Words: Shamim de Brún
Images: Geroge Voronov
Nomo seemed to land seamlessly and without a hitch; on the restaurant scene. Kevin Hughes, with his wife and business partner, Marta Masnou, swooped in to grab the coveted and fought-over title of ‘Best Ramen in Dublin’ almost instantly.
Hughes grew up in Ireland, where his family had Chinese restaurants and takeaways but spent his childhood summers in Tsingtao. Painstakingly planning for years, the team had us all whispering about their twenty-four-hour marinated eggs and noodles imported from David Chang‘s favourite supplier in the US – Sun Noodles. So we had to check it out.
If you’re into Japanese culture, this is a spot for you. Nomo leans into the youth and vibrancy of contemporary Japan while upholding traditional values through the food. As a result, it tastes like a trip to Japan and not an approximation of it.
Many people believe that taste is the main the only feature that will define how good something is. In many cases, this is true. And here, they have flavour in spades, but what they also have is crunch. Of course, you wouldn’t expect a ramen place to cater to the crispy, crunchy crowd, but at Nomo, there is enough of this sought-after texture to satiate even the snobbiest crunch evangelicals.
So devoted are the team to getting the texture just right that they spent an entire month developing the custom tempura-style batter for the mushroom karaange that the internet has gone wild for. It wasn’t wasted time because that batter is worth telling your ma about, and when the hell would you ever bother texting anyone about batter otherwise?
There is genuinely nothing better than a bowl of ramen on a wet, dreary day. Their 7-hour chicken broth will warm the cockles of your weather-beaten soul on a rainy day and bring a tear of pure joy to both eyes. The space is built for fast enough food, so it’s perfect to pop into sans reservation without compromising on the food.
It’s obviously the ramen. I mean, how could it not be. I loved every slurp of it and was loath to share though share I did. If you go here, you have to get the ramen. The broth. I could not shut up about it then, and I will not now. With the dexterity of a surgeon as good as Doctor Strange, Kevin has made a broth that seems almost otherworldly. It doesn’t rely on spice or salt to sell it. I’m pretty sure there’s no msg in it. You could spend years trying to emulate it and never get it the same. In fact, it took the chef seven years of research and development to get this recipe just right. This broth is so good I would feel confident in inviting a Japanese food critic to Ireland just to taste it.
You could keep it to just fifteen if you only got the ramen and wouldn’t feel like you missed out on anything, but you should try at least one starter, even to share. They get left in the shadow of the ramen, somewhat understandably, but they deserve their time in the sun!
Their wings are fantastic. They’re not trying to emulate someone else’s best wings in Dublin. They’re not duping us with Frank’s hot sauce. Instead, the team are confident in striding their own path, the path of contemporary Japanese bar food. It pays off. What we tasted was a supremely munchable umami-centric bowl of wings that came with a sweet, tangy secret sauce that I’d buy by the bottle if I could.
Sometimes if you’ve been to one ramen bar, you can feel like you’ve been to them all. Honestly, though, Nomo’s got a personality all its own. It feels like walking into someone’s home in a welcome-in way. The staff seem to get on, and you can see the chefs cooking and laughing together without feeling like you’re on top of them or putting them off by watching them. You just have to check it out to get it, if I’m being sincere.
We legitimately tried every dish available on the menu. I wish I could give every dish a run-down, but that would be self-indulgent on my part. I will, however, give a shout-out to the Cashu Don. Twenty-four-hour house marinated pork with rice, homemade pickles and Nomo’s secret chicken sauce. Topped, like the rest of their dishes, with crispy leeks. This touch on the crispy leeks is chef kiss level genius. It adds flavour and crunch without dominating or even pulling focus.
The meats themselves were all melt-in-your-mouth well cooked. I’m homely thinking about popping in on my way home again, just writing about it.
Elsewhere on Char: One of Everything: Table Wine