There are times when you need soul food.
I did, as I trudged through Stockbridge in the darkness and rain, after visiting my mum in hospital.
She’s okay, and will be out soon, but is climbing the sterile walls with boredom.
I would love to have broken her out, and taken her for dinner, though she is enjoying the food there, with many mince-based dishes, a roast on Sundays and proper puddings with custard every night. The breakfast is the only thing not to win her approval, since there’s no toast, and she’s having extreme cravings for that, hot buttered with Marmite.
She gets to choose what she’s eating the next day from a menu request form, and ticking the boxes beside each dish is her highlight.
To amuse herself, she’s also scribbled the names of poisons like strychnine and arsenic under the side dishes options.
She cried with laughter when she told me about this. The best medicine, I think.
Anyway, I was turfed out of her ward - the NHS’s macaroni cheese is only for patients, it seems - and went looking for somewhere else to feed me.
I had a few ideas of where to try, but hadn’t made a booking.
This place was the last on my list, with its sign of a bowl of ramen with a sad face, which made me think of artist Rachel Maclean’s work.
It’d been on my radar since it opened last summer, after operating as a pop up for a few months. However, for some reason, I hadn’t made it along.
Perhaps intermittent lockdown, along with the Gordon Ramsays and the St James Quarters, just up the road, have been too much of a distraction.
We were the only diners on this impromptu visit, and it felt a little cold inside.
At least the decor is cheery. There are faux maple leaves framing the door, a cherry blossom panel, and somebody has gone bananas with the cornices, which are sugared almond pink and bright blue, with cherubs that look as if they’ve been mugged off at a makeup counter.
There were five cocktails on the chalkboard, and I went for the Midori Sour (£9.50) which was beautiful - the colour of ripe avocado flesh, cold, foamy and zingy with lime, Midori, vodka and citrus soda.
The Shinkansen (£9.50), named after the high-speed railway in Japan, contained gin, Kummel and Pocari. We ordered this, but what we got tasted very like a Negroni, also on the menu - great though, and very heady.
There’s also a Plates/Snacks list, with Rokko fries and golden Rhino sauce (£5.50), soft shell crab (£9.50) and chicken karaage (£4.50).
We went for the venison tataki, choi and ponzu (£9), which was like a slap in the chops with a deer pelt. It was feral, thanks to the slices of haunch and their charred edges, and the seaweed-y, and citrus-injected sauce, all scattered with a sesame seed confetti. Full. On. In a good way.
The crispy cauliflower and sukiyaki (£4.90) wasn't shy either. It was a nice reminder that we are still alive. Each floret was secured into a crunchy and hot pod, and there was a pool of soy, sugar and mirin at the bottom of the bowl. We ate them like popcorn.
The main event is the ramen, and, in normal times, you probably wouldn’t need one of these additional side dishes if you’re also having a huge bowlful of their noodles. I went for their classic Rokko Ramen (£13.50) - the eating of which was like sliding into a hot bath. Comforting indeed, thanks to the Japanese penicillin that was shoyu broth, which contained a halved and sticky-yolked egg, chopped spring onion, and slices of pork belly that were so soft the fat was like lotion. I happily dredged it for the bouncy and sinewy noodles, which they make in house.
“I don’t even like ramen”, said my other half, who was ladeling and pouring the katsu curry version (£15) straight into his face. This version had a chilli kick, as well as four big chunks of fox red chicken thigh, each of which was in its glamorous feathery wet-suit of Panko crumb. Instead of a hug in a mug, it was a canoodle with a noodle.
Both of us felt our batteries recharge.
We had come in at red, and left at green.
Maybe this place’s life affirming ramen should be available on the NHS?
NB. As I was writing this, I found out my mum’s getting released. Marmite on toast, here she comes.
112 St Stephen Street
(0131 220 5755, www.rokkorokkodesu.com)
Places to try Nearby
Kenji has recently moved from St Stephen Street into the premises of its sister restaurant, Umi, round the corner. The menu is an amalgamation of both places, with ramen as well as tempura, sushi and sashimi.
There’s currently no sitting in at this branch of Bross Bagels, so we’ve been know to enjoy a Montreal or Goy in the underpass that is Stockbridge Market Arch. You’re welcome.
Fortitude, 66 Hamilton Place, Edinburgh, www.fortitudecoffee.com
For the post-ramen carb slump, you can always visit this place for an excellent coffee and a cinnamon bun. Or, head along at breakfast and try the spiced porridge with miso caramel, apples, hazelnut crumble and blackberries.