Thursday, July 30, 2015

龍鳳 (Ryuho in Fukushima)

龍鳳

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To be honest, I'm not sure how I ended up here.

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I tried to go to this shop, in the heart of Fukushima City, but they were closed for the night. I also tried to go to the Filipino show club next door, but was told that they don't accept gaijins.

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Somehow ended up at a bar named after my drinking buddy's boyfriend, where another customer marked his favorite shop on my map. If I recall, he then guided us there, through the bustling streets of downtown Fukushima.

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Rajanmen, a spicy, Chinese style dish.

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It was spicy and hot and thick and sweet. Just what I needed at the time, though all that added sugar didn't help the next morning's hangover one bit.

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Apparently, the waitress at this shop gave me some of her recommendations. Now that's service!

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Fun little town around Fukushima Station.

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Map of 8-1 Okitamachō, Fukushima-shi, Fukushima-ken 960-8034, Japan

福島県福島市置賜町8-1
Fukushima-ken, Fukushima-shi, Okitamacho 8-1
Closest station: Fukushima

Open 6:00pm-2:00am
Closed Sundays

Monday, July 27, 2015

六感堂 (Rock'anDo in Ikebukuro)

麺屋 六感堂

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Now that's a pretty looking bowl of shio ramen!

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Green noodles? You bet! Rock'anDo makes their own in house, blending in ユーグレナ, also known as Euglenids, a kind of single-cell organism similar to algae. Considered by some to be a kind of superfood, this will make a bowl of ramen with a side of 抹茶割 (shochu mixed with green tea) seem like a healthy meal.

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I was first clued in to Rock'anDo when they showed up at the recent Ramen Girls Festival. Their line was impressive, especially for a relative newcomer.

After slurping the real deal at their Ikebukuro shop, I can agree, this is some great shio ramen. Very light, with a lot of yuzu citrus flavoring the broth.

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Fantastic, thick cut and roasted, the chashu is a welcome contrast to the clean lightness of the rest of the meal.

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The top two rows are the green shio, followed by shoyu in red, and shio in yellow. Go green, it was great!

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They let me sign their wall-of-fame. Awesome!

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Map of 2 Chome-57-2 Higashiikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tōkyō-to 170-0013, Japan

東京都豊島区東池袋2-57-2
Tokyo, Toshima-ku, Higashi-Ikebukuro 2-57-2
Closest Station: Ikebukuro

Open 11:00-21:00

Thursday, July 23, 2015

饗 くろ㐂の冷やし中華 (Summertime Chilled Ramen at Kuroki)

饗 くろ㐂

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I showed up to Motenashi Kuroki early in July. The special of the week was a simple shio tsukemen. Fantastic. But this is the start of the hottest season in Japan. Summer temperatures soar into the high 30s, even hitting the 40s on the worst of days. And while I despise the heat (and the humidity!), it means that hiyashichuka is back.

Hiyashi means cool, and limited release cold noodle dishes let chefs have a little fun, making things that they normally wouldn't keep on their menu.

I asked Kuroki-san if he would have a limited summer ramen. Of course! In fact, he was planning to have a new one every week.

Here are the first three. I'll try and make it to them all, though I can't guarantee anything. Do yourself a favor and head down to Akihabara Station and check out whatever he has going on. Get there early, as many, many ramen otaku will be lining up every day.

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I'm a huge fan of tantanmen, so this one was right up my alley. It started with some fragrant negi oil. Nira and a creamy sesame sauce rounded out the liquid part. Add to that homemade komatsuna (a type of Japanese leafy vegetable) noodles and a chicken and tomato mince. Finally, top the whole thing with homemade rayu (spicy oil) and a red miso drizzle. Crazy!

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Next was something I'm not the biggest fan of . . . natto. Fermented, slimy, stinky soy beans. But good natto isn't so bad, and this was some good natto. Paired with scallions and a colorful mix of lightly pickled vegetables, this one was very Japanese.

A very special niboshi tare oil rounded out the flavors.

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Next came this one. Wheat noodles with a luxurious bonito jelly sauce. Toppings included corned beef, roast tomato, and an onion marinade.

What will he make next?!?

Check out my original Kuroki post here for more info.

And check out Kuroki-san's blog for daily updates to what he has. These limited hiyashi bowls are fun, but if you haven't had his shio ramen, you should go as soon as you can, it is top notch.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Praise for The Ramen Book by Ishiyama Hayato

the RAMEN BOOK

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The Ramen Book is another bilingual guide to ramen in Japan, albeit a much broader guide than my own book, 最強アメリカ・ラーメン男 東京 極ウマ50店を食べる. While mine is strictly a guide to 50 shops in Tokyo, The Ramen Book brings you in slowly; sort of a ramen 101.

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It covers the basics, with great color photos and a few recommended shops to check out. Ishiyama is considered one of the most important ramen critics in Japan, so you can imagine that his hit-list is good.

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By the way, almost every Tokyo shop in this book is also in mine!

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There are explanations of local ramen in Japan, a primer on international chains, and some handy guides to help you navigate a ramen shop. If this review seems on the simple side, well, it is because this is a simple book! A perfect companion to sit on your bookshelf next to my book! It looks like you can order it on Amazon.com here.

My only gripe is that whoever was checking the English from the machine translations forgot to do the shoyu page! Rich aroma of soy sauce is re-charged decisive? The rest of the book is fine, just this one page. Whoops!

(by the way, my own book has a few mistakes as well, can you find them?)

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With the upcoming Olympics, and a general global interest in Japanese ramen, I'm hoping our books will be of help to a lot of people.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

田なか (Tanaka in Otsuka)

志奈そば 田なか

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重濃鯵ニボそば. Jyuko Aji Nibo Soba. Super thick mackerel and sardine noodles. That's what you will get at Tanaka on a Friday, when the menu slightly changes.

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Tanaka bills itself as shinasoba; Chineses-style ramen. But, like most newer shops serving shinasoba, this a wholly Japanese take on noodles. And a very unique one at that.

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Certainly well-regarded by the usual suspects, what makes this one so special?

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To start with, the soup is a one-off creation. Inspired by the Chiba seaside, where shop master Tanaka-san spends a lot of time surfing, large amounts of dried sardine and horse mackerel are the first thing you notice. The next thing that hits you is the thickness. By using more konbu seaweed than normal, the soup becomes thick and packed with umami. It's very different, and very good.

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The images are from Friday's limited menu, where he blends the normal stock with a heavier chicken broth. Both this and the regular bowl are stellar, but I prefer the normal, fish and konbu only bowl that you get on regular days. Friday's version is a bit extreme.

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Tanaka-san commutes from the far side of Chiba every day; a trip that takes almost two hours. But we, the customer, could have it no other way. It's that surf, that closeness to the ocean, that comes through in his ramen.

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Map of 2 Chome-19-2 Higashiikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tōkyō-to 170-0013, Japan

東京都豊島区東池袋2-19-2
Tokyo, Toshima-ku, Higashi Ikebukuro 2-19-2
Closest station: Otsuka

Open 11:00-15:00, 17:00-22:00
Saturday 11:00-15:00
Closed Sundays

Monday, July 13, 2015

かつお拳 (Katsuoken in Asakusabashi)

らーめん かつお拳


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When one of Japan's most famous ramen critics tells you about a new shop, you go as soon as you can. That's just what Ishiyama-san did.

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Ishiyama-san with two of his latest books. He has over a dozen ramen books to his name. On the right is a fun manga giving info on the roots of 30 Tokyo shops. On the left is his new English guide to ramen. Direct competition with my book? You bet! Grab a copy here.

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Back to the recommended ramen. Katsuoken promised copious amounts of, you guessed it, katsuo.

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Bonito. Skipjack tuna. This is the fish that, when paired with konbu seaweed, gives that explosion of umami flavors we know and love. There is a rather new, and completely awesome ramen site out there called Ramen Chemistry that breaks down all that umami stuff. Give it a read if you want to know more.

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Along with the soup already having quite a lot of the stuff, a strainer of dried katsuo flakes lets you treat your bowl like a fishy cup of tea.

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I love that katsuo isn't fishy at all. More of a smoky, dried taste. American ramen shops have been known to substitute bacon for katsuo, but that is only because it is harder to get the good stuff in the States.

Toppings were good on the 870 yen special version, but I'd say stick with the regular. Yes, it is the button on the upper left of the ticket machine. Rule #5 at ramen shops, the upper left will get you something great.

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Why not go for the biggest bowl?

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Definitely to save room for a タタキ丼, a rice bowl covered with seared and seasoned katsuo.

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Asakusabashi now has three very distinct, very awesome ramen shops. Katsuoken, Rokutsuki, and Motenashi Kuroki. East-siders celebrate!

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Map of 1 Chome-24-5 Asakusabashi, Taitō-ku, Tōkyō-to 111-0053

東京都台東区浅草橋1-24-5
Tokyo, Taito-ku, Asakusabashi 1-24-5
Closest station: Asakusabashi

Open 11:30-15:00, 18:00-21:00
Closed Sundays

Thursday, July 9, 2015

づゅる麺 池田 (Zyurumen Ikeda in Meguro)

づゅる麺 池田


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Zyurumen Ikeda is another shop that Kansai-based ramen blog Philoramen recommended for their shio tsukemen. This Meguro-based shop, like many quality tsukemen makers has homemade noodles and a line of hungry guys and gals outside.

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Just as Philoramen can't resist the search for salty shio tsukemen, I can't pass up a limited gentei bowl of cold summer noodles. Hiyashi hunting during the hot months makes me very, very happy.

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So when I saw that Zyurumen Ikeda had a limited bowl called 冷やしジャマイカ - Cold Jamaica - I departed from the recommended norm.

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Jamaican-style soupless noodles.

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What made them Jamaican? To start, a spicy jerk chicken saute added a nice kick. Add to that banana chips, of all things, and you have a slightly sweet, slightly spicy flavoring to the shop's amazing noodles. Yes, the noodles here are fantastic.

I could see myself coming back to this shop to try their regular fare. Their most popular item, the tsukemen, looks to be similar to Fuunji's version, one of my favorite in Japan.

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Official Site Here

Map of 1 Chome-6-12 Meguro, Meguro-ku, Tōkyō-to 153-0063

東京都目黒区目黒1-6-12
Tokyo, Meguro-ku, Meguro 1-6-12
Closest station: Meguro

Open 11:30-15:00, 17:00-23:00
Closed Saturdays