Yamagoya Ramen Review – Bland Tonkotsu and Awful Kaarage

Yamagoya ramen London

Welcome to a new episode of Ramen Escapade where your host, Le Captain Foodie, walks you around London to review the best and worst Ramen Restaurants.
This week we visit, Yamagoya Ramen, a restaurant supposedly originated from Fukuoka; Where the owner, Mister Ogata, decided after 47 years of business, to bring the authentic flavour of Tonkotsu Ramen in London.
Here is my review of their Ramen special the “Yamagoya Ramen” Aka the Bland Tonkotsu and their Awful Kaarage.

 

Yamagoya Ramen:

Yamagoya Ramen logo

Based on their website; Yamagoya Ramen is a restaurant established 48 years ago in Fukuoka, Japan. The founder, Masatoshi Ogata was a lorry driver with a dream of opening his own Ramen restaurant (Reading that, it reminds me of the Movie Tampopo where a pair of truck drivers help the widowed owner of a family-run Ramen restaurant to overcome bankruptcy).
The Story of Masatoshi Ogata is the following; “While driving to many regions, he sampled great ramen from across Japan (often checking ingredients in other ramen shops’ rubbish) to try to come up with his own perfect ramen recipe. Using scrap wood from a local school, he built his first ramen shop with his bare hands in 1969. 3 years after putting all his efforts into his dream, his perfect ramen was realised as “Yamagoya Ramen”.

Following 47 years of prosperous business in Fukuoka, he decided in 2016 to open Yamagoya Ramen in London as a pop-up restaurant.

The Restaurant is located at Shaftesbury Avenue on the first floor of Shuang Shuang. Yamagoya Ramen has approximately 30 seats. There is a large counter forming a U-shape where most of the seats are available; Also there are four tables in the middle of the restaurant with a  capacity of 4 persons each. From the counter seats, there is a narrow opening into the kitchen from where you can catch a sight of the chef (Clearly not Mister Masatoshi Ogata).

 

The Menu:

Ramen menu at Yamagoya

Yamagoya offers several types of Ramen :

3 Ramens based on their “Signature” pork bone broth :

  • The Yamagoya Ramen: It is supposed to be the speciality of the house: Signature Pork bone broth, Chashu, marinated egg, mushroom, bamboo shoot nori and spring onion
  • The Tobanjan: For this variation, the signature Pork bone broth is enhanced with a house special chilli paste
  • The Yuzukara: For this variation, the signature pork bone broth enhanced with a spicy yuzu  kara paste.

The Oyaki Ramen, based on a chicken bone broth and served with Chicken Chashu, marinated egg, wakame, bamboo and spring onion.
The Tofu Miso Ramen; Based on a spicy miso and kombu broth, served with Marinated fried tofu, mushroom, bamboo shoot, spring onion and sweet corn.

Two chilled Ramen noodles dishes: Hiyashi Chuka with Smoked Mangalitsa pork or with Marinated Tofu.

In addition to these dishes, they give you the opportunity to order any extra toppings you want (Chashu, marinated egg, seaweed, kimchi, yuzu paste,…).

They also have a page on the menu dedicated to Side dishes such as the Chicken Karaage that i made the mistake to order.
Yamagoya also offers a good variety of drinks and desserts.

 

My Review: The “Yamagoya Ramen” and Kaarage:

 

Reading the review from London Ramen review, i should have known that the experience at Yamagoya Ramen was not going to be great. However, I thought that almost a year later they would have improved their recipe and offering; Unfortunately, it was not the case.
Honestly, i had high hopes (probably in the same way The London Ramen Review blogger did). I mean, reading their story; A passionate Japanese Ramen-Lover who decides to dedicate his life to master Ramen; And after 47 years of Business in Fukuoka (the capital of Ramen) he decides to open a pop-up restaurant in London? The dream! And here comes the hard awakening:
The difference between a Tinder date and a Bad restaurant, is that if the girl/boy does not look the same in person as in the picture; You can always set up a fake emergency call with one of your friend and Get the F*ck Out of here quickly! With Bad restaurants, you will still have to go through the pain of eating the food or at least pay the bill.
Now let’s talk in details about my review of Yamagoya Ramen’s signature Ramen, The “Yamagoya Ramen” aka The Bland Tonkotsu.

bowl of a Yamagoya Ramen

 

Broth: The broth was looking good and came hot. It was creamy but lacking any depth flavour or Umami. The lack of depth was counterbalanced by a lot of salt. Way too salty for my taste! It was probably a way to compensate a lack of real flavour.

noodles at yamagoya ramen

 

Noodles: The funny part about the noodles is that you can choose whether you want them Soft / Medium or Hard, but they won’t ask you the question when you order (WTF?). I requested them to be Hard. I should have requested them to be tasty. The noodles are certainly not made in-house (at least i hope so…). The noodles tastee like some cheap noodles you can buy at the Asian grocery store next door. They were plain, tasteless, and the texture was not great. When you think of how wonderful Ramen noodles can be, the ones served at Yamagoya are a big disappointment.

chashu pork served at yamagoya

Pork: Here comes another disappointment. The slices of pork were really dry and tasteless. It’s the type of Chashu slices that you could buy at Tesco if they were selling Ready-to-eat Ramen (not that i have anything against Tesco, but you’ve got my point). I call that the Chashu-Tesco, and i wish I could avoid that at all cost…

marinated egg at yamagoya

Toppings: Good amount of topping in the bowl: The wood ear mushrooms had a good texture but were lacking flavour. The bamboo shoots were ok. The nori, well it was nori (i doubt you can miss this one). The marinated brown egg, was not brown nor marinated, but it was well cooked.

Size: The size of the bowl was honest, they serve you enough noodles, Chashu and toppings to fill your belly and leave you full. If you manage to truly enjoy this Ramen, a bowl will be enough for lunch or dinner.

After the disappointing bowl of Yamagoya Ramen, i had a tiny hope that the Chicken Karaage would save the day and put a (weak) smile on my face. Unfortunately for me, the Gods of Food had a different view (One must endure the bad to truly appreciate the good!).

 

chicken karaage and mayonnaise

The Chicken Kaarage at Yamagoya Ramen is the worst chicken Kaarage i ever had in my Life.

chicken karaage focus shot

Chicken Kaarage: It was not a Chicken Kaarage; It was not even comparable to the fried chicken they serve you at 4am after a night out in a dodgy neighbourhood of East London. It was the worst; Dry, Awful texture, tasteless chicken. It was a pain to go through this Chicken Kaarage. It looks like the chicken has been overcooked, or maybe kept from the day before and refried before serving? I don’t know. The worst part about this chicken Kaarage is that it was almost impossible to find any chicken in this fried thing.
Also, the green dipping sauce served with the Chicken Karaage was some kind of weak, uninteresting mayonnaise.
One advice when visiting Yamagoya, simply do not order this chicken! I hope for the restaurant that i have been the unlucky guest of this huge miss. It is is a NO-GO for me, And it is also the conclusion of a disappointing experience at Yamagoya.

I left my plate of this so called Chicken Kaarage and left.

Price: £19.13 for the Yamagoya Ramen and a Kaarage on the side. To put it as simply as i can: a waste of money.

Overall: I don’t know about Mr. Masatoshi Ogata’s Ramen shop in Fukuoka, but the one in London is not worth a visit. If you know what you should expect from an authentic Ramen, let me tell you that you will not find it at Yamagoya Ramen. Disappointing experience, a bland ramen and a Chicken Kaarage to avoid at all costs. Don’t let the fancy story about Mr Ogata and his Ramen from Fukuoka fool you.  Yamagoya is a waste of your money, there are better places to visit for Ramen in London. I will not come back.

 

Conclusion:

“Disappointing experience, a bland ramen and a Chicken Kaarage to avoid at all costs.

Don’t let the fancy story about Mr Ogata and his Ramen from Fukuoka fool you.

Yamagoya is a waste of money, there are better places to visit for Ramen in London. I will not come back.

disappointed face 2 stars rating

Overall: 2/5
2 stars

Taste: 2/5

Price for value: 2/5

The Restaurant: 3/5

Information :

Yamagoya
1st Floor of Shuang Shuang, 64 Shaftesbury Ave,
London, W1D  6LU
http://www.yamagoya.co.uk/

Opening Hours :

  • Monday to Friday 12:00 – 15:00, 17:30 – 23:00
  • Saturday: 12:00 – 23:30
  • Sunday: 12:00 – 22:30

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