webwide noodling

w.o.k. world oriented kitchen: et tu, menu?

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W.O.K. doesn’t belong here. Let’s get that out of the way. Secondly, let me state emphatically, that there is no ramen in Rome. Well there is the odd Giapponese restaurant or two which may or may not toss out a bowl of noodles every now and again, but, as confirmed by the hip young Japanese sushi chef at Hamasei (who else would know better?) there’s not a single ramen shop to be found in the Eternal City.

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Which is quite shocking, considering the ubiquity of pasta in Italy. If Marco Polo truly did introduce spaghetti from China, you’d think that the Italians might have followed up with a little research into their far-flung noodling cousins during the intervening centuries. But no, perhaps linguini and angel hair are so entrenched over here that they’ve already maxed out on their carbs for two thousand more years to come.

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W.O.K., or World Oriented Kitchen, was the closest I could come, during a whirlwind week’s stay, to finding ramen in Rome. “Yasai ramen,” nestled among the carefully curated selection of ostensibly “ethnic” noodle dishes on offer, is to ramen what a Taco Bell taco is to an authentic taco from District Federales in Mexico City. Actually, I take that back, because at least with a Taco Bell taco, all the components are there. There’s something meat-like, encased in a tortilla; the concept remains intact. W.O.K.‘s yasai ramen, on the other hand, is more like a simple vegetable and noodle stir fry, a yakisoba I guess, devoid of anything even resembling broth, served, as with all their noodle dishes apparently, in a hipsterized chinese take out container. Hey, this is the old world; I’m not even going to touch the fortune cookie cliches at play here, but for purposes of dining in, I wouldn’t have minded eating my “ramen” out of an honest-to-goodness plastic bowl.

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Now how did it taste? Surprisingly, it wasn’t bad at all; the vegetables were fresh and the um, ramen noodles were at least worthy of Panda Express. A few of the strands were green, and I suppose they were attempting the cha soba thing. As it turned out, I was more keen on W.O.K.‘s pad thai, which evoked a halfway decent version of a watered down, middle American-friendly spin on the ever-popular thai noodle dish, something you might find about thirty miles out of East Hollywood or clear around the globe from Bangkok, which I suppose was exactly where I was. It was a little too sweet. No matter.Sitting down to some world-oriented noodles after more consecutive nights of pizza and pasta than I had ever had in my life, the stuff tasted like the sun and sky and the sea.

nope. zilch. no soup. i repeat. no soup. nada.0
food court fancy, W.O.K. is to be commended for whatever they're using in their yasai ramen.3
hmm, the vegetables in the stir-fry were fresh! 5
my friend ordered a salmon wrap to go with her pad thai. the cous cous (!) was fresh and decent. it's a world oriented kitchen, after all.4.5
W.O.K. sits in a corner of Roma Termini, the Eternal City's answer to Grand Central Station. with their techno-inspired decor, it's all kind of blade runner. not a bad place to stop for five minutes if you need a break from the cobblestone walks and throngs of tourists. you can watch people go up and down the elevator to the B line. 2.5
w.o.k. exists.3

stazione termini 00185


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