Koto Lab – Ramen In Italy
This past Saturday, I fell in love.
Me and a bowl of noodles.
Yes, that’s right and it happened in Prato of all places!
Koto Ramen restaurant in Florence on via Verdi 42R, is opening another location in Prato called Koto Lab.
A young group of entrepreneurs, Mattias Alampi, Matia Napolitano, Dinah Lee, Antonia Alampi and Andrea Castagnola had the vision to open this innovative restaurant and combo laboratory, where Japanese cuisine and unique experimentation join together creating culinary delights.
This Prato location, will have similar menu choices of ramen and tapas style appetizers, but with seasonal specials created weekly.
The new Koto Lab on via Valentini 102A is expected to open early April, check the Koto Ramen site for updates.
Modern Stylish Decor
My husband and I were invited for a round of early tastings and at the sight of the floor-to-ceiling glass entryway so, aesthetically inviting, we couldn’t wait to go inside.
Upon entering you can’t help but notice the clean and modern feel. My favorite detail was the very convenient usb-charging jack behind each table.
The feel of the place had us thinking cute NY city ramen bar, only transported here in Prato!
Warm Welcoming Hosts
After being greeted warmly by Matia at the entrance and with beer in hand, offered immediately to us by gracious host and one of the brilliant minds behind Koto Lab, Dinah, a sparkling Korean-Japanese American (had to shout that out!)… Davide and I were ready to start our night.
Mattias whisked us away for a grand tour of the spacious 250 square meters laboratory area, where the future ramen experiments await.
The idea of the lab area is to focus on experimentation.
Chef Shoji Minamihara will be able to just go wild and get his cook on. He will no doubt flex his skills with ramen and Japanese cuisine mixing it with Italian ingredients bringing it to the next level.
New staff will also be trained here with an introductory course. I would say it will be a one-of-a-kind ramen education.
Mattias explained to us that they have imported a noodle-making machine straight from Japan. It allows them to modify and lower the percentages of water ratio when making the ramen noodles.
Slow down girl. Explain.
Okay, when making ramen noodles, the texture tends to be softer as more water/liquid is contained. The varying water ratio in the noodles results in a big difference in texture and quality of the noodles.
For instance, being able to achieve a low water ratio noodles (25-31% to the weight of flour) leads to producing a harder texture and thinner noodle.
Let’s just say a pretty high-tech machine that makes pretty freaking fantastic noodles.
As if that weren’t enough to prove that they mean business when it comes to ramen making, they also have two impressively huge slow-cooking machines for their broth.
The machines retain the textures and flavors as it cooks the broth in a temperature controlled water bath. Spectacular results as the rich flavors are melded together.
Yes, very very cool.
Fresh Flavorful Food
You’re thinking, Jackie, enough with the technical mumbo jumbo… tell me about the food?
One word, spectacular!
Chef Shoji Minamihara demonstrated his great skill, preparing dish after dish of full-flavored goodies that kept us wanting more!
For starters, we were served warm sake with fresh clams chilling inside our pot.
Yes, you heard me, clams! Seems strange, but was strangely delish.
Then there was a selection of Japanese style tapas, we devoured the gyoza (dumplings), I ate the whole-wheat vegetarian version with white cabbage and my guy couldn’t get enough of the pork filled ones.
Chewing our way through the evening, we inhaled the soft tofu and black sesame seed sauce, topped with sliced almonds and chives. The delicate mix of flavors had me quasi licking the bowl! Even Davide who is not a tofu enthusiast, thought this was one of the best dishes of the evening.
The edamame with bottarga (salted, cured fish roe) was a surprisingly fun combination. I usually prefer my bottarga in pasta or eaten alone, as it has a very strong flavor, but this was a nice twist to the normal salted edamame!
Ramen in Italy
Now, let’s talk about the real reason we were there… to see if you could really find authentic ramen in Italy.
Scooping up noodles with my chopsticks, I discovered from the first taste, the ramen at Koto Lab had won my heart.
I told you it was love.
After inhaling the shoyu ramen and practically drinking all the soup directly from the bowl, we heard there was to be a round two. A second ramen dish was arriving and we had just finished all this food.
Instead of feeling super full and bloated, like when you eat out at a greasy Asian restaurant, we felt good.
The food was light and healthy. We knew we had room in there (patting belly) for more.
So, when the porchetta miso ramen came out, I did not hesistate.
I dug right in, beginning with the broth.
Okay, I did, oh so delicately dump the porchetta into D’s bowl (you guys remember I don’t eat pork, right?) and went straight for my perfectly cooked and oozing egg. But, that’s how bad I wanted to eat this ramen, that pork could not and would not stop me!
The slightly spicy and full-bodied broth was seriously A-MA-ZING.
Japanese friends, one and all… we must set a date to come back and eat this ramen, missing home will be a thing of the past!
I filled up on dinner at this point even though I really wanted to save yet another spot. I just didn’t have any more room for the three fabulous desserts. Struggling against an oncoming food coma, I did take a bite of the basil panna cotta.
Blown away by the fresh basil flavor, definitely would like to try that again.
I apologize but no dessert pictures were taken, let’s blame the brain fog associated with too much good food and magically refilling sake (thanks Dinah)!
Best Ramen in Italy
It should be clear to all that I will be back, as soon as they are officially open and bringing anyone and everyone who will join me.
Me and that miso ramen need a second date, asap! Koto Lab save me a spot!
Has anyone else tried really good ramen in Italy? Would love to here about your favorite ramen place, leave me a comment and let me know!
Two thumbs up Koto Lab Ramen
Website: Koto Lab Ramen
Address: Via Valentini 102A – Prato, Italy
$$ Average Prices
Facebook: Koto Lab Ramen Prato