In my early teens, the revelation that vodka came from potatoes came as quite a surprise. Not quite being able to get my head around the alcohol-making process, I wondered how the wholesome spuds my mum would serve up with Sunday roast could relate to the illicit substance kids at school were starting to get their older siblings to buy for them.
Since becoming enlightened with this fact, I have always immediately assumed that any potato-based alcohol drink would be just as potent. So it was with some trepidation that I ordered a glass of potato wine from The Ramen Kiosk on a recent evening.
Potato wine, or shochu, is a traditional Japanese spirit and has, according to a recent Forbes article, outsold the more well-known sake in the country for the past decade. It’s widely drunk in Japan, whether on its own, with a meal or at a party.
The waiter asked how I’d like it – with water or on the rocks – and I thought I’d better order the former. When it did come, it was as clear as a glass of water. But it tasted very much like vodka. I managed two sips, and kicked myself for not ordering a beer.
The Ramen Kiosk opened in January on Street 63 in the BKK area, and is hardly the first Japanese establishment around. Ninja on Street 278 opened not too long ago, and sushi fans have a wide range of options to choose from around the city. A little further afield on Kampuchea Krom Boulevard, Gachi Japanese Noodle opened last year.
The Ramen Kiosk resembles the cheap Tokyo eateries that feature in the novels of Haruki Murakami: simple, minimalist design; makeshift tables for two; and yes, it’s effectively a kiosk by some standards, complete with a wall-length window looking out onto the street.
The laminated menu was limited, but if you’re unfamiliar with Japanese cuisine, this isn’t necessarily bad news. I ordered the kiosk “original” ramen ($3), though red hot ramen, sesame ramen and samurai curry ramen were all on offer too, at either $3 or $3.50.
I enjoyed the hot soy broth, the plentiful beansprouts and, of course, the noodles themselves. While the soup was topped with a slice of pork, which definitely gave the rest of it a certain taste, flavouring and condiments were, on the whole, minimal. Salt and pepper were on offer, as was soy sauce, but I would have preferred some fresh chili, or a substantial chunk of lime to squeeze into the soup rather than the piece we were given that was the size of my fingernail.
My dining partner, who ordered the samurai curry ramen, had more luck. At $3.50, he hardly had to pay a considerable amount more for good flavour. It tasted of a very basic curry, but with added pork, and the soup was even decorated with chunks of vegetables. Between us we also shared a plate of Japanese fried chicken, which was as greasy and juicy as the best fried chicken comes and, even better, completely boneless. My friend also ordered hot sake ($2), which came in a pretty traditional pot with two small cups, though it was so hot he had to protect his hand with tissue when pouring the stuff.
The service was very speedy and the staff perfectly friendly. For a quick, in-out Japanese meal at a very reasonable price, The Ramen Kiosk ticks the boxes. The food might be simple, but the prices demand no more.
The Ramen Kiosk is located at #238, Street 63.