came in with this Nomo Ramen didn't it (which we take partial responsibility for). Our fair city's general lacking in ramen-ness has been a point of concern for many of you over the years, so talk of a new ramen shop, which owner Kevin Hughes had been painstakingly planning for years, had food circles alight with talk of a 7-hour chicken broth, 24-hour marinated eggs and noodles imported from David Chang's favourite supplier in the US - Sun Noodles.
They cleverly planned a soft launch for their first weekend with reduced menu prices and tickets which unsurprisingly sold out, and the feedback was as good as the team there could have hoped for, with many proclamations across social media (and in newspapers) that it was the best ramen in the city. While they started with just two ramens - one topped with pork and one vegan - they recently added a spicy version of each, with rayu on top, so we thought it was a good time to pay the bear a visit in person.
Where should I sit?
This is fast food (in the best way) so you won't be settling in, and the hard back seating reflects that. There are low tables, window seats perfect for one, and counter seats looking in at the chefs in the kitchen.
We loved that most of the window seats are sectioned off one by one, meaning no awkward leg touching with your neighbour, and the perfect excuse for a bit of solo dining, people-watching and ramen eating in peace.
What's the food like?
There are four sides and four ramens for the moment (but really a spicy and non-spicy version of the same two ramens). It looks like they will be expanding the menu over time, and it would be nice to have more variety with the ramen in particular.
We tried all of the sides except for the gyoza (they're not homemade so we didn't waste the calories / money) and our favourite was the hirata bun. It's a bao bun filled with 24-hour marinated pork, homemade pickles and hoisin sauce, and it's a beautiful meld of soft, smoky pork with tangy, crunchy pickle, spring onions and a little smear of homemade hoisin far more subtle than the one in your fridge door. An all round excellent start. to a meal here.
Next up the Izakaya chicken wings marinated in Nomo's "specially blended sauce", which is a bit sweet and quite a bit salty, so keep a drink on hand. The crispiness has been nailed, and our only major complaint is that they're not from free-range birds - hopefully they can find a source for this in the future.
Lastly we tried the mushroom karaage with hoisin mayo dipping sauce. We've lost count of the amount of message we've had from readers telling us how much they loved these juicy, meaty mushrooms in their pefectly light and crispy batter, but we felt they could have done with a bit of seasoning. The tangy dipping sauce definitely helped, and you'll crunch through them nicely while waiting for your ramen.
For the ramen there's just two options - a meat and a vegan. The OG Nomo Ramen (€14.99) is made with a 7-hour simmered creamy chicken broth (tori paitan) hiding those wavy ramen noodles (the shape is supposed to catch more broth), and topped with slow-cooked and blow-torched chashu pork, shredded leek and half a 24-hour marinated egg.
The broth is so creamy you'll be scratching your head wondering what's in there, the pork melts to the touch, and the egg is just perfect (although it would have been nice to have the second half - you can add it for another €2). The wavy noodles have more bite and chew than what you might be used to, which is what they were going for, and it's a very satisfying bowl of flavours and textures. It's a more simple offering than most ramens around town, but they're going for quality over quantity.
The San Diego ramen (€13.50) is the vegan version, and comes with marinated tofu, roasted tomato (incredible) and caramelised onion, whose layers pull out one by one, acting like a little boat to scoop up the broth. It's similarly creamy from the use of oat milk, and while we loved the veg, we can't see why you'd order this if you weren't vegan - that pork and egg are too important. You could however order it and add on pork or eggs as extras, but we'd rather add the tomato and onion to the regular OG version. Saying that, add on another half egg, a tomato and the onion and you're looking at €21 for a bowl of ramen - inflation eh?
The new two 'Karai' ramens just involve adding some homemade rayu on top (an extra €1.50) so we asked for a portion on the side, and were very glad we did. While the broths were rich and creamy on their own, the addition of the chilli oil kicked them into another flavour space, and if you love spice it's a must-order. If not you'll be fine without it.
We can definitely see the argument for small but perfectly formed, but another couple of ramen options would definitely be welcome here, and would give diners more reasons to return.
What about drinks?
Very basic - Kirin or Whiplash beer, a couple of soft drinks and water. Seems like a missed opportunity to increase the spend per head, particularly for non-beer drinkers, but maybe they just want you in and out.
How was the service?
So lovely, jovial, welcoming. How any new opening is finding such great staff in times like this is hard to fathom.
And the damage?
With three sides between two, a bowl of ramen each, water and a tip it came to €30 each for lunch, which felt punchy enough considering we had no drinks or dessert, but that's probably because the whole set up feels so casual. Add on some ramen extras and a couple of beers and you'll be closer to €50. This kind of pricing pushes it somewhat out of the casual lunch stop space, but it's worth noting that the ramen is less expensive than both The Ramen Bar and Soup (both starting at €16, although you get more toppings), so by current city standards it's not out of step, and the work involved in the kitchen processes here are clear to see.
The verdict? There's lots to love about Nomo, and ramen obsessives will no doubt love the simplicity of the concept and quality of what's in the bowl. We'd love to see the chicken and meat move to free-range, a few more ramen options on the menu, and a couple more drinks options, but they don't look like they'll be sitting still any time soon.
Nomo Ramen 4 Charlotte Way, Dublin 2 www.nomoramen.ie