Address: 12, Alley 45, Ln 81, Dunhua S Rd Sec 2, Taipei (台北市敦化南路二段81巷45弄12號)
Telephone: (02) 2708-9822
Open: 11:30am to 2:30pm; 5:30pm to 8:30pm
Average meal: NT$300
Details: Menu in Chinese and Japanese, cash only
The ramen revolution continued into 2013 in Taipei with some outstanding new outlets providing authentic flavors from various parts of Japan. It is no longer a question of which ramen house to visit, but whether you want ramen from Hokkaido, Tokyo, Osaka or Kyushu. Representing the minimalist end of ramen eating is Enishi, which is hidden away on a back street. Its frontage is so low-key that it is easy to miss. There is just a wooden door in a concrete wall and a small round window placed just a little too high to see inside. There is a tiny menu placed on a metal music stand outside, which lists the two main items offered and a couple of side dishes. Basically, all that you discover is that Enishi offers dipping noodles and soup noodles, which cost NT$250 and NT$280 respectively.
The noodles at Enishi are made of whole wheat. It should be noted that Enishi emphasizes that this is ground from the whole grain, thereby preserving all the nutrition of the germ that is lost with the use of commercially produced wheat flours. The noodle has an intense flavor with echoes of Japanese buckwheat soba noodles, as well as the firmness of wheat. The dipping sauce is notable for combining pork stock and stock made from dried fish. It is a heady mixture of strong flavors, and the noodles only need to be dipped in briefly before being sucked down. The texture of the noodles against the strong flavors of the sauce is a great gastronomic sensation, and for those who take their noodles seriously, it is the kind of experience that immediately has you planning your next visit.
Address: 36, Ln 187, Dunhua S Rd, Taipei (台北市敦化南路一段187巷36號)
Telephone: (02) 2731-7897
Open: 11am to 11pm
Average meal: NT$350
Details: Chinese picture menu, cash only
Whereas Enishi is stripped down and understated, Tonchin has a big high-ceilinged glass dining area and a slate-tiled stairway with roped-off entry and exit lanes to manage the press of people.
The menu is an explosion of color, and it is easy to become overwhelmed by what seems a multitude of choices. An exploration of what was on offer began with the super value Tokyo-style pork ramen (NT$260), which packed an amazing amount of flavor and texture into a single bowl, but was not anything to write home about.
The spicy Tokyo-style broth with caramelized onions (NT$260) was quite a different proposition, and had the kind of impact, if you like spicy food, that gets people coming back for second and third visits. The secret is that it is not super spicy, but generates a gentle slow burn in the gullet that seems particularly soothing in the hot weather. Ordered in the version with additional roast pork (NT$270), it is a meaty, fishy, spicy, salty bowl of ramen heaven. Well-chilled water is available on the service counter, helping to wash down the heavily flavored dish.
Almost irresistible are the deep-fried chicken pieces (NT$180), which are incredibly crunchy and moist, almost worth the high price. Together with a bowl of noodles, they make a blowout meal for one.
Address: 181-1, Jieshou Rd Sec 2, Bade City, Taoyuan County (桃園縣八德市介壽路二段181-1號)