You never realise what you might end up missing until you spend a lengthy period of time away from home. I knew I would come to miss simple pleasures like a large bowl of pork and chive dumplings, or opening a packet of Tim Tams, but I never thought I would miss things like having a good ole Aussie Four and Twenty meat pie. Surprisingly, I do!
One of the things I definitely missed was having a hot bowl of meaty ramen or udon, something that I would probably have at least once a fortnight when in Australia. Yet, as much as I wanted to walk into a Japanese restaurant somewhere sometime during our trip through Europe, I did find myself questioning the authenticity of said restaurants when they also offered bibimbap, pho, chicken chow mein and pad thai as well.
I lucked out in Berlin though! I did a bit of research online into Berlin expat food blogs, and found a few recommendations for a new-ish restaurant called Udon Kobo Ishin, which was reputed to offer the largest bowls of udon anywhere in Berlin. That sounded good to me, so off we went for lunch one day after a sobering morning at the Berlin Wall Memorial.
There’s a few smaller tables for groups, but the restaurant is mostly kitted out in large communal tables. This makes it comfortable for almost any type of diner – couples like us can find seats together, larger groups can sit together, and solo diners can find a spare chair anywhere as well.
The fragrant green tea is complimentary and refillable from a DIY hot water urn near the counter. If you prefer a more refreshing beverage, they also had a range of Japanese soft drinks available. Given the cold and rainy weather outside though, the hot green tea was the perfect warming drink.
There’s a few different options on the menu, from Japanese curry to donburis and sushi sets. We were there for the udon though, and chose the Niku Udon, a simple udon topped with cold thinly-sliced pork, and grated radish and sliced shallots. This simplicity was just what I needed to satify my cravings – a clean, clear porky broth, freshly home-made udon noodles with a bit of chew to them, and flavourful pork. Nothing beats a simple udon in satisfying cravings!
While the udon does come in a regular sized bowl, we had to go for the larger size – I remembered the online reviews about the largest bowl of udon in Berlin! As you can see, modelled by K in this photo, this truly was a massive bowl…though a bit deceptive because there was quite a bit of broth in the bowl and not as much udon as you may have thought!
We decided to also share a sushi set, as I was also craving sushi – another dish I have so regularly in Australia, that to go for two months without it in Europe was a real hardship. Unfortunately, this wasn’t quite the same – the sushi rice flavouring was a little bit off, and the cuts of fish that they used in the nigiri seemed to be quite rough.
They were not at all like the creamier pieces of sushi fish that we get in Australia, and I think the reason for that may come down to fishing practices – there’s a certain method to catching and killing sushi fish. You can’t for example, just buy any piece of salmon and expect to turn it into salmon nigiri. The salmon has to be caught in a certain way, and killed almost immediately so that the lactic acid created by their panic at being out of the water doesn’t destroy the integrity of the flesh.
Still, when it comes to satisfying a craving, this was not a bad choice.
Overall, I can highly recommend Udon Kobo Ishin as a decent Japanese restaurant to visit in Berlin, should you find yourself craving a hot bowl of udon. The sushi is slightly less impressive, but still probably one of the better and cheaper options in Berlin. The prices in the restaurant are very reasonable, though service can be a bit slow and haphazard.
Udon Kobo Ishin is located at 1 Litfaßplatz, Berlin.