As a child I used to believe that ninjas were such master contortionists that they could actually squeeze through a letterbox. Clearly they can’t – unless they can do origami with their own heads, which seems unlikely. But these Japanese mercenaries don’t just capture kids’ imaginations, they’re also the fodder for restaurant concepts. In Tokyo there’s a whole, maze-like restaurant devoted to the theme with stealthy staff dressed the part, among other cloak and dagger elements.
Now London also has its own ninja-inspired venue, named after the fictional Edo period warrior Sarutobi Sasuke. But you won’t find any trick doors or throwing stars at this Soho ramen bar, and the only ninja you’ll find is emblazoned on the traditional curtain hanging at the entrance. Instead, it’s a pared-down fuelling stop with communal tables and a brief menu of noodles, dumplings and other snacks intended to ‘impress and surprise’ like a ninja does – a little tenuous perhaps.
As for the ramen, our miso version was hearty enough to fuel any covert mission with perfectly bouncy noodles nestled in a thick, salty pork and miso broth, topped with sweetcorn, pork and fermented bamboo shoots. The excellent gyoza dumplings stuffed with a light, moist pork filling would also have won favour with even the fiercest warrior. But there was nowhere to hide for the flaccid noodles in the strangely viscous broth used for our veggie ramen.