Soup gets a bad rep for being, well, boring. Japanese noodle soup though, is a whole different scéal.
Bursting with umami flavours and more exotic ingredients than your basic leek and potato, ramen is soup for the soul and you won't find any better place in the city than The Ramen Bar.
While Yamamori, Musashi and the secretive little gem that is Brothers Dosirak on Capel Street all do heartwarming bowls of noodle soup, I've found my new fave.
The Ramen Bar makes all its own fresh noodles thanks to a trip to Kagawa in Japan to purchase "Ireland's first state of the art ramen noodle making machine", the website tells me, and I believe it. Those noodles are damn good.
Hidden downstairs in Kokoro Sushi on South William Street is this charming taste of Japan...
Its ramen-secrets given away only by a neon sign at the back of the sushi store, you'd be forgiven for having walked down this street a hundred times and never be aware that waiting underground is one of the best tastes of Japan you can get in Dublin.
Dark mahogany wood sculptures, red glowing candles and oriental decor all add to the vibe that this is no copycat of an Asian restaurant – it's the real ticket.
Haven't had ramen yet? The Ramen Bar is the best spot in town to burst that cherry
Ramen consists of Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a meat or fish-based broth, often flavored with soy sauce or miso, and uses toppings such as sliced pork, dried seaweed, menma, and green onions.
Nearly every region in Japan has its own variation of ramen, from the tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen of Kyushu to the miso ramen of Hokkaido; The Ramen Bar has an impressive 16 different bowls of the magical broth to choose from, as well as an additional 10 toppings if you want to customise it.
Portions are huge (you won't be able to finish it, so get ready for leftovers) and come with wooden ladles to scoop up the soup into greedy mouths. The Ramen Bar does a nice surprise in that – according to my bf – every time you go they drop over a little free taster while you wait for your ramen.
We got two Ebi Katsu, deep fried prawns in panko crumbs and it's a nice touch.
After much hmm-ing about, we went with the Garlic Lovers Ramen and the Chinese Pork and Won Ton
As a proud garlic lover I couldn't resist a steaming bowl of Tonkotsu and Miso Broth, Grilled Chicken, Bean Sprouts, Choi-Sum, Seasoned Egg, Seasoned Bamboo Shoots, Fried Onion, Grated Garlic, Black Garlic Oil and Dried Nori Seaweed.
The egg turns a murky brown colour from soaking up all the marinade but inside the yolk is squishy and soft, lending itself perfectly to the grilled meat. Flavours are bold, and yep, very garlicky. Yum.
The Chinese Pork and Won Ton ramen is a milder and more classic dish of clear Chicken Broth, Chinese Style Pork Chashu, Chicken Won Ton, Bean Sprouts, Seasoned Bamboo Shoots, Dried Nori Seaweed, Chilli Oil and Coriander Stalks.
Fresh flavours and doughy little won ton pillows make this a winner.
It's casual yet also swish enough for date night and – best of all – excellent value
Starters/sides range from €4.50 for steamed edamame beans to €7.50 for Okonomiyaki, a Japanese style pancake with Chashu pork, cabbage and mozzarella, while ramen all come in around the €15 mark. There's also a Kids Ramen for under seven quid if you want to introduce the sprogs to some delicious eats sooner rather than later.
High-end eats at low-end prices means you'll be visiting this kinda 'Soup Speakeasy' again and again.
Next time I've my eye on the Salmon Miso...