Monday, November 23, 2015

Stripe Noodle in Okinawa

Stripe Noodle


With work in Okinawa, the logical choice was to fly down a few days early, rent a motorcycle, and slurp some noodles. Ramen Riders!


The Kawasaki Z800 is smooth, fast, and uncomfortable. You've been warned.


But while my choice of motorcycles didn't end up being to my taste, my choice in ramen was spot on. Stripe Noodle has been on my radar ever since ramen superstar Miyazaki-san from Soranoiro helped open it. Beef ramen topped with a steak. It might sound strange, but when you realize that the shop is right next to a US military base, you can see the appeal.


A fantastic bowl. Despite the unusual topping, all the parts are there; great noodles and an umami-rich soup.


There are quite a number of ramen shops in Naha, the main city on Okinawa island. But with my bike, I had other plans. Plans to head north in search of sokisoba, Okinawa's own noodle dish.


But for those who dare not venture into the unknown, Stripe is a must-try in Okinawa.

And don't worry. No Japanese language skills? No problem!


Official site here.


Map of 100 Kuwae, Chatan-chō, Nakagami-gun, Okinawa-ken 904-0103

Okinawa-ken, Nakagami-gun, Chantan-cho, Kuwae 100
Closest station: None

Open 11:00-15:00, 17:00-22:00

Thursday, November 19, 2015

らーめん大 (Ramen Dai in Sumida)


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Ramen Dai is a chain of Jiro-kei shops that I would probably never have gone to. I tend to avoid chains, and I tend to avoid Jiro-kei. But today was special.

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Ramen 道 is a weekly TV spot I'm part of. Each week, I'm joined by a member of AKB48 on my ramen road. It's goofy fun, airing live on TBS in Japan at about 1am on Sunday, but also broadcast live on YouTube. The show is called Tokyo Extra. Check it out if you can! #tokyoextra

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Hamming it up with Rena Nozawa this time.

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One aspect of Jiro-kei shops is the free vegetable topping. I say vegetable, but in all but a few cases it is just bean sprouts and a couple pieces of cabbage. Once I think I saw a sliver of carrot. You can order a veritable mountain of the stuff.

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What did I tell you, a mountain. This is actually the Tower Size bowl. This shop is near Tokyo Sky Tree, the 634 meter tall expression of man's greatness that is next door to the ramen shop. So it makes sense that they would capitalize on this with a massive bowl.

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Here's a rare glimpse of a bowl without the vegetables. Heavy noodles and a heavy soup. See all that fat in there? It tastes amazing at first, but Jiro-kei can be a rough endeavor. If you want to give this style a try, I'd say check the main Jiro shop in Mita, or go to my favorite Senrigan.

Check out the video here. Please comment and subscribe if you like it. If the TV network sees interest, we may get to film more episodes.

Official site here.

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Map of 1 Chome-13-5 Narihira, Sumida-ku, Tōkyō-to 130-0002

東京都墨田区業平 1-13-5
Tokyo, Sumida-ku, Narihira 1-13-5
Closest station: Oshiage

Open 11:30-1:00am

Monday, November 16, 2015

イチカワ (Ichikawa in Tsukuba)

煮干中華ソバ イチカワ


The weather for late October was surprisingly warm and clear. The perfect riding weather. I put out a quick call for a ramen ride, but with short notice no one had the time. A solo ride out to Tsukuba was no problem, especially for the bowl at Ichikawa.


The line at 11am, 30 minutes before the shop opens, was almost 40 deep. What is even more impressive is that Ichikawa only serves 80 bowls a day before they close.


This is what they came for. One of the most sought after bowls of niboshi ramen in Japan. The master wore a shirt proclaiming the addictive quality of niboshi, and I agree. Soups made with copious amounts of dried sardines have an almost drug-like umami effect.


If you don't absolutely love these flavors, you might want to reconsider. Even the vinegar is spiked with the good stuff.


And the egg. I watched as the only other employee - I'm assuming it was the master's wife - used a syringe to inject the shop's tare seasoning liquid directly into the yolk before serving.


Wow. I used to say that high quality eggs were hard to give any sort of ranking to. Good was good. But now I have a number one.


Tsukuba isn't considered much of a rider's hangout. Regardless, the ride over the mountain was nice, and a quick dip into a local onsen hot spring was a necessity.


By the way, for those who are concerned about the line. In line at 11am, the shop opened at 11:30, sat down at around 12:30, and was out the door just before 1pm. Good luck.


Official blog here.


Map of 2 Chome-9-2 Amakubo, Tsukuba-shi, Ibaraki-ken 305-0005

Ibaraki-ken, Tsukuba-shi, Amakubo 2-9-2
Closest station: Tsukuba

Open 11:30 until they run out
Closed Sundays

Thursday, November 12, 2015

塩つけ麺 灯花 (Toka in Yotsuya)

塩つけ麺 灯花


Toka came highly recommended by some of my ramen hunter friends, and I can see why. This is one of those only-in-Japan shops, with only five counter seats in a shop that probably should have only been for four. The one ramen master works at his own pace, making sure each bowl is on point.


The menu is shio tsukemen and shio ramen, though everyone goes for the tsukemen here.


A mix of nine different salts, from France, Italy, Mongolia, Okinawa, Hiroshima, and Koichi.




If you only have one bowl of shio tsukemen, make this one it. They are open late into the evening in an interesting part of town. Yotsuya Sanchome if full of hidden gems; bars and restaurants that no guidebooks seem to cover.


It turned out, though, that my friends had actually recommended Toka's new shop, located just around the corner. Their second brand is an all tai ramen. A 100% fish soup from these guys is probably going to be amazing as well. Stay tuned.

By the way, I should mention that the line here moves incredibly slow. There were two guys in front of me, and I waited at least 30 minutes. Worth it for me, but maybe not for you.


Map of 8 Arakichō, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 160-0007

Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Arakicho 8
Closest station: Yotsuyasanchome

Open 18:00-3:00am
Closed Sundays

Monday, November 9, 2015

らいふ (Life in Nagaoka, Niigata)



My work takes me up to Niigata a couple times a year, and I always use the opportunity to try some great bowls. Unfortunately, Niigata is vast, and the use of a personal car to get around to the best ramen shops is a must. Fortunately, I have a friend who lives up there, and he was happy to take me out for a quick bowl.


Life has three main items; a rich tonkotsu gyokai bowl, a light style made with chicken and fish, and a heavier version of the light style. I'm a huge tonkotsu gyokai fan, so I went with the upper left on the ticket machine, plus an egg.


Your typical awesome bowl. This style, when done right, is so good. Bits of dried fish stick to every slurp, and the taste is powerful but not overpowering.


The toppings, slow cooked chashu and a great egg, were what put this one onto my recommended list.


The other charm is that this is, in every way, a countryside ramen shop. There is seating for the whole family, cute toys scattered around the place, and a very lived-in vibe.


The autographs caught my eye. El Dorado? Is it the same El Dorado that I know and love? The home base of the Jiraigen Syndicate, the guys behind Saikoro?


You bet! Small world this ramen universe is.



Map of 4 Chome-7-12 Niibo, Nagaoka-shi, Niigata-ken 940-0875

Niigata-ken, Nagaoka-shi, Niibo 4-7-12
Closest station: Kita-Nagaoka

Open 11:00-14:30, 17:30-21:00
Sundays 11:00-15:00, 17:00-21:00
Closed Wednesdays

Thursday, November 5, 2015

公 (Kimi in Shinagawa)

肉汁らーめん 公


Yeah, that is exactly what you think it is. A dozen or so slices of fatty chashu on top of a bowl of ramen. Dubbed 一本ラーメン, this one has literally an entire roll of chashu.


Big? Small? You want garlic in that?

The yellow signage and mention of garlic can mean only one thing; Jiro-kei. Yes, the famed style of ramen that renders a pig down into drinkable form, tops it with more pig, and then spoons on dollops of fresh minced garlic. Who would eat this sort of thing?


How about AKB48 member Rina Hirata?

I usually don't go for Jiro-kei, but when a TV network wants to dub me the ramen master and send me around to shops with pop idol girls, who am I to refuse?


The menu is deep, and most people should probably just choose the upper left button; a normal bowl of ramen with an egg. For what it's worth, if I were going here on my own, I would go even further down the line to the option with 小 - small. The small size is still 120 grams of noodles. Since the shop boasts handmade noodles, you should try and finish every last slurp.

That would not be happening on this day.


Standard Jiro-kei practice involves a detailed system of ordering. When the staff asks, or shouts, if you want garlic, you reply with your levels of toppings. At Kimi, those are fresh minced garlic, a pile of bean sprouts, silky back fat, and 濃いめ (shoyu tare seasoning). Just writing about it makes me feel full.

If you are ever presented with this situation, just say zenbu futsu. It means normal levels of everything.


The one-stick-of-chashu version is kind of ridiculous. Until you factor in the cost. It is 1300 yen for that massive bowl, less than $5 more than a standard. If the shop allows you to bring some meat home with you, that's a steal (I didn't ask).


Seriously, this much meat could feed a family of four.

As for the rest of the ramen, the noodles were, like more Jiro-style shops, thick and hearty. And the soup was much more drinkable than your standard pig broth.


But wait, there's more! The shop makes a mean curry and rice, using the ramen soup to give that curry levels of flavor you can't find anywhere else. You can even get a 一本 curry, with the aforementioned 600 gram slab of chashu on top.


Map of 2 Chome-25-10 Kitashinagawa, Shinagawa-ku, Tōkyō-to 140-0001

Tokyo, Shinagawa-ku, Kitashinagawa 2-25-10
Closest station: Shin-Bamba

Open 11:00-23:00
Sundays 11:00-22:00