I’ve had a craving for decent ramen for the last couple of months, and I don’t know where in Jakarta to go to get some!
But we do live near-ish Blok M. The first time I was there, I noticed a string of lanterns proclaiming the area around Jalan Melawai 9 “Little Tokyo”, a standalone Japanese bakery, and lots of little izakaya-type places. (Also a bunch of karaoke bars and whatnot, but somehow I don’t think we’re their target market.) I’ve been in the area a couple of times, mostly to go to Papaya Fresh Gallery, but B’s never really had a chance to look around there.
So we washed up at Papaya Fresh Gallery round about 12.30, and started walking. Didn’t have to go far. Just at the other end of the block where Papaya’s located, we found Echigoya Ramen. The photos outside didn’t look terribly promising, and we debated whether to go in.
“Here, why don’t you poke your head in and see if there are tons of Japanese people inside?” I said to B. So he did. “I don’t know about Japanese people, but it’s full.” “Huh.” I stuck my head in; the place was indeed full. The bar counter was occupied and all the tables were taken. Lots of Japanese men having lunch, so that’s a good sign right? “Mmm. Let’s give it a go and see how it is.”
Since the place was full, we had to wait a while for a table. It didn’t take long though, maybe 5 minutes max, because one of the larger groups was just about done. We took our seats, and the waitress gave us our single-page menus.
Echigoya offers both chicken- and pork-based broths, and you can get shoyu or shio varieties. They also offer a whole range of additional ramen toppings: nori, wakame, negi, ajitsuke tamago, Japanese-style chasyu (that’s how they spell it), corn, butter, and various vegetables. There’s a small side-dish menu as well, and you can also order various rice bowls, so pretty much similar to most ramen bars.
Each table also has a raft of condiments: ninniku (garlic, minced, fried, and stored in oil), shoyu, shoyu for ramen (what’s the difference?), white pepper, chilli oil, vinegar, and the inevitable chilli sauce.
I settled on chasyu ramen, B picked the tonkotsu ramen, and we added ajitsuke tamago to both orders, with a side of gyoza for sharing. Sadly, they were sold out of pork gyoza, so we ordered the chicken gyoza instead.
The gyoza arrived first, and it was pretty darn good. Crispy outside, juicy inside, and perfectly steam-fried. And for once, we could eat it almost immediately without burning our mouths. Don’t get me wrong, it was plenty hot, but it wasn’t scalding. Magic!
The pork-based broth is relatively light, compared to what we’re used to in Singapore. It’s a nice balance though, not too oily or fatty, and still manages to pack in lots of flavour.
The char siew slices are also leaner and thinner than in most Singapore ramen bars. It’s a little on the dry side for my liking, but was actually counterbalanced by the fat in the soup. You know how sometimes you eat ramen and it’s beautifully rich and tasty, but after you’re done you feel a bit over-indulged? You won’t get that feeling here. You’ll be satisfied, but not sick.
B’s tonkotsu looked similar to mine, but had a big spoonful of ninniku on top. The tonkotsu broth was a little thicker and more flavourful than my basic shoyu broth, but we agreed that it’s not as rich or milky as we’re used to eating back in Singapore.
The one thing I felt let down by though was the ajitsuke tamago. The taste was excellent, lightly salty, with a faint sweet aftertaste, but the egg itself was too set for my tastes. I like my ajitsuke tamago just set in both the white and yolk, but still quivering.
They make their own ramen on site! The noodles are a lovely balance of bite and springy.
Seriously generous servings. The waitress asked us if we wanted a small or a large portion of ramen, and we both opted for small. I couldn’t finish my noodles, and the 6’2 husband found it just right. Bring an appetite!
The chefs gave us a bigass hajimemashite from behind the bar when we came in. Awesome.
There’s no non-smoking section, and it’s a small place. There were people smoking at the next table.
The place has an open kitchen bar, with frying going on. So there’s a good chance you’re going to smell a little of food after you’re done. On the other hand, they must have pretty good ventilation, because the smells of frying and cigarette smoke didn’t bother me as much as it usually would.
Echigoya is 7 out of 10, B says, and I’d concur. Best ramen I’ve had here yet, and we would totally go back! Next time, perhaps, we’ll try the curiously named ‘Stamina Ramen’…
Jl. Melawai 8 No. 2A
Jakarta Selatan 12160
Tel: (021) 739 5962
Lunch 1130–1400 (last order)
Dinner 1800–0100 (last order)
Saturday and Public Holidays:
Lunch 1130–1430 (last order)
Dinner 1700–2400 (last order)
Lunch 1130–1430 (last order)
Dinner 1700–2300 (last order)