If you’ve heard the name Ramen you might associate it with two-minute-type packaged noodles, which are the staple diet of college freshmen in the USA. This is however a serious Westernisation of an age-old Japanese dish which has been around for centuries. A real deal shoyu ramen noodle bowl is vastly different and way tastier, and is now available and Downtown Ramen, located above Lefty’s in Harrington Street.
The small restaurant is dark-wood panelled, with low lighting and a seated counter area. The restaurant only has eight tables that seat roughly four to six people at a time. If you are a couple or dining alone, expect to be seated with others, as the place gets very busy, very quickly.
The menu is minimal, the focus obviously being on traditional ramen bowls. Order the Shoyu Pork, which is a traditional Soy ramen dish consisting of a broth base, noodles, bean sprouts and vegetables, with absolutely melt-in-the-mouth, slow-cooked pork. There is also the option of adding chilli and a soft-boiled, Soy and garlic egg (shoyu tare tamago).
The vegetarian option is Kimiko Miso Veg. This miso-based broth is served with noodles, vegetables like bok choy and bamboo shoots, as well as slices of tofu. There is also the optional addition of chilli and shoyu tare tamago.
Also on offer are 3 varieties of ‘Bao’, or steamed buns. For the vegetarian option – Smoked Aubergine and Tofu with Chilli Pickle, and two meat options – Soy and Beer Braised Beef Short Rib or Charsu (BBQ) Pork Belly.
The service is friendly and the presentation of the Ramen bowl feels steeped in tradition – a deep, black bowl covered with a lid is presented with a large renge, or traditional Asian soup spoon. While this can be hard to eat with, it does make the experience feel authentic.
Downtown Ramen does not take bookings, so be sure to be there as the doors open to secure your seat. Enjoy a laid back meal in an intimate space, with minimal fuss and fanfare – agood choice for a casual evening out.
Harrington Street, Cape Town (enter though Lefty’s)