Almost a year ago, when I was still working as a tax lawyer, my Japanese colleagues came into my room one day, saying they had a surprise for
me. I was excited and in all my high-and-mighty forwardness, thinking they got me a present, thanked them and told them they shouldn’t have. What followed was an awkward silence and my two colleagues exchanging uncomfortable looks to each other, because, as I would later learn, they only came in to recommend a Japanese restaurant. My old roommate couldn’t stop laughing after. I was so embarrassed my face turned into the reddest of all reds. My colleagues even tried to lessen my embarrassment by saying they will get me a present soon. Anyway. My colleagues knew about my admiration for Japanese cuisine and I had once told them that, of all the restaurants that I had tried in the Netherlands, never was I able to find a decent bowl of ramen. They recommended a couple of restaurants in Amsterdam, restaurants I have all frequented upon their recommendation. But little did I know were they now about to present me with the king of all kings. The ramen that would make my heart skip a beat if possible: Takumi.
Now, of course there are restaurants in the Netherlands where you can have ramen. There’s Raku (Uithoorn) and Hakata Senpachi (Amsterdam). They’re alright; I have done my fair share of slurping there. There’s Le Fou Fow (Amsterda), a restaurant I haven’t tried yet but have been hearing good things about. Then there’s Na Ni Wa, the famous ramen restaurant across the German border and probably the most popular among all ramen restaurants in Europe at the moment. Dutch ramen lovers have been known to cross the border just for a slurp out of this bowl for ages. People line up in front of the restaurant for a seat. I’ve waited 1,5 hours before for a bowl once. But none of this mattered anymore the moment I tried Takumi. According to my Japanese colleagues, this is how it’s done. This is perfection. This is what ramen is supposed to be. And it’s all served in a small ‘izakaya’ styled establishment.
First of all, gotta start with some appetizers. We started off with a plate of gyoza (Japanese pot stickers), kara age (fried chicken pieces) and pork buns. Who doesn’t love pork buns?! It’s no David Chang, but these are alright!
Next, we were presented with tiny suribachi bowls. Suribachi bowls are a Japanese mortar and pestle used in Japanese cooking to crush different ingredients. In this case, sesame seeds. You add this to the soup for a sweeter and nuttier flavor.
Now the main dish: the ramen! K always says one bowl is not enough so he has to have two. If you’ve never had ramen before, ramen is best described as a bowl of Japanese noodle soup. Ramen is served in a fragrant broth (usually from stock based on chicken or pork) combined with a variety of toppings such as braised pork, scallions, nori (seaweed), boiled eggs and bean sprouts (among others). Takumi also likes adding bits of nuts in the soup. The broth is flavored with soy and miso. Altogether, it makes for a beautiful sumptuous bowl of soup. We usually have the regular tonkotsu and the garlic tonkotsu. The latter has a really strong garlic flavor, which you either love or you hate! Both have a beautifully braised pork topping that is juicy and flavorful.
While Na Ni Wa has a wider variety of ramen, Takumi definitely stands out for its quality. Takumi’s noodles (which are imported from Japan!) have a chewy texture that I prefer, a texture I could only describe as ‘al dente’ (if there is a Japanese term for this, please let me know!). Moreover, the soup has a richer broth which, if added with ground sesame, creates an incredibly fragrant nutty flavor. I’m surprised Takumi hasn’t gained the popularity yet over Na Ni Wa. K and I usually visit both (both are situated in the same street) only to have it confirmed to us over and over again that Takumi is the superior one. If I compare the two, I’d say that Na Ni Wa is the one doing things ‘by the book’, while Takumi is more refined and has an identity of its own.
To cool things off, you of course either order a beer or a glass of calpis (Japanese yoghurt-flavored drink)!
The damage: a bowl of ramen will set you back about E9. The above lunch didn’t cost more than E50. We had to travel all the way from Amsterdam for this bowl, but it was more than worth it.