Scotsman Review
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  • Ambience - It's important that a restaurant is inviting. We rate the decor, comfort and atmosphere.
  • Drink - Is the wine or cocktail list as exciting as the food, or does it fall short? Same goes for soft drinks. 
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September 23, 2020

Ikigai Ramen, Edinburgh, restaurant review

As the weather gets colder, warm up with homely noodles from Ikigai Ramen, says Gaby Soutar


There are noodles on the floor, on the window, in his eyebrow and shoe, and draped over the back of the highchair.


Babies and ramen.


It’s a bit like taking a clown to a custard pie factory, or when Andrex puppies “go Cujo” and the bog roll unravelling becomes slightly less manageable.


I’m sorry to the lovely friendly guys who own this tiny new ramen bar.


It’s lucky that it only seats a handful of people. Thus, in order that we fulfil covid recommendations, they let us have the whole place to ourselves.

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We didn’t have to feel disgraced by the messy but kawaii pup.


Mind you, he wouldn’t be so enthusiastically chaotic if he didn’t love the noods, including the hakata tonkotsu version (£12), which he’s sharing with his mum, aka my sister.


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He stuffs them into his mouth in fistfuls, his pelican bib in overspill.


This pair’s bowlful also features an opaque and creamy pork bone broth, as well as half moons of chashu pork, a soft boiled ramen egg, with its buff soy-stained white and gooey yolk, a handful of chopped spring onions, toasted sesame seeds and a few strips of menma.


The noodles are made in-house, and are suitably slippery, chewy and soft. If you knitted a cardigan out of them, it’d be bouncy and snug, like an alpaca mix. They are extra sookable and if you do it fast enough, there’s the prerequisite whiplash effect as the last few inches flick a drop of broth onto your jumper or face.

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It is, indeed, the ultimate comfort food, perfect for perpetual lockdown worriers and those who feel the coming change of season in their marrow. Apparently, the restaurant‘s name is the Japanese word meaning “reason for life”, which seems apt.


As far as our orders go, the rest of us have variations on the soupy theme.


Mine is the chicken (£12), which I chose since it comes with the bonus of three sticky and sweet chicken yakitori, propped against the inner edges of the bowl to keep dry. I have to unscrew a couple of bits of meat from one of these skewers, to feed to the insatiable baby, after he eyeballs me expectantly. There’s also the buff-coloured oeuf, a huge load of menma, stacked up like lifted floorboards. And, like the other bowls, so much ramen – enough to feed a nest full of hungry guga.


Whenever we thought we were nearly done, our chopsticks would dredge another whorl of carb.


The tofu (£12) one was based on a wholesome-tasting shiitake mushroom broth, and, along with the egg and the menma, there were lots of tofu dice, some vibrant looking pak choi and crispy mange tout.


“Sorry, but we don’t do sushi,” one of the chefs had said, from the open kitchen, when we first walked in.
I’m presuming that a lot of people assume they do, especially as there’s a bar-like seating area.They have one humble speciality and do it well.


However, there are a couple of side options, to have as starters or just to keep things interesting.


There are edamame (£5) and chicken yakitori (£5), but we went for the takoyaki (£5). There were five of these octopus balls served in little wooden kayaks and all of them were dusted with flakes of katsuobushi, a sweet sauce and mayonnaise. They were pale inside, squishy and creamy centred, with the occasional delicate tentacle tip in there, as evidence of the main ingredient. I usually prefer steamed gyoza, but I came round to the fried versions that they serve at Ikigai. The set of five pork (£5.50) ones were beautifully crispy, with thin and light frilly edged wrappers, and a zingy dip on the side.


The nephew got just the one. No more, because he can’t steal and then wear all of my lunch.
Sorry, again, to the owners, for adding to their deep cleaning duties.


At least you can be assured that a noodle in a baby’s shoe means you’re doing a great job. n




13 West Crosscauseway Edinburgh (07935 669042,



Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.
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