Travel is at the crux of new flavours and authentic offerings. The more one travels, the greater is the taste trail and profluence of ideas a chef can curate from. Ask Shubankar Dhar who is better known as your friendly Bengali chef with his restaurant Esplanade that has been serving delicious portions of luchi aloo dum and poshto for over 11 years in the city. Dhar then took his leanings to a cuisine that he has come to love, and he has since evolved from his signature cuisine of Pan Asian to specifically Japanese cuisine which comes hearty and slurpful at his new Ramen Bar, Pot ‘O’ Noodles. On his visit to Tokyo, Dhar visited mom and pop ramen shops, hole in the walls with a flimsy curtains that opened when they were ready to serve their delectable broth that was cooked for hours, and which were drawn when the ramen was over.
His new restaurant (he already has one in Koramangala) Pot ‘O’ Noodles opened on Indiranagar’s Double Road recently... in a more plebeian area, compared to the bustling 100 Feet Road. Simple, flavourful, easy on the pocket and delicious Jap food. Not sure where else you can read these lines together! The idea was to explore pots of ramen in different avatars, and give the ordinary foodie Japanese cuisine, that was economical. Learning from the families who made ramen at shops in Tokyo, he added to his chef’s hat, and also did a course at the Blue Elephant in Thailand.
The Ramens at Pot-O-Noodles are all made in-house thanks to his expertise, and you can choose from Udon, Soba, Rice Sticks, Lo-mien (whole wheat), Yakisoba, a feast for any Jap food seeker.
This one is great for a quick meal... and its ambience of different colourful walls with Jap prints in an easy and comfortable noodle bar is apt. No fanfare and flamboyance in the 70 seater... just regular wholesome ramen with its basic tenets right.
A refreshing Lemongrass and lime mojito to clear the palate, a steaming seafood ramen in spicy coconut broth made way to our table, in a quaint outside seating. It had a punch of red chilli. It was delectable. Subtle in flavour, a perfect pick-me-up for the winter chill outside. Slurp on the lightly flavoured broth with a flurry of add-ons like nori sheets, corn kernels, black fungus, spring onions with rice stick noodles. What we liked particularly in both the ramen and donburi were its individual flavours, and not a goop of everything (which is usually the case). Perfectly dunked into the coconut broth in a vista of colours. Yum.
Next came a Spinach and Shittake gyoza parcelled lightly, with a welcome pureed spinach and shiitake mix — any vegetarian would love to dip it into the house burnt chilli sauce and the lipsmacking hot garlic one (already on the table). The prawn and mirin was delicious, fresh, and the chicken and green onions gyoza had a meaty bite with spring onion bits...
The chef’s favourite is the Lumpia roll with nori sheets, and we realised why — the chicken and cream cheese roll dunked into a spice-filled tangy tomato sauce was delicious, crunchy and fried golden. A perfect starter.
Next came a favourite, roast pork ramen made with homemade noodles, which incidentally brings down the cost for the economical Jap fare seeker. Tender, succulent strips of pork in a stock that Dhar’s team cooks as early as 4 am in the morning, it imbued the most delicious stock with mushrooms, and bits and bobs of sprouts, sprint onions, nori to chomp on. A bit fatty, but juicest of slivers. There is no beef on the menu, no sushi too, given the chef-owner’s stress on affordable fare. You can get your long-simmered, hot and slurp-worthy pot of favourite soup here. Dhar’s inspiration of the Ramen shops in Tokyo... is on point. And for the variety-seeking Indian foodie, he also has stir fries, rice, noodles, etc. The Teriyaki chicken donburi came with a lightly flavoured Miso soup — delicious. A teriyaki glaze very caramel-infused, it was home-cooked in taste, with tender chicken. With it came, Japanese short grained rice simmered in chicken stock and an added crunch of carrot salad, picked radish, and half an egg, smiling robustly. This is a place for a simple delicious soupy bowl of goodness, no pretentions, no gourmet leaning, wholesome food cooked just right with hearty ingredients.
For dessert, it was a creamy, tender coconut ice cream with delightful bits of coconut that we demolished. Dhar has also added contemporary foodie leanings with a Ramen burger which is quite popular with millennials, a bun replaced with ramen noodles that is shallow fried.
For the largely vegetarian populace, Dhar has improvised after understanding their taste. “People think everything Pan Asian is Chinese (or Thai) and that was what kept playing on my mind, so we wanted to create a niche where we make our own ramen noodles, sauces, with a price point of `250-`300 per dish to give the customers a Japanese soup experience,” adds the enterprising chef. For your simple bowlful, this might be just the place.
(Suruchi Kapur-Gomes takes the road less travelled, in search of the ultimate foodie high in namma city)
THE CHEF WHO TOOK THE RAMEN ROUTE
The chef who did his hotel management in Kolkata and has worked at the Park and Leela Goa earlier, started his hospitality foray in 1998 before turning entrepreneur.
“We started in 2016 with a hole in the wall on 13th main Indiranagar. I wanted to do something different and had been researching on donburis, ramens, gyozas — Jap food that is healthy, tasty and affordable as generally the perception of Japanese is that it is very expensive,” says Dhar who stayed with friends in Tokyo and took the Ramen route to imbue authenticity to his bowls of ramen, donburi etc. “Ramen in Tokyo is a concept akin to the darshinis, every nook and corner has a ramen, yakitori and curry shop,” he says....