By Isabelle Blakeney, Third Year English and History
Location: 55 West St, Bristol, BS2 0BZ
Price range: ££
The Croft Magazine // As someone whose ramen experience has thus far been limited to instant packets from Aldi, I had no idea what to expect when sitting down to eat at Tomo No Ramen. The eatery, which started as a pop-up and opened permanently at the start of the year, is tucked into the east end of Bristol’s old market and has been praised by other Bristol foodies as being some of the best ramen in the country.
On entering we were met with a stylish yet unpretentious restaurant, decorated with hanging plants and exposed brick for that classically inviting feel and quietly playing an eclectic mix of Harry Styles and The Skints. The staff were friendly but relaxed, and very gracious about the three of us rolling up to a table booked for two.
Due to my lack of noodle knowledge, I was conscious about feeling overwhelmed by the menu, but as their dishes vary by season and ingredient availability, there were only three main options to choose from: the classic, the spicy, and the special. Each bowl could be made either vegan or vegetarian and could be topped with a selection of extras, including egg and pork belly. In order to get the full ramen experience, we opted for one of each, and a side of the oyster mushroom karaage.
The Karaage, a plate of triple-fried mushrooms with Japanese curry sauce, arrived first. Though I was initially apprehensive about the £7 price tag, the pile of karaage instantly rid me of any doubt of the standard of food at Tomo No Ramen. The perfectly crunchy exterior with the chewy inside easily beats any calamari I’ve tasted, and even somehow avoided the excess of grease that usually accompanies deep fried food. The mushrooms had a slightly spicy kick, with the lemon giving an acidic edge and curry sauce impeccably complimenting without overpowering the flavour.
The ramen soon followed, and once again, Tomo No Ramen does not skimp out on quantity. Each deep bowl was filled to the brim with noodles, eggs, and various vegetables. The Yasai Shoyu, the classic ramen, had a dashi broth with an understated mushroom flavour, paired with perfectly silken tofu. The Tantanmen, the Sichuan-spiced ramen, was a slightly sweeter, creamier broth, with a warming spice that hits the back of your throat, and a tender pork belly that added a rich, salty flavour. The Gentei, the special dish of the day, had a deeper, meatier flavour that felt rich and fully developed, topped with succulent chicken thigh. All three dishes had distinctly individual flavours, yet were warming and filling, and felt perfect as a hearty evening meal as the winter weather rolled in.
With the ramen ranging from £12 to £15 and beers averaging £5.50, whilst not bank breaking, Tomo No Ramen is definitely one to budget for if thinking of visiting as a student. The food, however, can’t be faulted, so in terms of value for money it's worth the splash. So, if you’re looking for a relaxed meal out but with exceptional and unique food, this ramen bar should be at the top of your list.
Featured image: Isabelle Blakeney
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