★★★★☆ / Japanese / Japanese Noodles

Muga review – Panton Street tonkotsu ramen worth sweating over

Showing Ippudo and Shoryu how it’s done

I’ve always considered ramen to be a cold-weather dish, as it’s so hearty and warming, so it was therefore a surprise to discover ramen restaurant Muga opening during the height of balmy June. This minimalist restaurant is spread over two floors in an unassuming premises on Panton Street and was surprisingly uncrowded across both of my visits. This is both good and bad – good in that I can get a seat without any hassle, bad in that Muga clearly isn’t getting the attention it deserves. And it deserves its fair share.

muga panton street london decor

Counter seating upstairs, tables downstairs.

Although shio, shoyu and miso ramen are available on the menu, my first and only ramen love is tonkotsu. Although Muga’s version isn’t quite as superlative as the versions available from Kanada-Ya and Bone Daddies, it still ranks among the best in London. The broth was pleasingly creamy and not too overpowering. A few choice dabs of sesame seed oil and punchy pickled ginger went a long way, also helping to make up for the rather drab fungus and soft boiled egg. Although small in size, the thin slices of pork were delightfully earthy, moist, woody and fatty. The noodles are available in thick and thin varieties, although this made little discernible difference to their reasonably springy texture.

tonkotsu ramen at muga

Through thick…

tonkotsu ramen with thin noodles at muga

…and thin.

The only ramen that uses a soup stock not based in some way on animal flesh is the vegetarian Yasai ramen. Wicket, who has recently become a vegetarian, was pleased with the peppery, umami broth. I found it a little generic, but it’s more than acceptable for meat dodgers. The mass of carrots, cabbage, bean sprouts and bamboo shoot slices, while unimaginative, gets the job done. The same reasonably firm and thick noodles available with the tonkotsu ramen make a repeat appearance here.

yasai ramen at muga

Oddly, Muga’s website address references the name of its limited holding company. Weird.

Muga’s selection of non-ramen dishes is larger than what you’d get at, say, Kanada-Ya, but still less voluminous than the smorgasbord at Shoryu. Lightly spicy and wrinkly Padron peppers grilled and dressed in crunchy salt are competently done, if a tad dull. Far more interesting are the takoyaki – light, soft doughy balls with a firm octopus tentacle nestled at the centre. The doughy balls are a tad too oily, but it’s not too noticeable – especially when you’re distracted by the topping of quivering bonito flakes with its umami punch.

padron peppers at muga

Partially devoured.

takoyaki at muga

Another oddity of Muga’s online presence – its tweets are private at the time of writing.

takoyaki octopus ball at muga

Balls to the wall.

Chicken sandwiched between two slices of lotus root and deep-fried was something of an oddity. The normally distinctive flavour of lotus root was absent here, but at least the lightly battered root slices were crunchy and not excessively oily. The chicken seemed very out of place too.

deep fried lotus root filled with chicken at muga

This is my chicken sandwich and coffee?

If you have a hankering for chook then you’re far better off with the chicken karaage. The lightly crisp coating gave way to reveal unctuous chunks of meat flecked with ginger. No reconstituted mush here.

chicken karaage at muga

Batter up.

The agedashi tofu arrived with some its bonito flake topping oddly subsumed into the small pool of soy ginger sauce rather than sitting gracefully atop the tofu cubes. Still, this did make for an especially moreish sauce that went well with the soft quivering tofu cubes and their slightly chewy batter skins.

agedashi tofu at muga

Cubism.

The bean paste filling inside the soft fluffy dorayaki was disappointingly bland. I’ve had store-bought dorayaki in a packet with more character. A more interesting, if still flawed dessert was the mochi ice cream. The thin, slightly chewy rice-based skins were wrapped around bone-chillingly cold but ultimately quite tasteless vanilla ice cream. This dessert was saved from mediocrity by the nutty dusting of soybean powder and a treacly sweet molasses-based syrup which combined together to provide a surprising depth of flavour that puts many more expensive desserts elsewhere in the shade.

dorayaki at muga

Just one?

mochi ice cream at muga

Lick my icy balls.

The Verdict

Muga’s tonkotsu ramen doesn’t quite match London’s very best, but it’s still far better than versions of the same dish from other, bigger name noodle restaurants and I’d happily scoff it any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Not all of the non-ramen dishes are unqualified successes, but the hits outweigh the misses. Muga deserves to be far more popular than it actually is and if this is the standard of tonkotsu ramen that London can expect once the trend-chasing, bandwagon-jumpers have moved on, then I’ll be very happy indeed.

What to orderTonkotsu ramen; takoyaki; chicken karaage

What to skipDorayaki; lotus root chicken

 

Name: Muga

Address: 5 Panton Street, London SW1Y 4DL

Phone: 020 7930 5088

Webhttp://bloom-dining-london.com

Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday noon – 14.30 and 18.00 – 22.00

Reservations: not taken

Average cost for one person including soft drinks and service: £30 approx. (you’ll pay a little less if you’re not as bonkers with the side dishes as I was) 

Rating★★★★☆

Click to add a blog post for Muga on Zomato

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Muga review – Panton Street tonkotsu ramen worth sweating over

  1. Shame this restaurant isn’t getting the hype it deserves… I’ve only had ramen at Wagamama and have never been impressed. I really need to try the authentic stuff, and the chicken karaage here looks cracking. Glad most of it was good! Love Andrea xxx

    Andrea’s Passions

  2. Pingback: Nanban Brixton review – Japanese food with a West Indian edge | The Picky Glutton

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.