When you think about how much we seem to love ramen In Berlin, it seems strange that only a handful restaurants offer proper versions of the Japanese noodle soups. All Berlin ramen discussions eventually lead to Cocolo, the undisputed champion of Berlin ramen with its shops in Mitte and Kreuzberg. As the noodle-soup obsessed snobs we are, we’ve been patiently waiting for someone to challenge the ramen reign of Cocolo. Then, finally, in December 2015, our prayers to the Japanese noodle soup goods were heard and Takumi Nine opened in Prenzlauer Berg.
“Then, finally, in December 2015, our prayers to the Japanese noodle soup goods were heard and Takumi Nine opened in Prenzlauer Berg”
Takumi Nine is the sister restaurant of a ramen shop in Düsseldorf, the German city that boasts the largest community of expat Japanese and hence also the largest number of Japanese restaurants. The man behind Takumi Nine Berlin goes by the name of Yusuke Minamiyama and is also the Ramenmeister behind the tiny cooking section at Takumi Nine. He took over the venue from former Okonomiyaki eatery Hanage who sadly decided to stop treating me with their divine fried chicken karaage.
Takumi Nine didn’t really change much of the Hanage venue except the equipment of the kitchen. This means around 20 seats in a tiny venue. The menu at Takumi Nine is pretty substantial and offers 16 different bowls of ramen along with a number of side dishes and Japanese curries. The soups at Takumi Nine are, unlike most other Berlin ramen shops, not based on a Tonkotsu (pork bone broth) but on Miso (miso paste) and Shoyu (soy sauce). At Takumi Nine there are loads of options to combine flavours and toppings and you can spend several weeks slurping your way through this menu.
“At Takumi Nine there are loads of options to combine flavours and toppings and you can spend several weeks slurping your way through this menu”
A great bowl of ramen comes down to the quality of the main ingredients and Takumi Nine puts a lot of work and ingredients into their broth. It’s very intense, salty and rich and while some will love this, I can also see that others might also be a bit overwhelmed. My very own opinion is a bit divided on the matter, but in the end I do very much enjoy the richness of these particular soups. Where Takumi Nine looses points is the noodles, they are decent and do the job but the problem is that they’re not homemade and come pre-cooked out of a bag. For a truly great ramen you need noodles that are slightly chewy and that are coated perfectly by the soup, essentially allowing you to eat most of the liquid without even using your spoon. This can only be achieved with home-made noodles and that’s unfortunately not the case at Takumi Nine.
The flagship ramen at Takumi Nine are the Sapporo style bowls (Nine Sapporo Shoyu and Nine Sapporo Miso), two enormous and rich ramen creations served with sliced chicken, pork lard and a lot of condiments like sprouts and vegetables. The size and richness of these bowls exceeds anything we’ve seen in Berlin so far and we’re talking about a massively indulging meal here with a lot going on in terms of flavours and textures. Maybe a bit too much for taste, the massive amount of sprouts and veggies almost added too much texture. That might also be the reason I actually prefer the other, more simple ramen varieties at Takumi Nine, like the Spicy Miso Ramen where their classic miso broth is pushed to new heights with the addition of hot sauce, or the Nanban Shoyu with moist fried chicken.
“The size and richness of these bowls exceeds anything we’ve seen in Berlin so far”
If you’re not into ramen there are actually several, other options at Takumi Nine. Although the Gyoza aren’t homemade they are actually very tasty, I kind of hate to admit that. Silky smooth dough, juicy filling and fried to crisp perfection. The Takoyaki, a sphere-shaped dough ball cooked filled with octopus and usually cooked by hand in a special pan, are unfortunately frozen and deep fried and I wouldn’t really touch those, goes beyond me why they serve them. Same goes for the plate of fried chicken with potato salad, it’s ok but nothing that will leave a lasting impression.
Takumi Nine injects some much needed fresh blood into the Berlin ramen offering and I’m very thankful for that. The elephant in the room that needs to be addressed is of course how Takumi Nine compares to Cocolo. In terms of taste it comes down to preferences, if you enjoy very rich, intense and spicy ramen bowls, then you might like Takumi Nine better. But if you enjoy you’re ramen a bit more toned down and balanced you will want to stick to Cocolo. And when you think about how Cocolo produces everything in house, including noodles and gyozas, it’s for me pretty clear that Cocolo still serves the best ramen in Berlin. One thing is very clear though, Takumi Nine is definitely the number 2 behind Cocolo and I would strongly recommend you to check it out. Keep in mind that they don’t take reservations and that they can get quite full.