Edinburgh’s smallest noodle house has expanded.
Ikigai has just opened a second 26-cover branch at 29-30 South Bridge, as an addition to their titchy original, which only sits six to eight diners, on West Crosscauseway.
If you want to see them at work, Ikigai’s head chef, Gabriel Lewis, along with another of their chefs, Michael Salvador, will be appearing on an upcoming episode of BBC Two’s Britain’s Top Takeaways on Thursday May 19. We asked their marketing director, Andrew McCall, who came up with the new venue’s concept, to tell us about the noodle business.
Why is ramen so popular in Edinburgh?
Delicious warming ramen and the cold icy winters (and sometimes summers) of Edinburgh - need we say more? Just kidding. There is a great appreciation towards high quality food as well as international cuisines in Edinburgh, particularly in the Newington/South Bridge area - fueled in part by the large student population as well as locals and professionals. Through the globalisation of Japanese popular culture such as anime, ramen has become much more understood and respected. The process of making noodles, marinating toppings, and crafting delicious chashu (braised pork belly) and a balanced nine hour broth is not to be taken lightly and the idea that it’s just soup has almost all but disappeared. We are really happy to see so many people finding comfort in our ramen and appreciating the work that goes into it.
Why the new restaurant and will you be expanding your menu?
The increased kitchen and table space has allowed us to deliver many conceptual ideas we have had since launch. We have added a vegan alternative for all of our classic ramen as well as a roster of new sides including crispy nori, wasabi peas, three different flavours of fried tofu and three types of loaded fries. We’ve also expanded our beloved wings selection to include Sriracha-infused chilli mayo and salt and togarashi chilli versions and have added karaage.
How has your first couple of years of trading gone?
We have received so much love from Edinburgh. Our chefs know our regulars on a first name basis and we are so appreciative for all of the support we have had. Ikigai originally launched in the midst of the harshest Covid lockdowns meaning we were delivery only for some time which made reaching new customers somewhat difficult.
Will the property have the same look as the original branch?
The property was originally a Maki & Ramen. We completely changed the interior: outfitting it with handmade Scottish wood tables and a large ramen bar. We got custom neon signs crafted by Solas Neon which really elevate the space. The aim was to bring the same ethos, concept and vibe to the new location - interpreting and refining it in new ways while also ensuring our roots stay strong through aspects such as black ceilings, natural wood, open kitchen and organic feel.