Monday, April 25, 2016

よしかわ (Yoshikawa in Saitama)

中華そば よしかわ

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I managed to drag the usual suspects out on another ramen ride. The problem with many of these rides is that shops open at 11am, and require a boring ride through a major city's traffic. More hardcore riders are up at dawn and well into the mountains by this time.

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Luckily, the usual suspects had been out drinking the night before, and a late start paired with a great bowl of ramen was their idea of a good time.

Mine, too.

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Why Yoshikawa? Although it has been on my list of shops to check out for a while, their recent #23 spot on a popular nation-wide ranking list made them a must-slurp.

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A must-slurp indeed.

This is one is fantastic. The soup is an all natural (無化調) blend of four different dried sardines from all over the country. This is balanced with an shoyu seasoning blend, giving the soup a big impact, and an equally big umami aftertaste.

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Be sure to get a side of the iwashidon (いわし丼), a bowl of rice topped with sardines.

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Yoshikawa is a relatively new shop, less than two years now, but they have built up a lot of critical success. Expect a bit of a line, though their location detracts from this.

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On the ticket machine, the usual upper-left choice was a winner, though the shop has quite a few other choices. You'll be hit with one big choice, though, black or white. They each use a different type of soy sauce. The black was deeper, so I'd suggest that one.

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Or just get one of each.

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Map of 97-5 Minami, Ageo-shi, Saitama-ken 362-0002

埼玉県上尾市南97-5
Saitama-ken, Ageo-shi, Minami 97-5
Closest station: Kita-Ageo

Open 11:00-15:00. 17:00-21:00
Saturdays 11:00-21:00
Closed on Sundays

Thursday, April 21, 2016

讃岐ロック (Sanuki Rock in Takamatsu, Kagawa)

讃岐ロック

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I had some work in Takamatsu, one of Shikoku's major cities. This part of Japan is very, very famous for udon. Most people couldn't tell you much beyond that, but as I've been here a few times, I knew that people were lining up in droves for something else . . .

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Chicken! 骨付鶏 to be exact. Well, I waited in line for this, the most famous chicken in town, as part of my quest to not only eat ramen all over Japan, but to eat local favorites as well. This overly-oily piece of salty meat was a huge disappointment. How do you even eat it? No knives were given, and the meat was quite tough. I ended up splattering spiced oil in my eye as I tried to rip it apart with my teeth.

Immediately as I stepped outside, I knew I needed something to get the taste out of my mouth. I needed ramen.

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Going by the name alone, I ventured over to Sanuki Rock. Sanuki is the old name for the part of Japan. Again, most people know Sanuki udon. But Sanuki ramen? Rock and roll Sanuki ramen?

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Wow! I throw the word kodawari around a lot, as a term to describe the special attention to detail that goes into really excellent food. This one is very kodawari. Wonderful noodles and pork, but the highlight was that soup. Made with soy sauce from nearby Shodoshima Island, it's a deep, dark celebration of local flavors.

The perfect bowl after a night of drinking or eating oily chicken!

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I asked the master what the deal with the name was. Easy to remember was the plan. People have no problem saying, "Let's go to rock!"

ロック行きましょう!

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Map of 2 Chome-1-1 Tokiwachō, Takamatsu-shi, Kagawa-ken 760-0054

香川県高松市常磐町2-1-1
Kagawa-ken, Takamatsu-shi, Tokiwacho 2-1-1
Closest station: Takamatsu

Open 11:30-14:00, 18:00-1:00am
Closed on most Sundays



Monday, April 18, 2016

大木 (Taipoku in Oyama)

らーめん 大木

【Ramen with delicious meats】TOKYO EXTRA 18:東京 EXTRA.mp4_snapshot_01.02_[2016.02.27_19.18.59].jpg

Another episode of Ramen Do, a show I'm doing with Tokyo Broadcasting. But this time, I completely forgot to take a good photo of my bowl. The above is stolen from the video. Check it out!



Ramen!!!!!

【Ramen with delicious meats】TOKYO EXTRA 18:東京 EXTRA.mp4_snapshot_00.20_[2016.02.27_19.19.44].jpg

#TokyoExtra

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Taipoku specializes in beef ramen, sourcing some high quality, A5 grade cuts from Yamagata, a prefecture a ways north of Tokyo.

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As Yamagata is the master's home prefecture, much of the menu hails from there.

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The Yamagata rice was particularly nice. Watch the video to see what I mean.

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Adding some beni shoga, red pickled ginger, makes the taste great, but the photo look pretty sloppy.

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Make sure you get a side of チャー牛, chagyu, to really get the most out of this shop.

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Map of 60-15 Ōyamahigashichō, Itabashi-ku, Tōkyō-to 173-0014

東京都板橋区大山東町60-15
Tokyo, Itabashi-ku, Oyama Higashimachi 60-15
Closest station: Oyama

Open 11:00-15:00, 17:00-23:00
Closed Mondays



Thursday, April 14, 2016

西尾中華そば (One-Day Nishio Popup in Shinjuku)

西尾中華そば

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Nishio Chukasoba was one of my all-time favorite shops in Japan. Old-school mixed with the new. Classic chukasoba with noodles that had a touch of corn flour in them. One of my regrets in life is that I didn't visit their Komagome shop enough, even though I lived fairly close.

For the record, I probably slurped there a dozen times back in the day. Not enough at all.

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Well, Nishio is part of the Nagi group, and he left his shop in the hands of the well-equipped Kabo-chan to pursue overseas ventures. Nagi is killing it in Asia, so I can't fault him. At least he still does the occasional pop-up here in Tokyo.

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This one was a one-day event on January 2nd, 2016. His "leveled-up" bowl was an exercise in crafting ramen from the best ingredients, sourced from the far reaches of Japan. There is soy sauce from Shodoshima. There is chicken from Aichi, Kumamoto, Aomori, and Iwate. There are organic eggs from Yamanashi. There is, well, read the above Japanese description and you'll see about 50 local ingredients.

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For some reason, there was a really nice collection of tequila. 400 yen for a shot? At 11am? Sure!

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Hmmm, maybe we shouldn't be drinking tequila first thing in the morning.

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The ramen was, as expected, amazing. This is what happens when you go for broke with your ingredients. Complex umami flavors under a deep, meaty broth.

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If it looks oily, that's because it is. But that layer of chicken oil, called chiyu in Japanese, is a delicacy unto itself. A byproduct of making the stock, it is one of the hardest things for ramen shops to get right. Too heavy, and it coats your mouth with fat. Too thin, and the bowl lacks substance. Nishio's chiyu has always been perfect.

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Great stuff. I hope he makes it back to Japan more often.

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Monday, April 11, 2016

呑龍 (Donryu in Shimbashi)

長浜らーめん 呑龍

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It isn't often that I am really wowed by a ramen shop. Sure, I have stellar slurps all the time, but it takes more, like a funky atmosphere or interesting sides to make me look twice.

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Donryu had both. This Kyushu-style shop is covered, ceiling to floor, with graffiti that just happens to be the menu.

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Go ahead and get a bottle of shochu and some sides before you even think about ramen.

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I drink mine on the rocks. A side of beef tendon stew is the perfect match. The only thing better would be . . .

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. . . fresh mentaiko. I was told that this mentaiko, from Fukuya, is some of the best in Japan.

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The ramen is above average, and Kyushu to the core. A bit less stinky than other shops of this nature, but still full of flavor and a kind of meaty-creamy-umami that you can only get from boiling pork bones for many, many hours.

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Kaedama, an extra serving of noodle, is a must.

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Map of 1 Chome-2-13 Higashishinbashi, Minato-ku, Tōkyō-to 105-0021

東京都港区東新橋1-2-13
Tokyo, Minato-ku, Higashi Shimbashi 1-2-13
Closest station: Shimbashi

Open 11:00-4:00am
Weekends 11:00-20:30



Thursday, April 7, 2016

かずや (Kazuya in Ekoda)

ラーメンかずや

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There is a very famous ramen shop in Ekoda named Kintoki. I journeyed there with Michael from the blog Like a Fish in Water, and his young daughter. Our mission was to slurp, and slurp well.

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Sometimes this sort of thing happens. His poor girl was nearly in tears. It turns out she was really looking forward to slurping some ramen with me.

Well, Ekoda has a very large community of ramen shops just outside the station, and wandering around looking for something good was no problem. Kazuya looked great.

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A rustic spot, wedged between another ramen shop and a nondescript, shuttered building.

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Shoyu and shio were both on the menu.

A very normal, local bowl, in the sense that I would come often if I lived nearby. This is the kind of ramen that people fall in love with in Japan.

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The chashu was particularly tender and flavorful.

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Map of 4-8 Sakaechō, Nerima-ku, Tōkyō-to 176-0006

東京都練馬区栄町4-8
Tokyo, Nerima-ku, Sakaecho 4-8
Closest station: Ekoda

Open 11:30-14:30, 17:00-22:00
Weekends 11:00-22:00