Putting raw fish on a piece of rice does not make sushi. But here it seems to suffice. This is my short list of places to get decent sushi and ramen in Rome.
Kohaku: This is a new restaurant in the Ludovisi neighborhood. It’s a warm elegant place and I am trying to try everything on the menu. So far, their soy sauce ramen (they have three types) is the best I’ve found here.
Hamesei: This is an old reliable place. Very quiet and and elegant. Down near the Spanish Steps and very busy.
Sushisen: This is also an old staple down by the pyramid so far away from the tourist area. Down in a basement and with a sushi conveyor belt.
Yusa Ramen: Way out to the south in the southern part of Rome.
Akira: There are several branches in Rome. This is a go-to place for ramen. I thought the meat was tough.
Mama-ya: This is a bit to the south in Rome but they seem to have a loyal following.
Hiromi: Although this is a pastry shop, they do sell savory items like ramen and curry.
There are other places that I have not tried yet, like Rokku, but as there are so many Japanese restaurants in Rome, I had to draw the line somewhere. I’m not obsessed.
*******updated June 20, 2022********* This article is mainly about the Chinese and Korean (and Philippine) grocery stores in Rome (there are many Bangladeshis in Rome and many run the local produce shops). For more, read this blogger’s post on the Asian grocery stores in Rome. Almost all the Asian grocery stores are located near the Termini train station where there are many other Chinese shops selling non-food items. This area also has stores with supplies from parts of Africa and other parts of the world.
I get lots of questions about where to buy cilantro, as it is a big part of Southeast Asian cuisine and Mexican food, so I’ll include a point about that (it tastes like soap to me so I can’t stand it. Someone should start an Instagram just for cilantro…)
Back to the Asian stores. One thing that all these stores sell is a plethora of ramen. Who knew there were so many types?
Asia Supermarket, Via Ricasoli 20: The entrance/exit is badly planned, and this shop is bigger than it appears. Fresh vegetables, fresh tofu, cooking utensils, fish sauce, etc.
Xin Ye Gruppo, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II 34: Mostly dry goods but it’s bigger than it looks so you can find rice paper, ground cumin, fresh ginger, soldering tools, and bowls, etc.
La Famiglia (Korean store), Via Filippo Turati 102: Located in a courtyard, you must leave the busy street and go into the building’s courtyard. Mostly Korean goods. No fresh vegetables.
The Korean Market, Via Cavour 84: Mainly frozen and dry foods from Korea and Japan. Owners are Korean.
Nuovo Mercato Esquilino, Via Principe Amedeo 184: Famous ethnic market of Rome. It’s more like a suq or wet market.
Unknown name, Philippino corner store, Via Calatafirmi 14/a (the street intersects with itself and this shop is on the corner – on google, it appears as Hotel Papagermano): This small shop sells dried foods but also jarred kimchi. This kimchi is the one that I like to eat.
Trionfale market, Via Andrea Doria 41 (this is not near the Termini station and is located north of the Vatican, in Prati): There are several stalls that specialize in Asian vegetables and foods, so you can find what you will need there. If you enter from the Via Andrea Doria main entrance, the staff is on your right (box # 238) almost the minute you enter the market. The stall also has noodles and other items that you might need.
Testaccio Market, Via Aldo Munazio 66b (every taxi driver knows where the market is located, or should). Has parking: Also carries cilantro at times. There is an herb staff (stall #34) that has it. Cilantro is “coriandolo” in Italian.
Many of the markets are beginning to sell exotic fruits and vegetables, and many grocery stores sell a few “international” items. I’ll update this article as I discover more.
Selli, Via dello Statuto 28/30: Is more south Asian but has many items.
Xin Shi, Via Carlo Alberto 10B: I think this store is the best. It has a wide variety including fresh vegetables.
Ramen is more than just instant. It’s gourmet too. In the previous year, I went hunting for gourmet ramen in Lima… A Nikkei food festival is happening this weekend in Lima so you could go hunting as well. Below is what I found on my search:
Tokio Ramen: Probably the best in Lima. It’s all by itself over in Jesus Maria. **** update October 19, 2019**** Tokio Ramen has opened a new location in Miraflores: Calle Coronel Inclán 235.
Noruto: Was a reliable go-to place for my Nikkei friend (Nikkei refers to the Japanese restaurants as well as the Japanese-Peruvians).
Kaikan: the ramen was actually better than at Norutu, even though the restaurant is part of the same chain.
Takuenn. Tried sushi. Soup not a thing.
Maido: this is often the best restaurant in South America (according to 50 Best Restaurants) but it is Japanese fusion so they also have ramen. It is served with a large rustic ladle, but I didn’t think much of the soup.
Tzuru: I can’t recall so I think it says it all.
Cosme: When I saw the ramen on the menu, I had to order it. It was not good. I ate the pork belly but that was it. When I didn’t eat it the rest, the staff took the dish off my bill even though I didn’t ask them to.
Korean restaurants: The Korean restaurants have ramen as well. I’m guessing that it is also made from instant noodles. The Koreans make a popular version of instant spicy ramen.
I didn’t expect to find a good sushi restaurant in Santo Domingo (sorry, don’t be offended, DR!) but I did. Shibuya is located on the ground floor of the Blue Mall (one of the most expensive high end malls in the city) and it is part of the SBG restaurant chain. SBG has a cafe on the same floor. While Shibuya is Japanese, the dishes are a fusion of Japanese-Peruvian dishes.
First, yes, they have a Japanese chef… for those who use this as a marker for a good Japanese restaurant. I don’t think he works every day so I imagine that sometimes the Japanese food is made by non-Japanese hands…
The sushi place has excellent sashimi (raw fish like the salmon in the first photo — a double portion), tiridito dishes (Peruvian “carpaccio” of fish — thin slices with sauce. See the photo of the fish in the yellow sauce, above.), and ceviches (classic Peruvian style in photo above, with deep fried sweet potato deep and Peruvian corn). Many of the other dishes are good as well, as are their cocktails. I liked their “tuna tartare” which was like a large portion of Hawaiian “poke” (raw fish salad mixed with soy sauce, green onions, sesame seed oil, and chili or mayonnaise… you get the idea) with extra ingredients.
I ate that this restaurant more than ten times and had almost everything on the menu. Their fried rice is super crunchy. I think they toss quinoa in it to make it extra crunchy.
Another surprise at this place is their coconut cake dessert. Not at all Japanese, but is a nice nod to the Caribbean. Try it! I wasn’t convinced as I recall the straw texture of desiccated coconut… this cake tasted like warm apple pie.
As for this place being the best sushi place in the DR, I didn’t eat at too many sushi places but this place was so good that I looked forward to eating there. Who needs to go anywhere else? It’s not this local fish place…
****** Update February 21, 2016***** The rising trend of ramen shops has reached Colombia. Here are the ramen shops I’d say are the best. Actually, Ramen Factory’s noodles and pork combined with Tokyo Ramen’s broth served at Tomodachi would be the best.
Tokyo Ramen, Carrera 11 and Calle 98. 12/13: It’s probably the best ramen shop in Bogota, and the restaurant is perfectly nice to sit in when slurping. They are not open on Saturday night (and maybe not at all on Sundays?). They have a variety of items to eat. I’m not a huge fan of their pork, a rolled style with a slightly porky flavor (and not in my favorite sort of way). They have a variety of types of ramen.
Ramen Factory Tokai-No-Men, Calle 93B # 13-65, Centro Comercial VEI Plaza (down the street from Parque 93, after the Andres kiosk, inside a courtyard that whose entrance looks like a parking garage). 11/13: It’s the far left corner of a covered food court courtyard. The broth is a whitish color and the noodles are chewy in that good alkaline way. I liked the pork here as it’s tender pork belly. But most people would not be impressed with the iceberg lettuce or lack of seaweed in the soup. Also, this is truly a hole-in-the-wall sort of feel (not elegant at all as it’s located in a food court). I liked the place. For those who care about this sort of thing, the guy working here is Japanese. His gyozo/dumplings are fine.
Tomodachi, Diagonal 70A No. 4-66 (turn up the little hill at Bagatelle, and it will be on the left just before the butcher), 12/13: This place has the atmosphere down perfectly. The broth is not special. And the noodles are too bland with a tendency to get overcooked instantly. They are open 12-3 and again 7-10, even on Sundays. Also, this is the only of the ramen places in Bogota that serves the eggs soft boiled. Yum.
Arigato, Calle 80 No. 11 – 28. 10/13: It’s a large restaurant and the service is fine. Feels like a chain restaurant.
Sushigozen, Carrera 14 # 93B – 45. 10/13: I don’t like the their sushi but the bowl of ramen was okay.
Wok, various locations. 8/13: It’s not as bad as one might expect. It’s a chain.
I’ve also been to a restaurant called Ramen in Macarena. Not good.
Yup, I found the best place for Tokyo style ramen in Bogota. The restaurant is located at Carrera 11 and Calle 98, overlooking the little park between 11 and 12. (*** update January 5, 2016 **** Telephone number is 609 09 59. They are open Monday-Saturday from noon to 9:30 p.m. and on Sundays/holidays from noon to 6 p.m.)
They must cater to salarymen because they aren’t open for dinner on Saturdays, nor are they open on Sundays.
I enjoyed the soft tofu appetizer, the kontaksu (fried pork or chicken cutlet, here served on fried noodles as light as air), and the calamari which were soft and tender.
Some people would probably like me to keep this place a secret. Ooops.
Recently, some of my Bangladeshi friends visited the U.S… which made me think about iconic American foods to make them try while visiting D.C. The following are some of my recommendations.
1. Krispy Kreme: Who does not love a freshly fried yeast doughnut, hot and fresh from a sugar glaze waterfall?
2. Five Guys and Shake Shack: The last decade has seen the rise of the new hamburger restaurant which makes me happy. Freshly made with fresh French fries – it sounds simple but we, the consumers, put up with so much less for too long. Five Guys is a nationwide chain that started a few miles from D.C. and if you have peanut allergies, you must stay away…
3. All-American classic restaurants and bars: These are classic modern restaurants and bars in the “old boys’ club” style of dark wood, etc. — The Hamilton, The Lincoln, and also Old Ebbitt Grill, the Willard, and Ray’s the Steaks.
4. Ben’s Chili Bowl: Visitors like this historic place which has recently become a chain and it will soon be opening a branch at National Airport.
5. Honey Pig (noisy Korean BBQ restaurant), To Sok Jib (hole-in-the-wall Korean restaurant), and Bon Chon Chicken: Annandale, Virginia is a well known Korea-town but Bon Chon has just opened a branch in Clarendon. There is also Lighthouse Tofu which serves more than tofu and Oegadgib which serves all-you-can-eat Korean including shabu-shabu (shabu-shabu are the words you should say to time how long you swish your meat in the broth to cook it.).
6. Pho soup: Eden Center is a little Vietnam in Falls Church, Virginia, where the restaurants serve pho and other Vietnamese food.
7. Ravi Kabob: It’s a northern South Asian/Pakistani place that is “hole-in-the-wall” and serves delicious food. The most famous local chain is Moby Dick’s.
8. Edy’s Chicken or El Pollo Rico: It’s Peruvian style rotisserie chicken. Anthony Bourdain went to El Pollo Rico but I like that Edy’s serves yucca fries. There are also several other Peruvian style restaurants in the area where you can explore some of this world famous cuisine, although I’m still waiting for the celebrity chef level restaurants to open.
9. Ramen shops: This is a fairly new trend in American food, thanks in part to David Chang of Momofuku, and I like the trend. Yummy, homemade soup. It doesn’t seem like a big deal but it is.
10. El Salvadorean food: Try a fresh pupusa as the El Salvadorean population begins to emerge on the culinary scene (there are not that many Mexican places in this area but Jugalita is authentic).
Of course there are also many Ethiopian restaurants to try and loads of food carts serving all manner of new American foods (Korean kalbi taco, anyone?). Every new group of immigrants contributes a new flavor to American cuisine.
When tourists visit the U.S., many want to try Chipotle and other famous restaurants. I recommend using Yelp to find the locations. Speaking of American foods, there is, of course, pie, lobster, grits, collard greens, chicken and waffles, barbecue, etc. to be had here in D.C., but, maybe I’ll write about that another time. And not to forget, I’ve done some research and it looks like there is only one Colombian restaurant in the area… y claro, por supuesto, voy a visitarlo.
One of the foods found almost everywhere is the instant ramen noodle. Except in India and Bangladesh. But that may be changing. I recently saw a commercial for Maggi brand noodles with the patriarch of Bollywood eating instant noodles. Ramen is a soup in Japan and Korea. To sell these in India, the instant noodle dish in the commercial was less soupy. Using the noodles for a stir fry is how the noodles are used in Malaysia (that magician at the night market made the best I’ve had) or Cambodia, and so on. Since the culture in South Asia is to eat with the hand, I would have thought that advertisers would push something handheld, but maybe that’s the next part of the ad campaign (this is not an advertisement for any brand). In the U.S., instant noodle is sold in cups making it easily handheld and easily eaten with a fork. Many other ways to eat the ramen noodle and 27 of those ways are here. One way not mentioned here is wrapped around prawns and deep fried like at Goong.
Why are instant noodles so good even if they are not good for us? It’s “umami” which is the Japanese word for that something special that makes food so delicious.