…and it’s ok!
Ramen – specifically tonkotsu ramen – is pretty great. Noodles in a rich broth, usually topped with chashu pork, spring onions, kombu, and a soft-boiled egg. It’s that particular kind of over-architected fast food where you’re taking twenty four hours and as many ingredients to make a pot noodle with delusions of grandeur, and I bloody love it.
As top-tier fancied up junk, I’ve been hoping for years that ramen shops would roll into town and pull Cambridge out from the burger event horizon.
Oh well, we’ve got one now.
Ittou serves ramen on the site of the departed Rainbow Cafe, thereby solving two Cambridge food problems at once. It’s down a little alley on King’s Parade, in the basement of a tourist sweet shop(pe), and is not immediately prepossessing.
Meh. Dumpling Tree has the atmosphere of a deserted motorway service station, and bangs out some of the best food in town. I’m sure we can suck it up if the food’s decent.
And it is, pretty much.
The noodles are done just so, retaining a little firmness. The tonkotsu broth, the dish’s most recognisable element, is thick and silky. It’s not too salty (which Ippudo’s sometimes is), and it’s packing plenty of rich piggy flavour. There’s lots of kombu (which I personally don’t much care for) and pickled bamboo shoot (which I do). The pork belly slices are generous and unctuous – at least as tender and well marinated as at the London alternatives I’m perhaps unkindly judging it against.
The only real wrong note, and it’s a small one, is the boiled egg. For me, an ideal ramen egg retains a runny centre. Whether it’s a quick boil and chill or a sous-vide affair, you want to stop the yolk firming too much, and Ittou’s had gone a touch too far. There was some gooeyness still, but a little powdery/hard texture spoiling the overall effect.
Why yes, I am being fussy.
We also had some vegetable gyoza (decent, handmade, arguably a touch stodgy) and some takuyaki, which the boyfriend said were some of the best he’d had. Complaining that takuyaki are a bit stodgy would be like complaining that the soup was a bit wet, so I’ve just made my peace with the fact that I plain don’t like them. If you do, apparently they’re good here.
Takuyaki are also, to save you a click, a fried ball of batter, filled with octopus. Yeah, Japan made an octopus doughnut.
All in all, Ittou is worth a look. If you want really good tonkotsu ramen, sure, you’re going to hop on the train and go to Ippudo, Kanada-Ya, or Bone Daddies in Soho instead. They’re more interesting and, yes, better. But this is a really welcome addition to Cambridge’s casual dining roster. The non-ramen menu is Japanese dominated pan-Asian, with katsu curry, Korean jigae or bibimbap, and a few noodle dishes. Overleaf is a selection of twelve or so sakes and plum wine.
The star of the show is a really solid, simple implementation of tonkotsu ramen, with flavourful broth and rich soft pork belly.