Madrid is currently in the throes of an Asian food craze and ditching its traditionally dingy Chinese take away joints and over-priced sushi restaurants for izakaya-style Japanese bar eats, ramen, bao buns, and banh mi. Ground zero of this Asian food Renaissance is Chuka Ramen Bar, a classy but unpretentious ramen restaurant located just steps from Madrid’s popular Barrio de Las Letras neighborhood.
The menu is modern Japanese fusion – not super authentic, but incredibly tasty. The appetizers range from fresh oysters to pulled pork bao buns to savory gyoza filled with creative stuffings like spring onions and butifarra (a Catalan white sausage) or shitake mushrooms and tofu. The most popular ramen dish is definitely the Shoyu Ramen, a large bowl of savory dashi-spiked broth with enokitake mushrooms, a fork-tender slab of pork belly, scallions, and a six-minute egg. That’s what we ordered and it was by far the best ramen I’ve tried in Madrid (which, let’s be fair, is not a hard feat). The broth was packed full of flavor, the noodles were perfectly tender, and the pork belly melted in your mouth. For a starter, we got the bao bun; the pork and hoisin sauce filling was wonderful, but the best part was the texture of the bun – not too doughy and not too filling as happens too often in many Madrid restaurants eager to hop on the bao bun craze without having worked out all the kinks first!