Monday, September 26, 2016

あじさい (Ajisai in Hakodate, Hokkaido)

函館麺厨房あじさい 本店

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Ajisai is a bit of a mini-chain, and one of the reasons that Hakodate, in the southern part of Hokkaido, is an area known for shio, salt ramen.

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While the famous Goryokaku Fort, Japan's first Western-style military citadel may be the most visited attraction in the area, I was here for the noodles.

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A simple mantra.

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Oh yeah!

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I'll give it a solid so-so rating. Ajisai has been around a while, and in the meantime a lot of chefs, mostly in Tokyo, have elevated shio ramen to another level.

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While shio has become a gourmet style, the old guard have remained simple and true. Check this one out if you are a completionist, otherwise consider other slurps.

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Official site here.

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Map of 29-22 Goryōkakuchō, Hakodate-shi, Hokkaidō 040-0001

北海道函館市五稜郭町29-22
Hokkaido, Hakodate-shi, Goryokakucho 29-22
Closest station: Goryokakuenmae

Open 11:00-20:30
Closed Mondays







Thursday, September 22, 2016

梅光軒 (Baikoken in Asahikawa, Hokkaido)

梅光軒 旭川本店

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Tourism in Hokkaido has changed rapidly in recent years. With a lot more wealth in other Asian countries, people have begun to flock here in droves. And with direct flights from Shanghai, Seoul, and Bangkok, visiting the cool-in-summer northern island is a breeze.

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Waiting in line for famous shops isn't just a Japanese obsession. A few shops I visited this time, both ramen and not, were about two thirds overseas tourists.

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The one thing I don't understand, though, is why you would go out of your way to visit the chains. Baikoken isn't a huge chain, but it has certainly evolved into the chain category. With nine shops in Japan and eight overseas, they are bringing the Asahikawa ramen game to the world.

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Not a bad bowl, and certainly better than their outlet in Tokyo. I'm sure the guidebooks are rich with suggestions for places like this.

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The fact of the matter is that I was spoiled by Hachiya, what I consider one of the best bowls in the country. I didn't take any shots, but I slurped there a few hours before Baikoken, and kind of ruined my palate with the ultra rich, in-your-face impact that you only find at that shop.

Anyways, Baikoken is a famous place, and if you are going to hit it up, you might as well do it at the main shop in Asahikawa.

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Official site here.

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Map of 8 Chome 2 Jōdōri, Asahikawa-shi, Hokkaidō 070-0032

北海道旭川市2条通8丁目右1 ピアザビル B1F
Hokkaido, Asahikawa-shi 2-8
Closest station: Asahikawa

Open 11:00-21:00
Sunday 11:00-20:00







Monday, September 19, 2016

さいじょう (Saijo in Asahikawa, Hokkaido)

旭川ラーメンさいじょう

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My ramen adventures in Hokkaido, 2016, were starting to look like a comedy of errors. Shops I wanted to visit were closed, the weather was completely random, and bowls that I did manage to slurp weren't all that great. Had I eaten at every good ramen shop in Hokkaido?

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A few years back I was hitchhiking in this part of Japan, and an Asahikawa local said i should try ホルメン, ramen topped with horumon, animal innards. Not something I normally go for, but if it is a local ramen dish that a local said you gotta try, you gotta try.

It was also a chance to check out the Asahikawa Ramen Village, a collection of eight shops on the outskirts of town. The funny thing is, this place is very inconveniently located, and most of these places have their head shop within walking distance of Asahikawa Station.

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You've got Aoba.

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Ittetsu-an Matsuda.

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Ishida.

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Tenkin.

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Baikoken.

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Kobo Kato.

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Saijo.

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Santoka.

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Well, if you like sweetened pig butt fried as a topping, you might enjoy Saijo. Me, I can't stand the stuff. It looks like quite a few shops in the area do limited bowls of intestine-topped ramen. It is supposed to give guys stamina.

I'll gladly throw up (no pun intended) a guest post by someone who can crush all eight of the participating shop's horumen bowls. As for me, I'm out!

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Official site here.

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Map of 4 Chome Nagayama 11 Jō, Asahikawa-shi, Hokkaidō 079-8421

北海道旭川市永山11条4丁目 パワーズ内 あさひかわラーメン村
Hokkaido, Asahikawa-shi, Nagayama 11-4
Closest station: Minami-Nagayama

Open 11:00-21:00