The Wellingtonista

Random stuff about Wellington since 2005

折り紙は日本人ではない

by Hadyn on October 26, 2012 in Food & Drink

When I saw the menu for the new Japanese eatery on Kent Terrace, Origami , I was excited. Okonomikyaki! Okyakodon! Ramen! Let me break your heart early and tell you that those exclamation points were a tad premature.

While the menu didn’t have my favourite ramen style, tonkotsu (not to be confused with tonkatsu), it did have miso ramen which will do in a pinch. I noticed they listed Tom Yum ramen, this was not a good sign. Then a friend sent an image of the miso ramen she got the night before: carrots and bok choy. I could hear the ominous string music but you cannot judge lest you have eaten, so I ate.

Sigh.

Between us, my girlfriend and I had: miso ramen, tonkatsu ramen, okonomiyaki, and gyoza.

The tonkatsu ramen was basic ramen with tonkatsu on the side. I assume the idea was to dip the katsu in the soup, but as that would ruin the nice crunch we asked for katsu sauce instead. I could drink a gallon of katsu sauce easily, and I’m fairly sketchy on exactly how much a gallon is. The problem was with the broth: it was flavourless. It had a nice brothy texture but just didn’t taste of anything.

The miso ramen suffered the same fate. It tasted as though someone had made miso soup then added ingredients to it. There was no “brothiness” to it. What worried me more was the ingredients placed on top: carrots and bok choy. The photographic prophecy had come true! Japanese ramen (and I confess to not eating every style, but I have tried a lot, if you’ll indulge a link to my travel blog) does not have carrot and bok choy in it! It can have spring onion, sprouts, bamboo shoots, seaweed, mushrooms, onions, and chilli but of these Origami only added a sparse amount of spring onion.

The pork belly that was added to the top was pretty much what I expected. A little thicker than you usually get in Japan, but more pork is rarely a problem. The issue came when I tried eating it with chopsticks. It was too thick to cut through and not quite soft enough to break up easily. Also, it still had a slight rind meaning I ended up having to use my teeth to cut through it (like hell I was going to use the Gaijin cutlery they had provided!).

Japanese food is not known for massive flavours, but what they do well are sauces. So why are the tables at Origami empty? I had to ask for katsu sauce. They had soy I discovered when I went looking. But where is the sesame oil, the vinegar, the chilli oil? Where are the little pottles of sesame seeds? The jars of ginger?

The gyoza was interesting. It was large and more like a fried pancake than the small pan-fried dumplings we were expecting (again making chopstick use difficult). The okonomiyaki was not too bad, if a little stodgy, though I will admit that I mistakenly was expecting modanyaki (made with noodles) which was my fault. It came slathered with mayo (yes!) but again we had to ask for sauce to put on it, and if you’ve ever had okonomiyaki you know that you NEED sauce.

Japanese food uses a lot of eggs. Ramen often has a halved boiled egg on top, and other dishes, like okyakodon and okonomiyaki  are topped with an egg. The trick is, these eggs are only partially cooked so when split open the yolk leaks out and cooks with the rest of the hot food (in the case of ramen the eggs are half-boiled and the yolk is very thick rather than runny, these eggs are often soaked in the broth overnight too, giving them a brown colour). The eggs at Origami were hard. The egg on top of the okonmiyaki was better but had been fried, making it incredibly hard to cut with chopsticks.

これが本当の日本の食べ物ではありません!

I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that this was a place that had decided to open a Japanese restaurant because they seem to be fairly popular, rather than because they can make good Japanese food. And I really wanted it to be good! While every week another sushi shop opens, the search for good ramen in Wellington continues.

Hadyn Green

Hadyn Green was New Zealand’s first rugby podcaster. Since then he has moved on to… um… podcasting about rugby AND other sport. Hadyn is easily recognisable by his hate of idiots.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Narelle October 26, 2012 at 1:46 pm

If they had served even slightly good Ramen, I probably would have been there every week! I guess it’s back to making it myself.

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Kowhai November 11, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Sad. I ate decent ramen in bed today thanks to my darling but a tonkotsu ramen joint would be soooooo welcome. Carrots WTF!!!

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Aaron January 11, 2013 at 11:14 pm

I would cry tears of joy if I could get good ramen in New Zealand let alone in Wellington. The only thing that has come close to japanese ramen i’ve tried was in Auckland(brothy, bamboo shoots, those little pink flower spiral things).

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Tom March 18, 2013 at 9:20 pm

You can indeed get a real ramen in Wellington. Try Tatsushi’s .

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Mark S January 18, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Well, sounds like there’s an opportunity for someone enterprising! A Tampopo in Welly? 楽しみ!

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Henry January 21, 2013 at 10:37 am

I am in the process of setting up a ramen joint in Wellington city. I will be making all ingredients on spot, including the noodles. In order to maintain consistency, I plan to have only 2-3 items on menu, therefore will be using only 1 type of stock.It will be a heavy stock and I am having trouble choosing between chicken paitan versus tonkotsu broth with backbone. I know that tonkotsu is a very popular choice outside of Japan. But I thought something different might be an idea.

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Narelle January 21, 2013 at 10:48 am

Definitely go with the tonkotsu, at least to start with as there’s so many people in Wellington that miss it. Here’s an idea: every couple of months you could a different type :)

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Henry January 21, 2013 at 1:06 pm

I’d love to add different type as I go, but that’s really limited to the size of the kitchen. Once the shop is set up, there will be month or two of training and I will probably be making both types for people to come and try. Tonkotsu is my favourite as well, but you’d be surprised at what the chicken paitan can offer. If Hadyn doesn’t mind, I can do some updates here on the progress.

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Simon March 22, 2013 at 10:24 am

Hey there, hows the progress on this going?

Thanks

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Hadyn January 21, 2013 at 10:54 am

Well clearly I want Tonkotsu :)

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Michael February 19, 2013 at 8:55 pm

WHERES THIS RAMEN JOINT?!
IM STARVING

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XY April 23, 2013 at 11:26 am

I’m more appalled at the total absence of soba in Wellington. None at all. Why!? (Granted, Origami has it. But with green curry wtf!?)

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Shiggy September 20, 2013 at 10:48 am

Funny. I just found this article and this was posted on my birthday last year! lol
I agree Hadyn, I went to that place and I’m not going to there again. It was reviewed so bad in the paper couple days after I went there.
I didn’t expect much when I went, but what they offered came out lower than that.
Well, there’s The Ramen Shop popping up and Ramen day at Tatsushi once a month. So I guess now Wellington is a better place for Ramen lovers.

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