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..Tenmaru Japanese Ramen, London N4..a review..

Updated: Jan 22, 2023


My latest Japanese restaurant review took me to pastures new - Finsbury Park in London N4 to be exact. This is the home of a one site Japanese ramen shop - Tenmaru. I have to admit Finsbury Park is not somewhere I have visited very often but I came across Tenmaru on the internet and while I was browsing their website, something told me that this was a place where I had to eat.


What was that something? Well, it was the Basil Ramen. Yes, that's right - Basil Ramen. Now, I love to try out new things and I have to admit, I had never come across Basil Ramen before. The Tenmaru website describes it as "Basil pesto, tofu, baby corn, tenderstem broccoli, bean sprout, black fungus and spring onion." Pesto with ramen, I thought. What a nifty idea. I was hooked.


Finding Tenmaru is quite easy - if you come by bus or train. In fact, it's only moments from Finsbury Park underground and the Finsbury Park bus terminal. Unfortunately, I came by car and parking anywhere near Tenmaru - if you can find parking as a non-resident - costs a hefty £8 for 2 hours. Anyway, that gripe aside, I did manage to park about 5 minutes away and it wasn't difficult to find Tenmaru.

Tenmaru opened its doors in November 2019, not the best time to open a new restaurant with the Covid pandemic just around the corner. But the place has survived, thank goodness. Tenmaru looked attractive in an understated Japanese sort of way from the outside. Inside, I found myself thinking it was the kind of modern ramen shop I might walk into in downtown Tokyo - I liked the decor, Japanese but not in an "in your face" kind of way. Clearly, a good deal of thought had gone into how to make this place look "right". Tenmaru has seating for around 50 diners, mostly at tables but also some seats at the counter at the front of the shop. We were shown to a table at the rear of the shop. The table was a simple wooden affair but spotlessly clean.

I took the liberty of peeking into the kitchen at the rear of the shop - it looked clean, well laid out and there were 4 busy chefs beavering away inside. There was one waiter and one waitress running the tables and although it was fairly busy inside, they had everything under control and organised. In place of a menu, we got a keycode for sourcing the menu on our phones and about a minute later a large pitcher of water with glasses without even asking for it. I'm not really a fan of ordering over my phone and I can imagine it would be a real turn off for people of a certain age and outlook. The odd thing was that you could only browse the menu online - you couldn't order it - that had to be done the old school way via the waitress - which sort of defated the object of handing out a key code in my opinion - why not just go for an old fashioned menu? I'm not sure if Tenmaru has written menus in the shop - I didn't go as far as to ask for one. There were Japanese style wooden menu "kanban" on the walls but these were in Japanese, so not much help to a non-Japanese speaker. Anyway, the waitress was very friendly and efficient and in a few minutes, we had our order sort and were looking forward to our food.


What did we eat?

We ordered the following:


Cheese Mochi Potato


Chicken Karaage


Yasai (Vegetable) Gyoza


Lemon Ramen


Tan Tan Men


Basil Ramen



How did the food score?


  • Cheese Mochi Potato (photo above) 8.5/10

I've never seen Cheese Mochi Potato on the menu of a Japanese restuarant in London (although they are a new, popular snack dish in Japan) so I and my fellow diners were keen to try them out. I am happy to say they didn't disappoint. The cheese component wasn't too obvious (maybe a strong cheddar would be better in the recipe) but the flavour was still very good and texture was absolutely spot on. Lovely


  • Chicken Karaage 9.0/10

Tenmaru's chicken karaage were close to perfect - nice and large, very well deep fried in lots of crumb - served with mayonnaise and lemon. I didn't ask whether Tenmaru make their own karage but given the size, I think they probably do. These got a big thumbs up!



  • Yasai Gyoza 5.0/10


I am sure every restaurant has an Achille's heel and for Tenmari, it is their vegetable gyoza. The wrapper were fine but the contents was a squidgy, tasteless mush - sorry! Having said that, getting a vegetable gyoza right is quite an art and the filing is key. Back to the drawing board, I'm afraid.



  • Lemon Ramen 8.5/10

I'd never eaten Lemon Ramen until my visit to Tenmaru. I had eaten lemon with cold soba noodles and I thought that worked. But would lemon work with ramen and a ramen broth? I am happy to say it did, it really did. The balance between the rich, slightly oily broth and the lemon was just right. The dish came with a seasoned boiled egg, some very nicely slow cooked chicken breast, spring onion and seaweed. (The menu advertises the dish coming with "black fungus" but I am retty certain mine came with kelp.) I was so busy enjoy the great contrast in this dish between the lemon and the broth that I almost forgot about the noodles! Well, they were ok. Not great but OK - perhaps a little overcooked. But honestly, the rest of the dish was so good, it didn't bother me one bit.


  • Basil Ramen 8.5/10

The Basil Ramen was another first for me. It came served as a vegetarian dish with slices of fried tofu, brocolli, baby corn, bean sprouts and some kelp seaweed. My co-diner's first reaction was that the serving was quite small. I have to admit, it did look a little small. But there was a reason for that. This dish is really very filling. The basil pesto combined with the ramen broth was very rich. We all took a taste and decided that we really liked it, You would struggle to eat a larger bowl of this but the portion presented was just right. The Basil Ramen was a big hit!


  • Tan Tan Men 8.0/10

The third dish in our ramen trilogy was Tan Tan Men. This is a dish I rarely order as I find it a bit too heavy and spicy for my liking. Tenmaru's Tan Tan Men looked pretty dark and stormy when it arrived but to my co-diner's surprise it was spicy but not too spicy. After a few mouthfuls, I agreed with him - this was a good dish of Tan Tan Men that doesn't threaten to give you indigestion. The minced pork and sesame flavours were front and centre and the chilli complemented rather than dominated the dish. Another thumbs up!


The Bill.


Cheese Mochi Potato £ 5.80


Chicken Karaage £ 6.50


Yasai Gyoza £ 6.00


Lemon Ramen £11.80


Basil Ramen £13.80


Tan Tan Men £13.80


Calpis Soda £ 3.00


Total £68.29 including VAT & Service charges



Summary: I have a suspicion that if Tenmaru was located in Soho, there might be queues outside. As it is, it is located in Finsbury Park, so there probably aren't any queues and it represents something of a little gem of a ramen shop waiting to be discovered by a wider audience. Not that all the food was outstanding - the gyoza were a little disappointing but there again, vegetable gyoza are a difficult dish to pull off well. The cheese mochi potato, lemon ramen and basil ramen were great examples of what a London ramen shop can do if it thinks just a little "outside the box." Purists might turn up their noses but we loved it. From the appreciative sounds of some of our fellow diners, they loved it too!


Food: ★★★★☆ Ambience: ★★★★☆ Value for Money: ★★★★★


You can find Tenmaru at 8 Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, London, N4 3JP.


Tenmaru doesn't currently accept reservations.


Deliveries: Just Eat, Uber, Deliveroo.


(PS: the restaurants I review are unaware that I am reviewing their fare and service. I pay for what I eat. My opinions are honest and unbiased....)

 

And how about making it yourself?


We all love to dine out and you certainly won't be disappointed by Tenmaru''s offering. But don't forget you can make Japanese food at home which will not only taste good but for a fraction of the price too! I've listed two recipes below for items I ordered during my review. Why not give them a try? Just follow the links to the written recipes and Youtube tutorials.


Recipe #1 Sweet Potato & Cheese Mochi


Tenmaru's Cheese Mochi Potato made a great starter. And the good news is, they aren't difficult to make at home. My recipe uses sweet potato instead of regular potato but IMO they are every bit as good as what you"ll get at Tenmaru. Why don't you try them and see for yourself? If you would like to take a closer look at this dish, simply click Sweet Potato Mochi to go to the recipe page.

 

Recipe #2 Vegetable Gyoza


Japanese Tsukune chicken meatball skewers

If you enjoy Vegetable Gyoza, you don't have to only eat them at a restaurant as an occasional treat - they are not difficult to make at home and if you follow my recipe, you will have some Vegetable Gyoza ready for the table in 30 minutes - I promise that once you've eaten these, you might not want to order them at a restaurant ever again! If you want to try these out, just click on

Vegetable Gyoza to go to the recipe.

 

About the reviewer:


Hi, I'm Kurumi, a cooking writer and blogger. I'm Japanese but I have lived in London for the last

30 thirty years. Back in the days before the internet (and Youtube), I was a food writer. My first book published in English was called Japanese Cooking for Two which I wrote in 1994. It has become the 9th best selling Japanese cookbook ever… yippee!

My other books were ‘The Noodle Cookbook”, “The Soy for Health Cookbook” and “Healthy Noodles.” I also published a book in Japanese “English Home Cooking”. Then I had children and my life changed!

By the time my children had grown up, the world had changed quite a lot too! Internet, Youtube, Insta etc. So, these days, instead of books, I publish recipe and articles on my website and on my Youtube channel. I hope you'll check out my recipes - they are all tried and tested (some more times than I care to mention!) until I think you will get them right first time when you make them and enjoy eating them.


If you’d like to read more about me or my books, then follow the link here:


www.kurumicooks.co.uk/about



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Always enjoy reading your reviews Kurumi!!

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