Well… as unapologetic as I might be about my scepticism for anything Friedrichshain, I never gave up on the district and – stop the press – here’s a new and utterly delicious reason to hit the always crowded streets around Boxhagener Platz: to get a bowl filled with intense broth and perfect ramen noodles at Hako, to sooth the pain of what seems like a once again never ending winter.
My disdain has made the rounds, I now receive emails asking me to explain myself, so I feel like this is kind of a redemption: I’m obviously open to Friedrichshain being not as bad as I thought, which is why I visited both newly opened Japanese noodle shops listed in the most recent Seriously: Ten New Places We Have to Visit article. And while the other unfortunately confirmed all my stereotypes, I was so happy to find out this one hits all the marks. Not only is the interior pleasantly low-key, the menu is concise, presenting classic ramen versions and a couple of mix ups, like the Tonkotsu Tan Tan, which combines the creamy sesame broth of a Tan Tan with a piece of braised pork belly. And there are three veggie / vegan options: Miso, Shio, and Tan Tan, the latter served with soy meat and an egg or shiitake mushrooms.
However, we started with edamame, a Sapporo beer and a little bowl full of pan-fried aubergines in soy sauce that were already so well balanced and delicious, my hopes were rising for my bowl of veggie tantan ramen coming up.
And there it was, the milky beige broth with dots of roasted sesame oil, a leaf of pak choi, an egg, the minced soy meat. Hidden underneath were the noodles, cooked perfectly right with a bit of bite remaining. And that was it.
My main concern with ramen is the broth anyway, I want something intense with multiple layers of flavour, something spicy and wholesome so that every spoonful feels like a much-needed hug. And yes, this one does all that and more.
It left me with that the satisfying feeling of a belly filled with warmth and goodness, which I crave from a good bowl of ramen.
A very, very good reason to come to Friedrichshain, indeed.
By the way, we met there at 6.30 and it wasn’t an issue to get two seats, however, it got quite crowded around 8, and a queue quickly formed. Nothing compared to what you have to deal with at Cocolo. Oh and if you’re asking how these compare: as it should be, the broths are different, so it’s a different experience. But quality-wise they’re pretty much head to head in my book.