Thursday, November 20, 2014

ずんどう屋 (Zundoya in Shinjuku)

ラー麺ずんどう屋 東京新宿店

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I shy away from large chain shops, and cautiously approach the smaller ones. Zundoya could be classified as a mini-chain, with about a dozen shops in Kansai (Western Japan), a new shop in Tokyo, and a future shop in New York.

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New York you say? 

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Yep, with a shop opening in 2015 in the heart of Manhattan, Zundoya is setting their sights high. Could this be the Ippudo killer?

At first glance, the shop is very Ippudo-esque. A creamy tonkotsu soup, straight noodles, Kyushu-style toppings. Even the red bowls look to be aimed at Ippudo's style. But Zundoya is its own beast, pushed to another level by the addition of seabura, glistening globs of pork back fat. Choose your level.

Go strong. Ask for こってり味 - kotteri aji - for a big hit of fat. Or go for 背脂まみれ味 - seabura mamire aji - smeared with fat - if you want. 

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For me, I was always surprised by the way Ippudo was received in America. In Japan, I'll casually walk into an Ippudo, grab a cheap bowl and a beer, and leave 15 minutes later being satisfied. The insanity of the New York Ippudo, with hour waits and high prices, never felt right.

Zundoya feels to me the same way. This is a bowl I could jump into anytime. No fussing. Just a solid bowl of ramen. Will it suffer the same fate / fortune as Ippudo? We'll know next year.

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東京都新宿区歌舞伎町2丁目39-3
Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Kabukicho 2-39-3
Closest station: Shinjuku

Open 24/7/365

Monday, November 17, 2014

ちゃっちゃか (Chachaka in Shinjuku)

ちゃっちゃか

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One of the best ramen shops in Tokyo is Nagi in Shinjuku's Golden Gai district. Golden Gai is a sight to behold. Four or five small alleys are home to hundreds tiny bars, and a handful of restaurants. With Nagi commanding long lines at all hours, and holding the crown for years, is there room for another shop?

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Sure, why not. Chachaka serves up three kinds of miso, each kicked up with seafood. You have from left to right and top to bottom, dried fish, shrimp, and crab (and a beer).

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The chef recommended the shrimp.

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A decent bowl, accented with a healthy serving of fresh baby shrimp. It was, though, lacking some kick.

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Good thing they have a homemade spice blend. Take pepper, sansho, and a bunch of secret stuff, and you have exactly what this bowl needs. Use a lot of it.

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And get back to the bars!



東京都新宿区歌舞伎町1-1-8
Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Kabukicho 1-1-8
Closest station: Shinjuku

Open 7:00pm-5:00am

Thursday, November 13, 2014

兎に角 (Tonikaku in Matsudo)

兎に角

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If you find yourself in Matsudo, you should really go to Tomita. The tsukemen there is considered by many to be the best in Japan. Who are these many I speak of? For one, Tomita is the number one ranked shop over at the Ramen Database.

But what if you are in the mood for something with a slightly shorter line?

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Tonikaku serves three heavy bowls; a ramen, a tsukemen, and a soupless aburasoba.

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Intense. And for me, a bit too much. Fans of thick, porky ramen may disagree with me here.

This shop is in the same ramen group as Tomita, if that makes any difference to you.

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I was feeling a bit wrecked after this bowl. What to do? Magic tea to the rescue!

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からだすこやか茶 - Karada Sukoyaka Cha - Healthy Body Tea

This tea has been a big hit in Japan recently. The tea contains ingredients to battle the adverse effects of all those carbohydrates and fat. I'm not sure if it is just a placebo, but I was feeling great an hour later!

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千葉県松戸市根本462
Chiba-ken, Matsudo-shi, Nemoto 462
Closest station: Matsudo

Open 11:00-23:00

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tokyo Toy Run 2014

Tokyo Toy Run 2014

Once a year, the gaikokujin motorcycle community of Tokyo (well, all of Japan is invited) puts together a charity event. It's time again for the Tokyo Toy Run! December 7th is the event, please donate before then.



Apologies for the non-ramen related content.

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There I am back in 2011 on the Honda CB1000. As you can see from the pictures, the concept is simple. We collect toys and money, dress in our finest Santa suits (420 yen from the Japan dollar store), and ride down to a local orphanage. What follows is truly an awesome day for the kids. Kids from infants to teens. A couple hundred motorcycles, a couple dozen pizzas, and toys for everyone.

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Part of the fun is strapping all these toys to the bikes. I can't believe these survived the ride!

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A safe, responsible ride is the only way to ride!

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So what can you do to help? In the past, fans of my blogs have donated via PayPal, and I've used the money to buy toys in Tokyo. I'll do the same this time around. Please send a personal payment to macduckston@gmail.com. Or click here:




If you are in Tokyo, you can give me a toy in person. I'll have an informal gathering at the Hobgoblin bar in Roppongi (site here) on Friday, December 5th from 8-10pm (probably until later). Come by for a beer and hand off the toy then. Please follow Ramen Adventures (shameless plug!) on Facebook for more info on that.

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Previous years were a huge success:

2009
http://www.japanbash.co/2009/12/2009-motorcycle-toy-run.html

2010
http://www.japanbash.co/2010/12/tokyo-toy-run-2010.html

2011
http://www.japanbash.co/2012/04/2011-toy-run-charity.html

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Thanks, and remember, any amount helps.

Monday, November 10, 2014

四つ葉 (Yotsuba in Saitama)

中華そば 四つ葉

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Another edition of Ramen Riders, our gang of ramen-hunting, motorcycle-riding, trouble-causing dudes (and a pretty girl this time!) was much needed. Despite having a list of far-off shops to trek to, Yotsuba was just up the road in Saitama. And Yotsuba commands an insane score of 97.6 at the ramen database. That puts it at #3 in the country for new shops.

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We had to go. It isn't even that far. But due to it being the start of a long weekend, the traffic just to get out there made it feel like a trek. Ugh, I can't begin to describe how bad traffic in Japan can get.

We arrived at the spot, somewhere along national route 254, somewhere in the middle of rice paddies and factories.

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There it is. We sampled both the ramen and the mazesoba. Both are top notch, with copious amounts of slow-cooked pork and solid noodles.

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Both also remind me specifically of Mugitooribu in Ginza. Actually, it reminds me so much of their soup blend (also a mix of chicken and clams) that I would say, unless you are a motorcycle rider with plans to be in the area, you might want to give this one a miss.

I'm conflicted.

If you live in Saitama, this one might be closer.

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The shop is also a sushi-ya. I believe the story is that the ramen master's father made sushi here for some years. Keeping with the roots of the shop, there will be a daily nigiri that you can order. The aji - horse mackerel - of the day was excellent.

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Good luck, and let me know if you make it out here.

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埼玉県比企郡川島町伊草298-20
Saitama-ken, Hiki-gun, Kawajimamachi, Igusa 298-20
Closest station: Kawagoe, though it is quite far

Open 11:00-15:00, 17:00-21:00
Closed Tuesdays

Thursday, November 6, 2014

雪風 (Yukikaze in Sapporo, Hokkaido)

麺屋 雪風

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We are spoiled in Tokyo. Not only do we have amazing new shops opening weekly, we have superior versions of styles that have their birthplaces far from the capital.

Miso ramen's history dates back to 1955, when a customer asked for noodles in his miso/pork soup. Since then, Sapporo has been synonymous with miso ramen. But, truth be told, my limited excursions into the far north have had less than stellar results. Bowls were mediocre, while the miso ramen joints in Tokyo that I frequent really shine.

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Yukikaze is, of course, highly ranked and famous. This is usually a sign of greatness, but my skepticism is high when it comes to miso.

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Taking the chance (a business trip sent me up here for the week), I waited in the long line, and ordered the most popular menu item. 濃厚味噌らーめん. Thick miso ramen.

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Yes, yes! I wanted to shout out my praises in this silent shop. Silent because everyone is entranced by their bowl of miso perfection.

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A secret blend of three misos, topped with just the right amount of high quality toppings. This bowl sits alongside the best of the best.

I dug the sprinkling of fried potato on the top, it added an extra kick of salt and texture that matches with that silky smooth soup.

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As this random celebrity agrees!

(Actually, he isn't random, and he said the shio ramen was good. I'll be back to try it.)

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北海道札幌市中央区南七条西4-2-6 LC拾壱番館 1F
Hokkaido, Sapporo-shi, Chuo-ku, Minami 7, Nishi 4-2-6
Closest station: Susukino

Open 19:00-2:00am
Closed Sundays

Monday, November 3, 2014

狼スープ (Okami Soup in Sapporo, Hokkaido)

味噌ラーメン専門店 狼スープ

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Check any rankings of miso ramen in Sapporo and you will find Okami Soup; Wolf Soup.

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As expected, the walls, and even the ceiling, are covered with autographs of celebrities, both local and national, who have slurped this bowl.

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This solid bowl. Okami Soup has been compared to mega-famous Hokkaido miso shop Junren, and I can see the similarities. But, for me at least, Okami takes the cake. The soup has a bit more kick to it, and relies less on a heavy amount of ginger for the impact. I am in the minority for my blase feelings toward Junren, but if my feelings about Okami are any indication, then a fan of the former will be a huge fan of the later.

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Official Site Here

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北海道札幌市中央区南11条西1-5-1
Hokkaido, Sapporo-shi, Chuo-ku, Minami 11, Nishi 1-5-1
Closest station: Nakajimakoendori

Open 11:00-17:00
Weekends until 20:30
Closed Wednesdays