Japanese food in Rome has meant for years, if not decades, fish: mainly sushi, sashimi or rolls. For Rome patrons Japanese cuisine was 99% fish. They couldn’t even understand what you could eat in a Japanese restaurant if you told them you hadn’t had sushi. The usual question was “Why, what else is Japanese food if not sushi and sashimi?” Well, it seems that the typically Roman superficial approach to ethnic food is gradually fading away and also Japanese restaurants (real ones!) can offer something different: ramen and noodles!
ORIGINS OF RAMEN IN ROME
The first ones to focus on ramen and noodles were Miwako and her husband Maurizio. It was in the trend-setting borough of Pigneto and the name of the small club in a martial arts gym was Waraku. A few weeks ago Waraku has become a real restaurant in a bigger venue, not far from the previous location, maintaining its old name. Tantanmen and the different vegetarian ramens rank high on their menu.
Since a couple of years – at least – a very wide range of soba, udon and ramen can be found at Settembrini Libri e Cucina. The multinational team of chefs offers a fusion menu. We recently enjoyed a large bowl of ramen with coconut and vegetables and it was delicious!
BRAND NEW PLACES
The innovative Ostiense neighborhood hosts two of the new all-ramen places in Rome. Akira Ramen, in Via Ostiense 173, boasts of an all-Japanese team. Iekei ramen, with a very dense tonkotsu soup, and the thick futomen noodles are some of the distinguishing features of Akira.
An all-women crew, except for the Michelle starred chef, works at Mama-Ya where Rome local products are finely mixed with Japanese ingredients. Gyokotsu ramen (beef broth with stewed pork) is so far on top of the list in Via Ostiense 166a.
Ajsen Ramen (800 branches worldwide) well known for the pork broth ramen, is a good alternative to most food outlets at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport. Terminal E, intercontinental departures, second floor.
Okasan, the brand new restaurant near the Vatican, offers five different types of Ramen. The Tonkotsu version, with prok broth and soya sauce, is their specialty but the hand-made ramen can also be miso-based, therefore vegetarian.
The chef is from Osaka and the food on offer has a strong Kansai character. The other key feature of this restaurant is okonomiyaki, the savory pancake or omelette form Southern Japan, presented in four different variations – the vegetarian one also features fried tofu.
Kisaki is to open on April 9 but they already take table reservations. Take-away dishes also available. Customized ramen (choice of broth and ingredients) seems to be the hallmark of their cuisine. Very central location, in the heart of downtown Rome, near the Pantheon.
Later in the year, by the end of 2017, Toridoll, the international Japanese chain (1,200 restaurants worldwide) will open a Bottega Ramen in Rome, after the Milan debut. It can either be at Fiumicino airport, Termini station or somewhere in downtown Rome.