For someone who spent the majority of lockdown in a sleepy town in the depths of the south east, returning to Edinburgh felt like a modern take on The Great Escape. The familiar toasty malt smell greeted me as I hopped off the LNER and onto the sun-bathed streets of the city. In the immortal words of Jeremy Corbyn on Snapchat, I was “back and ready to do it all over again”. To my delight, “it” took the form of a Japanese soul food frenzy boasted by none other than recently re-opened Maki & Ramen.
Be it a single smoky Nigiri to go, sit-in ramen or a full Dragon Roll combo, Maki & Ramen’s six sites dotted through the city pride themselves on delivering an authentic Japanese experience. For this occasion, we found ourselves in their West Richmond restaurant, an intimate, post-it note-bedecked beauty neighbouring The Southsider Pub.
With a varied and adaptable menu to suit a whole host of allergens and diets, you’re spoilt for choice. Roaming through the ramens you’ll find the Tan Tan: a sesame paste based broth with mince pork, balsamic vinegar, chilli oil, greens and a soft-boiled egg. It was light yet creamy considering the substantial portion size. The egg was piquant, soaking up the rich flavours from the broth.
It’s no surprise the depth of flavour these ramens embody after being boiled for over eight hours. Their ramen menu was curated by their CEO Teddy. Each dish aims to provide “comfort before, during, and after eating”. Teddy’s idea is to balance the traditional Japanese flavours of tonkutsu and miso with their homemade ramen noodles. The result: a comforting and soothing umami nectar that, I’m proud to say, I slurped from the bowl to cherish every drop.
For a beautifully balanced, summery dish try the Salmon Sashimi ramen, a scrumptious wee spectacle. Hailing from Loch Duart, let me tell you that their salmon is fresh. Fresh with a capital F. Lightly grilled, and swimming in warming flecks of chilli oil and seaweed, it melts in the mouth. Generally, I tend to skip seaweed: it’s a level of fishy that I can’t stand. But, to my surprise, I couldn’t get enough of it in the ramen. That’s how brilliant it was, folks.
Pre and post-Eat Out to Help Out you’re looking at an average of £11 per ramen, a worthwhile treat. The portion sizes are mighty, and the quality is outstanding. And with the aforementioned Eat Out to Help Out scheme, what more of an excuse do you need to dabble in these delicacies?
If you’re looking for a bite in a hurry and don’t want your seat swiped from the Main Lib, then I’d prescribe their extensive sushi menu. Not only is their salmon sourced locally, M&R take advantage of local Edinburgh fishmongers to deliver fresh fish for their sushi dishes.
What I’m sure is a simple act of science may as well be a magic spell when tasting their grilled surf clam nigiri. Each humble piece of rice packs a smoky hit, providing the most comforting of beds for the surf clam. Step aside Bensons for Beds. If there were laurels to rest on, these smoky rice grains would have my vote.
They also offer an array of tasty sides such as crispy pumpkin croquettes, crunchy meat and veg Gyozas as well as Tokyoka, soft fried balls of octopus. This eclectic combo comes drizzled in a sweet and sticky sauce with a scoop of wasabi and pickled ginger. I’m sure your taste buds will thank you after trying these delights. If you’re looking to indulge then I’d recommend either the Dragon, Grilled or Daily selection of sushi sets which are a bit more pricey but perfect for sharing.
Like many Edinburgh locals, Maki & Ramen fell victim to COVID-19 yet made a strong recovery. They modified their Nicholson Street site into a delivery-only surface and what they wholesomely refer to as their “baby”. They have integrated new safety measures into the running of their restaurants such as split screens for sit-in diners and recyclable cutlery. QR codes have also been implemented as part of their take-away service for easy and contactless ordering.
Endeavouring to stay connected to their loyal community of soul food enthusiasts, this month they are collaborating with London-based eatery Bone Daddies. This culinary collaboration series, formally known as the ‘Tour of Ramen’, will offer a plethora of Bone Daddies’ favourite ramens across the UK.
Maki & Ramen have put their Salmon Yuzu speciality forward from the 17th to the 23rd August. This launch coincides with the newly implemented Eat Out to Help Out scheme of which M&R are a proud participant. Come September, you’ll find one of Bone Daddies’ mouth-watering ramens in M&R’s Edinburgh and Glasgow restaurants. For more info visit https://www.chattingfood.com/post/bone-daddies-tour-of-ramen.
Maki & Ramen’s attentive and friendly staff served as a reminder of why I love being in Edinburgh. The food speaks for itself, yet they continue to challenge themselves in an extremely testing period for hospitality. Next time you find yourself grabbing a meal deal, why not expand your horizons? Maki & Ramen is worth a try to rediscover your love for a hearty lunch.
Image Credit: Meredith Bailey