The first meal in Nara was in a Japanese eatery not far from my hotel, the venue looks like it was styed upon an American diner, yet styled like a hybrid between both a traditional Japanese house and a diner. Staying in a local part of town offers some cool perks, and this was an eatery aimed at the local market with great food. The room is subdued with sand coloured wood throughout and black and white screens separating the booths, I can barely see a space at the counter all the seats overlooking the spotless kitchen are taken. The staff all covered with facemasks and hats go about their business while the customers are hard focused at their task at hand, slurping and gulping down the contents of their steaming hot bowls.
I’m glad this place wasn’t too local, they were prepared for foreigners, with one copy of an English language menu on offer. It was cold outside and the warm and inviting smell of the place really had us in the mood for some great soup. Ramen is the food on offer, so that is what we ate. There is a simple menu offering 3 dishes: chicken and vegetable ramen, soy based ramen or 50/50, a mix of the two. The menu offers a few additional items, like corn, extra meat, noodles or vegetable but essentially it’s all about the soup.
I ordered chicken and vegetable, my partner ordered 50/50, the soup delivered a heady, meaty aroma that pulled my face down towards the bowl. Cautious about burning my face I took a first sip, it was freakin’ delicious, the broth gooey and sticky, unctuous even, it filled my mouth with joy, and anticipation. I don’t know exactly how they make this stuff, but I’m going to find out, maybe they put crack in it? The bowl was huge and I’m glad in hindsight that I didn’t order any additional items, yet when I reached the bottom of the bowl and the soup was all gone it hurt me to stop eating, this soup was so delicious.
On the table there are a few condiments, if for some reason you wanted or could handle more flavour…?! There was light soy, ponzu with it’s distinctive citrus tang, some chilli infused sesame oil and black rice vinegar.
The other canisters on the table weren’t so easy to identify, I think one contained a miso and chilli mixture, the other a sesame oil, chilli and fresh garlic chive mix. I tried both of these with the soup, they were not needed to enhance it, but both very tasty.
Stepping back outside into the cold I’m sure my lip smacking echoed into the night sky as I strolled back to the hotel. My mouth felt strange I’m sure my gums suffered a scald as I was too eager to apply the painfully hot soup to my face.