Looking at the Yamagoya website youâ€™ll see photos of the first shack being put together in Fukuoka, Japan back in 1969. Founder, Mr. Ogata proudly poses with a bowl of steaming hot ramen. Thereâ€™s history and heritage.
Walking in to their first London ramen shop (after a successful pop up above Shuang Shuang) none of that heritage is present. It feels like a well polished chain. The window displays plastic versions of what weâ€™re about to eat. An electric sliding door continually opens and closes throughout our entire visit creating quite a draft.
Itâ€™s an order at the counter jobby. I go for the Yamagoya Ramen (Â£8.90) which is decent enough but the broth isnâ€™t as thick or rich as say Tonkotsu, Bone Daddies or Kanada Ya. Itâ€™s the little things that let it down. The yolks are just overcooked and the chashu pork fat is chewy. It’s also not terribly big.
Theyâ€™ve run out of chicken katsu curry so we opt for pork instead (Â£5.90). Thereâ€™s sauce galore, and its piping hot, but is it as good as Tonkotsuâ€™s lunchtime-only katsu curry? Nowhere near. The sauce feels mass produced and lacks depth of flavour. The pork is unforgivably chewy and the panko crumb coating falls off the meat.
A bowl of pork chashu rice don (Â£5.50) is more successful and makes for a nice alternative if you donâ€™t fancy ramen or curry. They blowtorch the pork so although itâ€™s cold it has a smoky flavour.
Gyoza (Â£3.50) have a decent crunch from where theyâ€™ve stuck to the pot which goes well with the soft, squidgy pork filling. They’re crying out for chilli oil but it’s nigh-on impossible to extract from the bottle which is a shame. Chicken kara-age (Â£4) is decent enough.
The reason weâ€™re really here though is for the raindrop cake (Â£3). Itâ€™s basically a wobbly lump of gel which tastes of nothing. Seriously. Absolutely bugger all. With it comes sugar syrup and a powdered something-or-other but to quote dear old Fay Maschler, â€œitâ€™s a dish for Instagram, not the mouthâ€.
With everything we ate I kept comparing it to Tonkotsu and there was only ever one winner. Iâ€™d go back if I was walking past and needed a quick bowl of cheap ramen. But if itâ€™s flavour and quality Iâ€™m after, it’s Tonkotsu every time.
Would we go back? Yes and No