Whatever one’s preconceived notions about Japanese cuisine might be, Hokkaido Ramen House has the charms and the dishes to win over one and all.
--BY ASHIM NEUPANE
One would be hard-pressed to find an authentic Japanese cuisine experience in Kathmandu. As a food enthusiast, I had not seen many outlets that served Japanese cuisine that I would recommend to others, so much so that I was turned off from the cuisine altogether.
However, visiting Hokkaido Ramen House at Budhanilkanta – inside the premises of Park Village Resort – changed my perspective towards Japanese dishes.
Just as you enter, you see ‘Ramen’ written on the gateway of the restaurant, which immediately communicates that you are in an eatery that is solely dedicated to serving authentic Japanese cuisines.
Upon entering the restaurant, you can feel the effort that was undoubtedly put in by the owners to invoke a dash of Japanese culture into the ambience and the decorations. As we sat in the restaurant, the waiters served us Mugi Tea – a complimentary tea served by the restaurant to every visitor.
Then, the chef prepared Cutlet-Maki-Sushi that was served with Wasabi – a Japanese pickle – and Miso Soup. The sushi perfectly meshed with the spicy pickle and the light Miso Soup. The soup – a mixture of Miso paste and other ingredients like tofu and green vegetables was delicious, enough to compel us to request for a few added servings. One of the reasons behind the singularly authentic dishes at Hokkaido is that the restaurant has been importing seaweeds from Japan to prepare Sushi.
As the chef was preparing Bento Box, the manager gave us a tour of the Jashiki Room of the restaurant. The wallpapers, frames and the decoration of the room evoked the feeling of an authentic Japanese restaurant. It was a small room with sitting space for not more than 5-6 customers. Unlike a traditional table and chair setup, the room had a table that required customers to sit on the floor.
The Bento Box was already put in our tables while we were at the Jashiki room. Bento Box is a take-away box that has rice, chicken teriyaki, pickles, vegetables, mo: mo, sushi and Miso Soup in it. Almost every dish in the box was on the lighter side. Apart from the soup, there wasn’t a dish in the box I found particularly impressive.
The chief chef of the restaurant Purna Bahadur Chaudhary, has over 21 years of experience in preparing Japanese cuisine. Chaudhary went to Japan to learn about the preparation of Japanese dishes about two decades ago. Chaudhary shares that the sole intention of Hokkaido Ramen House is to serve customers with authentic Japanese cuisine at affordable rates. The restaurant aims to promote the authentic taste of thirty-one famous Japanese cuisines in Nepal according to Chaudhary.
After completing his training in Japan, Chaudhary came to Nepal and opened Momotarou Japanese Restaurant in Thamel, solely dedicated to serving Japanese food. Chaudhary shares that he is putting all his experience in Hokkaido to serve authentic Japanese taste in Nepal. Famous Japanese ramen maker Machumura assists him.
Finally, a Tori Bhutta Ramen was placed on our table. We were served with chicken and pork ramen. According to the chef, the restaurant has imported a noodle-making machine from Japan. The chunky pieces of pork and chicken in the ramen perfectly dovetailed with the noodle, the result being a delight for the taste buds. The soup in the ramen is prepared by continuously boiling meat in water for more than six hours. Then, the water is filtered to make the soup for the ramen.
The ramen counters at the restaurant resembled several mo: mo outlets across Kathmandu. The counter can hold almost 15 customers at once. The restaurant, which opens at 11 AM and closes at 10 PM, also serves Japanese liquor after 5 PM. Hokkaido Nepal Business Group plans to open seven additional outlets of Hokkaido Ramen House across Nepal in the next year.
Altogether, our experience at Hokkaido Ramen was wonderful. We highly recommend food enthusiasts to try authentic Japanese cuisines at Hokkaido. More significantly, for those interested in Japanese cuisine and culture, Hokkaido Ramen House can be an unmissable experience.