Monday, July 21, 2014

満月 (Mangetsu in Sakata, Yamagata)



The roots of Sakata ramen date back to the end of the Taisho era, sometime in the 1920s. It is a simple story; a Chinese guy's ramen was popular, and spawned a slew of related shops. Fun fact, the original Sakata shop was called 三日軒, and most shops in town show their respect by including the character in their name. More (not much more though) history can be seen in Japanese over at official Sakata site.


I was thinking of forgoing a second bowl, but the massive line outside Mangetsu was begging to be waited in.


Despite about 15 people ahead of me, the line moved fast. Random sight of the day, I watched as a man and his young son stole the ramen map out of the basket of my rented bicycle! I had an extra copy in my bag, and it was free, but still, that was a first!


If you were expecting anything but fishy soup, you'd be wrong.


More of the same.


I really, really liked the vibe at these shops. Locals and tourists all relaxing together. The shops are obviously family run, and the walls are adorned with children's photos and drawings. Community feels strong here.


But I just can't get over the taste. Funky-fishy flavors that, if turned up a couple more notches, would be right at home on an Andrew Zimmern TV show.


Sorry, I have to be honest here on Ramen Adventures.


With some time to spare, I followed the tour buses to see the rest of the town.


From the old warehouses . . .

. . . to $400 a kilo cherries. Yamagata, you're crazy!


Official Site Here


Yamagata-ken, Sakata-shi, Higashinakanokuchimachi 2-1
Closest station: Sataka

Open 11:00-20:00
Closed 4-5 days a month. Check their homepage.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

花鳥風月 (Kachofugetsu in Sakata, Yamagata)



Ah, obscure ramen towns across Japan, how you tempt me. One such town is Sakata, north of Tokyo in Yamagata Prefecture.

Sakata ramen! Let the adventure begin!


I've worked up here before. Usually, my company sends us the day before, but for some reason opted for an 8am train up into Yamagata Perfecture via Niigata. Five hours later, and we would only have a couple minutes of free time. Followed by work. Followed by a taxi to the airport and a quick flight home.

So I did what any ramen hunter would do . . . stayed up all night and took the 6am train!


Ugh. Plans for blissful slumber on the shinkansen didn't work as well as I had hoped. Can we get some comfortable seats to Niigata? The new E5 and E6 trains to Tohoku are much nicer. I'm looking forward to the new E7 as well, I'm guessing it is on the luxurious side. But enough about trains.

What is up with Sakata?


Free bicycle rentals at the station, that's what's up!


This is countryside Japan, and things are spread out. Hours of walking were mitigated to minutes, thanks to my trusty mama-chari. Or maybe I should say rusty mama-chari. But free is free!

And thanks to the free ramen map from the station, I only got lost twice on my way!


Sakata ramen at last.

Sakata ramen's soup is heavy on the fish. Here, flying fish, mackerel, sardines, and skipjack tuna. No subtle flavors going on here, this is some in-your-face fishy stuff. Historically, Sakata was a thriving port city, with local fishermen using it as their port for unloading the hulls.

Kachofugetsu adds shrimp wontons for a unique bowl.


Honestly, though, I wasn't feeling this one. The mega-fishiness would have worked better as a late-night bowl than an 11am one.


This shop, as well as the next one I would go to, were packed with people, it should be noted.

Official Site Here


Yamagata-ken, Sakata-shi, Azumacho 1-3-19
Closest station: Sakata

Open 11:00-19:00
Closed Tuesdays

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tokyo's Best Ramen According to Weekly Playboy Magazine

We (Abram and I, aka ラーメンアメリカ人) cracked out a ranking for our last week with the magazine*. This is in no way definitive, but I think we came up with a pretty solid list that could keep anyone busy for a few months. The lists are grouped in general categories. Click the shop names to be taken to a page, if I've written about it. Most shops are in Tokyo, a couple are far, far away.


TOP5 Salt (塩ラーメン)

1. 麺や河野


2. 牛骨らぁ麺マタドール本店


3. 厚木本丸亭


4. 饗くろ㐂


5. ぜんや

(sorry, I haven't gone)


TOP5 Miso (味噌ラーメン)

1. カラシビ味噌らー麺鬼金棒


2. 味噌麺処花道


3. 金竜

(sorry, I haven't gone! This spot is a bit out of the way in Chiba)

4. 3SO


5. ラーメンおやじ本店



TOP5 Light Soy (淡麗系醤油)

1. 煮干鰮らーめん圓


2. 一汁三煮干裏不如帰


3. むぎとオリーブ


4. らぁ麺やまぐち


5. 本枯中華そば魚雷



Thick Style (濃厚系ラーメン)

1. 麺屋吉左右


2. 燦燦斗


3. 無鉄砲大阪店


4. 長尾中華そば西バイパス本店


5. 俺のラーメンあっぱれ屋



Tsukemen (つけ麺)

1. 風雲児


2. 中華蕎麦とみ田


3. 俺のラーメンあっぱれ屋

(I didn't have the tsukemen)

4. 頑者


5. べんてん

(sorry, I haven't been)


TOP5 Soupless Noodles (汁なし油そば系)

1. 担々麺本舗 辣椒漢


2. 麺屋はなび高畑本店


3. むぎとオリーブ


4. 油そば専門店GACHI


5. ajito ism



Extreme Style (エクストリーム系)

1. 麺や河野


2. パイナップルラーメン屋さんパパパパパイン


3. 千里眼


4. ラーメン凪新宿煮干ゴールデン街店


5. ラーメンBARスナック、居酒屋


* The magazine in question is Weekly Playboy (週刊プレイボーイ or just 週プレイ). It's a weekly men's interest magazine available everywhere, especially at your local convenience store. Just look for the bikini-clad idol on the cover. Our article, Ramen Americans, ran for about two and a half years on a weekly basis.

A huge thanks is in order to all of our readers.