Evolution is revolution. That’s the vision and insight Guy Quirynen, founder of Umamido, had recently. By the end of April, Umamido, the chain of Japanese ramen bars, will have opened two new addresses in our country, introducing a new interior concept and delicious dishes. The first one just opened in Leuven. We discovered and appraised, tasted and approved. Umamido version 2.0 is synonymous with revolution.
Neon lighting and ‘noren’, the typical curtains that you find at the entrance of Japanese restaurants welcome us at Umamido. These curtains were made on site in traditional indigo and are a nod to the aprons of the staff, tailor-made by the Belgian sisters behind the fashion brand Façon Jacmin.
Inside we discover an industrial interior. A beautiful marriage between rough concrete and walnut paneling. Photo wowotrendmag.com
Don’t forget to glance at the ceiling which appears to be a carpet and is made of what looks like the foam out of a fire extinguisher – an idea from the Belgian designer Cedric Etienne (the Mood studio). The fluffy ceiling is conceived to improve the acoustic isolation in the small restaurant but forms at the same time an ideal style contrast for the kitchen walls, made of aerated concrete blocks and the minimalistic displays in construction iron and glass.
We take a seat at one of the tables (36 gueats in total) facing a big neon image of a woman’s face hanging over a bowl. Subtitled in Japanese writing, “Japanese for ‘ramen’”, founder Guy tells us.
Today, Umamido counts 7 addresses (Brussels, Antwerp and Geneva but also a franchise in Sofia – Bulgaria). With the two new addresses – this one in Leuven and soon another one near the Brussels stock exchange – Guy wants to introduce a new interior that he will implemented later on in all the other addresses.
A lot of tender love and cooking
As a fan of Japanese culture and gastronomy Guy is constantly striving to improve the dishes his restaurants are serving. During his 6 month stay in Kyoto he fell in love with ramen. “I immediately fell in love with ramen and saw the potential of this creative but simple dish, that offers so many possibilities. Did you know that you can eat ramen hot or cold, with or without broth, and combined with just about anything you could wish for?”
“Till now our Classico broth was made from pork but as an answer to the demand of the clients we changed it to chicken broth”, Guy continues. “And not the first one the best. Our broth is cooked between 8 to 12 hours with fresh quality meat and fresh vegetables.”
At Umamido, the ingredients also follow the seasons. “We serve for instance lobster during the end of the year period, beetroot in winter, early spring vegetables in spring or this march we served a special broth based on the Japanese yuzu fruit”, Guy tells. “Every dish shows that meticulousness in terms of product quality and origin. The pork for instance comes from Malmedy (Porc Qualité Ardennes), the noodles will soon be produced made to measure by specialist Sun Noodles (USA) and the miso – which Guy prefers a bit smoother – is currently being specially made for Umamido at the Japanese island Hokkaido. Ingredients with a clear origin and a constant pursuit of quality are very important for Umamido. “We serve quantity”, Guy tells, “portions are big but we prefer quality over quantity.”
As a starter we tried two salads. The Kimchi with home fermented vegetables and Chinese cabbage but we preferred the Mountain vegetables. It’s made of de stems of the Japanese mountain vegetable – nice and crispy – spiced up with red peppers and sesame seeds. Yummie!
For the Kimchi pork bun, Umamido puts spicy home fermented vegetables and pork belly in a soft dough bun. It tastes sweet, salty and sour at the same time. It’s spicy delicious but not so easy to consume as toppings fall out constantly. Next time we will order it again as it tastes so good but order a knife and fork as well.
Of course we also tried one of the bestsellers. We tried the Ramen of the chef which is a version with pork belly of that other bestseller the ‘Tonkotsu ramen’ based on pork broth made more spicy with miso. Other bestseller is the Vegetarian ramen. These are made of Kombu Shiitake Dashi, seasoned with miso tare, served with very soft and tasty silken tofu and vegetables.
A bowl of ramen costs between 14,70 and 17,60 euros, but we can ensure you the portions are big and one bowl is the equivalent of a full meal.
Gyoza – Japanese ravioli filled with chicken and vegetables is a classic side dish for a ramen. Combine it with a Japanese beer and you will feel Japanese from head to toe.
Hopefully you will enjoy your meal as much as we did in Leuven!
Umamido Leuven, Tiensestraat, 18, 3000 Leuven, www.umamido.be