Monday, April 27, 2015

大ちゃん (Daichan in Kimitsu)

大ちゃん

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About a month ago, with a TV crew in tow, I showed up at Daichan to disappointment. This is one of those shops. Middle of nowhere, highly ranked, only open for a few hours a day, and often closed well before the posted closing time. Well, the posted closing time of 2:30pm is just a suggestion, as the official time is simple when the soup and pork run out. And on that fateful day, the soup had run out.

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So when my English education company sent me to do a children's camp just 20 minutes away, I made sure to return.

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The wait was longer than my drive, though a proper drive from central Tokyo would take about an hour and a half to get here. I immediately ordered the chashumen, hoping to dine on copious amounts of fatty roasted pork. In broken English I was told that the pork was almost sold out, and I would have to settle for the regular bowl.

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That and an order of the shop's famous gyoza. The gyoza dumplings look to be a huge draw, and you can take massive orders to go. 50 pieces for 2000 yen? That seems ridiculously cheap.

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The ramen was exactly what was expected. A heavy, intense pork broth topped with a few pieces of mega-tender chashu that made me wish I had arrived earlier. By the way, the pork was almost out at noon, and the shop had only opened at 11.

A tad on the sweet side of the spectrum, but balanced by the use of extra ground pepper on top.

Chiba has a reputation for gatsuri style ramen, intense flavorful stuff, and Daichan lived up to the hype.

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Official Site Here

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Map of 千葉県君津市常代5-4-2

千葉県君津市常代5-4-2
Chiba-ken, Kimitsu-shi, Tokoshiro 5-4-2
Closest statrion: Kimitsu, but it is far.

Open 11:00-2:30 (but the soup and pork always runs out earlier)
Closed Thursdays

Thursday, April 23, 2015

不如帰 覇 (Hototogisu Ha in Hatagaya)

中華そば 金色不如帰 覇

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You could argue that Hototogisu is the best ramen shop in Tokyo, and though the use of the superlative might be questioned, no one would reject your opinion. You could also argue that their Thursday only, Ura-Hototogisu shop is the best ramen shop in Tokyo. Both are that good.

On Friday, they rest.

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Until a couple weeks ago. Hototogisu is now a seven day a week operation, with yet another limited one-day bowl on Fridays.

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Hototogisu Ha (覇 means champion) does a beef and miso ramen. In typical kodawari fashion, everything about this one is premium. Two different beef stocks are paired with two different Japanese dashi, making this officially a quadruple soup ramen. The beef is highly ranked (between A3 and A5 grade) wagyu.

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Solid. Personally, I prefer the other two Hototogisu offerings over this one, as anything beef tends to be on the sweet side for me. Certainly a close second to Matador, though.

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I went with the 1150 yen gyumashi (牛肉増し) version that came with an extra-large helping of beef.

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As always, show up at 11:15am or be subject to the possibility of a very long line.

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Map of 東京都渋谷区幡ヶ谷2-47-12

東京都渋谷区幡ヶ谷2-47-12
Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Hatagaya 2-47-12
Closest station: Hatagaya

Open 11:30-15:00, 18:00-21:00
Only on Fridays

Monday, April 20, 2015

Jiraigen x Rabo at Saikoro in Nakano

Jiraigen X Rabo

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Should I post about long-gone gentei bowls? Sure, why not. If anything, a solid gentei limited offering is a sign that the shop's regular menu is doing well enough to warrant some experimentation. Saikoro is doing things very well.

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Homemade hot oil and homemade noodles. Just enough non-noodle parts to keep focus on the excellent homemade noodles.

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Even though this limited bowl is a thing of the past, you should really head over to Saikoro, as they are one of Tokyo's best ramen shops.

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My review of Saikoro is here.
My review of Rabo is here.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

セロリの花 (Celery No Hana in Kichijoji)

麺Dining セロリの花 吉祥寺店

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I'm not sure why, but this Kichijoji shop was on my list. I keep a rough note of places that are recommended by other ramen nerds, or maybe I saw it on TV, or it was in a magazine and looked tasty. All I had written was Kichijoji, celery, and tomato. Not very descriptive.

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The shop is extremely generic and clean. Counter seating for eight and tables for 12. As I was told to do by the menu, I went with the mozzarella tomato ramen.

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It was quite forgettable. Who is this shop for? The ramen wasn't good enough for it to be a popular ramen destination. And the shop was a bit too formulaic to fit in as one of Kichijoji's quaint little bistros.

With a little digging, I found that this shop is connected to the Matsuya group; a chain of beef bowl shops that are everywhere in Japan. With no rhyme or reason, they are also in the tomato ramen business now.

Skip this one and head to the local Ippudo.

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Official Site Here

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Map of 東京都武蔵野市吉祥寺本町2-14-28

東京都武蔵野市吉祥寺本町2-14-28
Tokyo, Musashino-shi, Kichijoji Honmachi 2-14-28
Closest station: Kichijoji

Open 11:00-2:00am

Monday, April 13, 2015

すぎ本 (Sugimoto in Nakano)

らぁ麺 すぎ本

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I have a list of shops to visit, sitting at 29 at the time of writing. It was 30, but I finally made it to Sugimoto. This one was for a TV shoot, and they insisted on visiting somewhere I hadn't been. This is a risky move, as I refuse to lie on TV if bad ramen is put in front of me. Luckily, Sugimoto was recommended by one of Tokyo's top ramen chefs, Miyazaki-san over at Soranoiro, and his stamp of approval is powerful.

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Special shio ramen. This one promised to be topped with extra chashu pork, an egg, and some of the shops homemade wontons.

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Yep, a simple, yet perfect bowl. This is the trend these days. Overly simple clear broth, meticulously created to be at a maximum level. The master trained at Shinasobaya, the shop made famous by late ramen master Sano-san.

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Love those eggs! Good eggs are kind of normal these days, but these seemed better than average. Turns out they are hard-to-procure Nagoya Cochin chicken, considered some of the best in Japan. The cost of these eggs are very high, and the master told me that he pretty much breaks even with these.

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Of course, the shop has a shoyu ramen as well, and tsukemen, which is all good I assume.

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Even though the Seibu-Shinjuku train line sees very few sightseers, the ramen on this line is amazing. Shichisai, Hanamichi, Muteppo, and now Sugimoto sit very high up on my list of favorite shops.

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Map of 東京都中野区鷺ノ宮4-2-3

東京都中野区鷺ノ宮4-2-3
Tokyo, Nakano-ku, Saginomiya 4-2-3
Closest station: Saginomiya

Open 11:30-15:00, 18:00-21:00
Monday 11:30-15:00
Closed Tuesdays

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Praise for Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes

Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes

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Good advice for most ramen shop chefs, and equally good advice for authors, is to avoid reading reviews on the internet. That said, the minute I picked up Ivan's new cookbook and memoir, I went straight to the 1-star reviews. Of course, when you see that there are only a handful, you realize that they are moot. Yes, this isn't a typical cookbook. Typical in the sense of hundreds and hundreds of recipes. But as far as ramen (in ramen shops) goes, any ramen shop with a massive menu covering the entire spread of the ramen world is gonna be a bad time.

Ivan Ramen, the book, is essentially an intense breakdown of what goes into a bowl of ramen. It is no surprise that the word obsession is in the title.

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The book is half memoir, half recipes, and half about ramen culture in Japan. With a disheartening introduction by David Chang about how people don't get ramen.

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The recipe is perfect. Ivan breaks down the components of ramen step by step. Ramen isn't a soup dish, where everything goes into a pot. Ramen is layers and layers. Focus on each individually, and tweak as needed. I love this approach, though it might be a little daunting for the casual home cook.

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Of course, he gives recipes for some of his other dishes, as well as all the toppings. I think most home cooks will try to make the four cheese mazemen. I miss the four cheese mazemen, as Ivan Plus is now closed.

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Hey, I'm in the book! Yep, that is me in the black t-shirt at the opening of Ivan Plus. I never signed a release! I want my royalties!

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Along with an awesome shot of my bad posture are some excellent interviews with Osaki-san, the most famous ramen critic in Japan, and Shimazaki-san, the Rock and Roll ramen chef. These give a cool little insight into ramen culture in Japan. Most overseas food fans outside of Japan don't realize how big these names are.

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I'm not an avid cookbook collector, but this one seems like a must-have for anyone who would ever consider making ramen at home. Hey, you could even outright steal the recipe and open your own shop, if you were so inclined.

Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes from Tokyo's Most Unlikely Noodle Joint

The book is only about $20 these days.

One of these days I'll start cooking at home. And when I do, I'll give this recipe a try. I'm curious to hear if any of my readers have tried the dishes in this book. Let me know!

Monday, April 6, 2015

ラーメン女子博 (Ramen Girls Festival in Yokohama)

ラーメン女子博

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Ramen and the ladies have a rough history together. In the past, ramen was considered strictly dude-food, and to see a girl in a ramen shop was quite rare. While Tokyo's 3rd wave cafes and Italian bistros became welcoming spots for any gender, ramen shops got dirtier, stinkier, and very male-centric.

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But girls want to eat ramen, just as much as the guys. Maybe, in general, they want more healthy styles, but they want to slurp nonetheless.

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Enter Morimoto-san. A ramen otakuess with a plan. She created the ramen joshikai - ramen girl's club - a few years back, and suddenly girls had their own community to enjoy great ramen with. The club, which is strictly female only, began holding special ramen events at Tokyo's best shops. Her blog (in Japanese) showcases some of these events.

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With the recent popularity of outdoor ramen events, Morimoto-san came up with a great plan. Hold a girl's ramen festival, invite some winning shops, and let the fellas come along too.

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Eight shops, all doing a special version of ramen for this event. I made an event for Ramen Adventure fans (check out the facebook page for invites to events and what not), and a dozen or so of you wonderful people showed up.

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The system was different than other outdoor ramen events. This time, you had to buy 1500 yen worth of tickets. A normal bowl was three tickets, or 900 yen, and a small bowl was two tickets, the equivalent of 600 yen.

The lines were crazy, up to two hours for some of the shops, when I went toward the end of the second day. I heard the lines were up to four hours earlier in the day. Crazy.

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Soranoiro made a new version of his popular vegisoba. Very refreshing.

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Matador was here with a slightly different shio ramen than what he serves at his shop.

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This one was my favorite of the day. The chef has skills. One thing I've noticed in the past few years is that ramen at these events has gotten much, much better. Serving ramen outdoors in a plastic bowl is certainly a hurdle to get over. So a lot of shops have been tweaking their recipe to match the environment. Smart.

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Menya Shono did a shrimp-heavy one with premium soy milk. Great with those homemade noodles.

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ゲリラ - gerira - as in guerrilla warfare, is a strange Japanese-English word that means anything sudden. As the event was dying down, Nakamurabashi based shop Niboshi (似星) threw together an instant new offering, probably to use up their left over shrimp paste.

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 I dug it, and hope to visit the normal shop soon.

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RockanDo put heavy amounts of fragrant yuzu peel, along with cilantro, on their shio bowl. Another spot I want to try in Tokyo.

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And then there was the one I missed.

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The collabo was sold out when I arrived. Oppai x Strike x Hototogisu. These are all quality shops, though most viewers of the site will probably have come here with the keyword search "oppai ramen", or "big breast ramen", or something unsuitable for me to write on a family-friendly ramen blog.

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Quality. Ramen that is.

The event is long over. Remember, I post invites to events, news about media appearances, and other time-sensitive info over at the FaceBook page. Check it out!