Thursday, January 22, 2015

rabo in Nishi-Shinjuku



Anaya, a heavy bowl just a few minutes south of my apartment recently opened a spinoff shop a few minutes north of my apartment. Convenient!


This bowl of ramen, in a shop down a little alley, will most likely be missed by most due to the location, but shouldn't be. Simple and unassuming, it is a great blend of chicken, pork, and niboshi.

A simple review for a simple shop. If you are in the area, pop on in for a slurp.


Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Honmachi 4-13-10
Closest station: Nishi-Shinjuku-Gochome

Open 11:30-15:00, 17:30-22:00
Closed Sundays

Monday, January 19, 2015

うさぎ食堂 (Usagi Shokudo in Naka-Meguro)



Toripaitan, ramen that is made with a creamy chicken soup, is nothing new. But in recent years, a few stand out shops like Kagari and Ushio bring things to a higher level. Mega-rich soup with fresh toppings that put regular ramen to shame.


This one was recommended by the barbecue master at Hatos Bar, a nearby smokehouse barbecue spot that meat lovers need to know about. Don't tell anyone, but Sou-san, the master, prefers a good bowl of ramen over perfectly cooked ribs. Food is funny that way.


The menu is only a couple items; torishiroramen and bejitanmen. Both use the same soup, but differ in noodles and toppings.


The veggie version was hard to pass up. Chicken chashu, duck chashu, garlic toast, and a heap of colorful vegetables. 1500 yen is spendy, but not really that much for good food in the Naka-Meguro area.


If you are out here for the famous cherry blossoms that line the river during March and April, Usagi Shokudo is a good bet for a quick bite.

Followed, of course, by some barbecue and craft beer at Hatos Bar!


Tokyo, Meguro-ku, Aobadai 1-30-12
Closest station: Naka-Meguro

Open 11:30-22:00
Closed Mondays

Thursday, January 15, 2015

AFURI in Nakameguro



It had been years since a visit to famed AFURI. Since the original shop in Ebisu paved the way for more oshare - stylish - ramen shops, AFURI has opened half a dozen more shops in the Tokyo area.

Do they still hold up?


Unfortunately, I feel that they have lost a lot in the expansion. This shop in Nakameguro, though stylish, lacked deep flavors and had no tasty impact. They were lauded as having the best light tasting ramen in town, but now it is just too light.


I should note that I tried their winter limited bowl, a miso with smoked meats and ginko nuts.


My friend, the writer of a new ramen blog on the scene, had their normal bowl. Lackluster.

Do check out his site, Philoramen:


Tokyo, Meguro-ku, Kamimeguro 1-23-1
Closest station: Nakameguro

Open 11:00-5:00am

Monday, January 12, 2015

裏不如帰の台湾極にぼ (Taiwan Niboshi Ramen at Ura Hototogisu in Hatagaya)

一汁三煮干 裏不如帰


Insanely amazing Hototogisu changes gears on Thursdays and becomes Ura-Hototogisu. Hidden-Hototogisu. Niboshi heavy soup one day a week.


They also have a limited to 10-a-day Taiwan-niboshi ramen. Spicy nira and an intesne ground pork mix.

I still prefer their normal menu on Thursdays, but go for this one if you have already been and are looking to spice things up.


Make sure you get there about ten minutes before they open, or be subject to a long line.


Another review I did a while back is here.

Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Hatagaya 2-47-12
Closest station: Hatagaya

Open 11:30-15:00 on Thursdays

Thursday, January 8, 2015

一蘭 (Ichiran in Fukuoka)



Pilgrimage time. Yes, I'm no fan of the Ichiran chain, the Kyushu beast that has shops all across the country. The taste is heavy on the sweet and low on the porky goodness level that, say, somewhere like Ippudo has. But as far as chains go, you can't beat them for convenience. Wow, I feel sick saying that.

But the original shop in Fukuoka was unique bowls, so I wanted to try it. Yes, that is pretty much the only reason.

To the honten (main shop)!


But . . . they don't have the famous rectangular bowls. Yes, I'm being petty here. But this will probably be my last time slurping Ichiran, so I need to make it count. Turns out the first floor of the honten doesn't even serve ramen! Have some original Ichiran dumplings, instead.


After some conversation with a very young staff member, we found that it was actually the Nishidori shop that does the special bowls. A five minute walk away.


That's more like it!


Of course, one of the perks of Ichiran is the customization. I always say that this is so when you get your lackluster bowl, the blame is on you, the customer, for choosing the wrong combination. In the past, I had gone for normal levels. I've since learned. Once again, though, not the greatest bowl in Japan.

From top to bottom - amount of tare seasoning, thickness of the soup, amount of garlic, type of negi onion, pork yes or no, amount of spice, and firmness of the noodles. They probably have an English version.


As always, sit down in your private cubicle.


And await your bowl.


My mistake this time was choosing こい味, a strong amount of tare seasoning liquid. The tare here is the biggest problem. So sweet! The choice of double spice neutralized this a bit.


Still crushed it though.


Official Site Here

Fukuoka-ken, Fukuoka-shi, Chuo-ku, Daimyo 2-1-57
Closest station: Tenjin

Open 10:00am-7:00am
No holidays.

Monday, January 5, 2015

香福 (Kofuku in Kitakata, Fukushima)



Another new shop in Kitakata, Kofuku's most popular bowl features the Bannai look; noodles hidden by a layer of tender chashu.


Great pork! Everything else in this bowl, though, fell flat for me. Maybe it was because this was bowl number five or six, a number far beyond my threshold for enjoyment.


But Abram was in TV mode, so the slurping had to continue.


Beautiful bowl.


And a very local-feeling shop.


And for some reason, The Usual Suspects and Reservoir Dogs being displayed like art on the wall.


If you have time after your bowl, head across the street to Kitakata's own ramen shrine.


Where you can pray for a lifetime of delicious bowls.




Fukushima-ken, Kitakata-shi, Sanchome 4840-1
Closest station: Kitakata

Open 7:30-16:00
Closed Wednesdays

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Top 5 Bowls of Ramen I Want to Eat

Happy 2015 from Tokyo. It has been another great year of ramen slurping and spreading the ramen love worldwide. Ramen Adventures has been in the media quite a bit, and locally my food tours and ramen school have been doing great as well. There are a few things in the works that I will hopefully get to shortly.

Of course, we are spoiled here in Japan with ramen. And we are spoiled rotten in Tokyo, with quality shops popping up weekly. But what about overseas?  I try to follow ramen trends in America as best I can, and these are the top 5 shops that I want to slurp.

I should note that these are all bowls I have yet to try. I will never make a best-of list for American shops. (Unless some TV show wants to send me on a 20 city tour)

1. - New York

Everyone with an interest in food (in America at least) has heard of the ramen burger. And everyone has an opinion. I had a very early incarnation here in Tokyo, but am dying to try the one that took New York by storm. I'm also intrigued by the burger ramen, a soupless mazemen with burger meat.


2. Ivan Ramen - New York

Ivan's NY shop takes a page from Momofuku's success and offers a massive spread of izakaya inspired plates. I've never had anything besides noodles from the guy, so I'm curious if he can actually cook (all well respected reviewers say he can).


3. High Five Ramen - Chicago

When the crew behind many of Chicago's trendiest restaurants hit me up for a food tour a few years back, I racked my brain on where to take them. What shops would be a good representation of Japanese ramen? Turns out my favorite spicy miso shop, Kikanbo, was their favorite as well. So much so that they serve a Kikanbo-inspired bowl (called Kanabo) as their main dish.

4. Otaku South - Nashville

Sarah Gavigan is awesome. She knows that American pork rivals that of anywhere else in the world. That was the basis of her ramen pop-up; start with fantastic pork and go from there. Nashville is a pretty unexpected place for a successful bowl of ramen, but apparently it is happening.


5. Umami - Tempe

A good friend's favorite shop after returning home from Japan. I've spoken with the shop master, and they seem passionate about bringing ramen to the deserts of Arizona. I'm sold!


All photos stolen from the shop's homepages.