Afterthoughts – Torimen Kushiyaki / Ramen House
I am a ramen enthusiast, and so when I wandered by the new ramen shop, Torimen, in Soho, I knew I had to try it. The comics-covered walls and bar-like atmosphere made Torimen a standout amidst other ramen joints around town. My rule is to usually wait for 6 months before visiting freshly opened restaurants, as they all seem to go through a “growing pains” period. However, seeing that it’s “just ramen” I decided to give this new establishment a test drive.
The restaurant boasts an open kitchen where ramen and kushiyaki (grilled skewers) are made.
The entire first page of the menu was about the “unique” ramen Torimen serves up, free of MSG, made with 6.5pH water, then infused with ebi flavour. I’ve had ramen made with flying fish in Tokyo before, as well as chicken, so I was keen to try what ebi (shrimp) infused broth tasted like.
However, seeing that it’s dinner and we didn’t want to overload on carbs, my friend and I decided to share a bowl of ramen supplemented by a few small dishes.
I am a sucker for ox tongue. We started the meal with skewers of charcoal grilled thick sliced ox tongue. The outside was beautifully caramelized and the inside was succulent and juicy. It came with a smudge of whole grain mustard on the side. I loved the texture and flavour of this dish, but was overwhelmed by how salty it was, and I thought I ate salt like a fish in the sea!
Following this salty yet well-grilled dish, came a refreshing bowl of onsen tamago (egg) salad with black truffles. The oozy, creamy egg coated the salad leaves in rich velvety flavours, and the pungency of the black truffle oil was balanced by the zesty yuzu dressing. I love truffles, but I am not a fan of truffle oil because most “truffle oil” are synthesized from chemicals rather than the actual delicacy, so I was surprised to find some tiny bits of black truffle on top of the egg.
Next, came grilled asparagus wrapped in a thin mesh of pork. The asparagus were on the small side, but grilled to juicy tenderness. It was predictable but good.
The chicken tsukune (minced chicken) with cheese was the star of the evening. I would go back just to have this skewer! It came to the table accompanied by an egg yolk soaked in sweet soy. The dish reminded me of a similar one at Yardbird. The melty cheese acted as a creamy binding for the juicy minced chicken, and the egg yolk dipping sauce further enhanced the creamy texture. However, I would have appreciated a more finely minced meat, as there were bits of cartilage that disturbed the overall texture of the skewer. I have still yet to find a tsukune that can compete with the one at Teki in Tokyo.
Piercing the orangey egg yolk with the tip of the skewer.
Finally – the Torimen Butter and Sweet Corn Ramen, which came in a very small bowl. My first impression? This is definitely NOT worth $58! We were not in a carb loading mood that night, and I was thankful to have been able to share this with my friend, as I would have hated to have this alone (it would have been a waste of calorie intake!). The broth, which makes or breaks a bowl of ramen, was thin and watery. I have had chicken and flying fish broth before, so I know that this kind of broth does not have the rich, collagen-rich body of a pork bone broth. Yet still, Torimen’s broth was very disappointing. The noodles tasted overcooked and bloated, and the bowl was topped by 2 wafer thin pieces of roasted pork. I could not detect any of the “buttery” flavour as advertised in the menu. All in all, it was a true disappointment, and the most likely comparison to this ramen would be instant noodle.
We finished off with a skewer of shitake mushrooms. This was average and, really, you can’t mess up grilled mushrooms.
Verdict: This is a marginal restaurant with a couple of good kushiyaki selections – the chicken tsukune and ox tongue. The food is predictable and average. With Soho’s expensive rent, I’m dubious that their menu would survive in Hong Kong’s competitive restaurant business.
Shop 1-2, 1-5 Elgin Street
Tel: 2546 8008