Thursday, October 23, 2014

磯焼亭 (Isoyakitei in Rishiri, Hokkaido)



On a whim I decided to trek to Rishiri Island, a remote spot that is a two hour ferry from Japan's northernmost point. The goal was to hike Rishirifuji mountain, one of Japan's 100 famous mountains. Rishiri (and neighboring Rebun) are known for three things. The first is the rain; these islands are magnets for foul weather. The rainwater flows down the steep mountain, collecting iron and other minerals, finally nourishing the second famous thing; kelp. Kelp from this part of Japan is some of the best, and chefs pay a premium to get their hands on it. Fine kaiseki cuisine in Kyoto? They are probably using Rebun konbu. The third thing that flourishes here is the uni. Sea urchins eat that kelp, and once again command a high price.


Notice that I didn't include ramen in that list?


Well, just across from the ferry terminal is a "famous" ramen shop. Famous in that it was on TV back in 2009.

This is an issue I have with local ramen in Japan. It is very easy to get your stuff on TV and then ride that wave. Food-related TV shows in Japan are generally 99% entertainment, and don't take anything seriously. It is all about the talento and their overreaction. That isn't to say that I don't love food-related programming. Just don't assume that because some cross-dressing 芸能人 or pop-star liked the food that it is good.


What about this one, dubbed Rishiri Ramen? I've gotta say no, but I will preface that with a yes. The one they are known for is a hot-mess of ocean-related toppings; shrimp, scallops, oysters, mussels. None of which were that good.


But, the one thing that was local, the kelp, was fantastic as a topping. There was another bowl on the menu, a simple kelp one without all the odd toppings, that I would recommend. It just melts into the soup, releasing massive amounts of umami and a fresh, oceany flavor.

I should also note that the shop serves unidon, bowls of rice topped with local sea urchins, that are fantastic (and spendy at around 4000 yen).


Hokkaido, Rishiri-gun, Rishirifuji-cho, Oshidomari, Minatomachi
Closest station: None. It is on an isalnd.

Open 7:00-19:00
Winter 10:00-17:00

Monday, October 20, 2014

まつ田 (Matsuda in Asahikawa, Hokkaido)

旭川ラーメン まつ田


Asahikawa! Long time, no see!


A quick history of Asahikawa ramen:

Asahikawa created their own signature ramen style back in 1947, when Hachiya and Aoba started mixing pork and chicken bone soup with a lighter, fishy soup. While nowhere near as famous a style as Sapporo miso ramen, this is one of my favorite places to slurp. The ramen tends to be a bit intense up here in the north, just the way I like it. And while the original shops still command long lines, there are plenty of other top shops in Asahikawa. Tenkin tends to be many people's favorite.

But I've visited all of these shops. Time to hit the solid #4 in town.


Matsuda's tontoro chashumen comes in at a staggering 1200 yen. That's almost double what a normal bowl in Hokkaido costs.


But they've been serving this one for a while, and the masses have spoken with their wallets. This is a great bowl. Not as intense as Hachiya or Aoba, this one is the perfect backdrop for the chashu that makes Matsuda famous.


The thing you paid so much for is worth it. Pork that melts into the bowl. Almost impossible to pick up with your chopsticks.

This is tontoro, the fattiest pieces of meat. Taken from the jowl, this cut is often compared to fatty tuna. I don't know about that analogy, but it is definitely some of the best in town.


See you next year, Asahikawa!


北海道旭川市2条通6丁目 エンドレス26 1F
Hokkaido, Asahikawa, Jodori 2-6

Open 11:00-4:00am

Thursday, October 16, 2014

極 (Kiwami in Kameido)


Is this a ramen shop? Kind of.


The concept of the Kameido Yokocho is simple. Sit at any of the tiny bars, order some drinks and snacks, and then proceed to order food from any of the other adjoining shops in the area. It is a fun idea. It is also super cheap, and a group of any size can eat and drink for next-to-nothing. Yokocho, by the way, means alley.


A hidden gem, and the perfect place to kick it.

Although we were seated at a shop specializing in fried skewers of meat, Kiwami was right across from us, and the miso ramen was unavoidable. This was also, unofficially, a sort of ramen-related gathering. One order of miso ramen with six bowls please!


How was the miso ramen from Kiwami?


Inexpensive, if I recall. Yeah, it isn't winning any awards, but these places aren't meant to be culinary masterpieces. It was good enough to share, and we all left the yokocho happy.


Kameido Yokocho site here.

Tokyo, Edo-ku, Kameido 5-13-2
Closest station: Kameido

Open at night

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Grand Tsukemen Fest 2014

大つけ麺博 - 2014

Once again the Grand Tsukemen Fest is upon us! Once again it is in Okubo Park, just minutes from Shinjuku Station. Once again I'm having an official Ramen Adventures Meetup!

What: The 2014 Grand Tsukemen Fest
Where: Okubo Park (大久保公園)
When: Sunday, October 19th from 7pm-9pm

Check the meetup link here:

RSVP and tell a friend. Anyone is welcome!


The event is on from October 2nd to 29th, every day, so feel free to check it out when you have time. Each week, from Thursday, six new shops from all over Japan come to showcase what they can do with tsukemen.


I couldn't make the first week, but here are some impressions from week two.


Junk Story, a shop from Osaka, killed it with this one. Simple and intense, you can't go wrong with a solid tonkotsu gyokai toripaitan soup.


Otodo, the 3rd place winner from last year, topped themselves with this one. A heavy chicken soup with plenty of great toppings.


Strike, another Osaka shop, made a light toripaitan that was the surprise of the day. Very refreshing.

Also, they have the best T-Shirt of the event! Go Raiders!


Gonokamisuisan made an interesting gindama, sablefish, soup that was on the fishy side, but excellent when piping hot.


I hope to see some of you at the meetup on October 19th!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

角栄 (Kakua in Shinjuku)

Miso Noodle Spot 角栄 KAKU-A


One of the best shops that I don't visit so much anymore is just down the street from Shinjuku, in Hatagaya. 弥彦 - Yahiko - serves up a mean Niigata-style miso that I randomly crave now and then. The problem, though, is that sometimes the Hatagaya Yahiko shop is also Dokkan. And if you are craving Dokkan, then chances are it is Gamushara that day.

Yes, the shop changes menu depending on the day and time.


Fret not, though, as last year the master opened a stand-alone Dokkan just west of Hattagaya. And now they have opened a stand-alone Yahiko-style shop. While one shop with three facades was fun, three shops is much better.


Just as the original, there are plenty of savory toppings to choose from.


Pretty much the same deal. I'll admit, I am biased towards the original location, probably because Hatagaya is one of my favorite drinking spots in Tokyo, and a trip to Yahiko/Dokkan/Gamushara is often preceded by good times.


The location is great, as well. Right next to beautiful Shinjuku-gyoen park and the Takashima department store. Something for everyone!


Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-29-27
Closest station: Yoyogi

Open 11:00-22:00
Closed Sundays

Monday, October 6, 2014

鮮魚らーめん 五ノ神水産 (Sengyoramen Gonokamisuisan in Kanda)

鮮魚らーめん 五ノ神水産


The 五ノ神 (gonokami) group of ramen shops just opened their third branch. If you didn't see my reviews of the first two, check them out here. Both come highly recommended.

五ノ神製作所 (Gonokamiseisakujo in Shinjuku)
五ノ神製作所 (Gonokamiseisakujo in Okubo)


While the others focus on shrimp and lobster, the new one is strictly 鮮魚 - fresh fish.


The hand-written ticket machine is hard to read. Basically, the top is 銀だらラーメン. Gindara, after much use of the internet and translation apps, is sablefish. The bottom is 鮭つけ麺, a tsukemen made with salmon.

I was with the Ramen Shaman, another ramen blogger, so we got one of each.


I wasn't feeling the ramen. Ramen these days uses a lot of dried fish, and the fresh fish taste seemed very off to me. Creamy and fishy and funky.


The salmon on the other hand was decadent. Thick noodles sitting in a creamy sauce, topped with smoked salmon, dipped in a smoky broth.


Tokyo, Chioda-ku, Kandakamachi 2-9-6
Closest station: Kanda

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

Thursday, October 2, 2014

唐朝刀削麺 (Tang Dynatsy at Narita Airport)

唐朝刀削麺 成田空港店 


Airport ramen . . . what can be said? It is usually a pathetic attempt to lure you in with promises of locally famous tastes, produced by people who are out to make a quick buck. This may be harsh, but it is usually true.


We arrived to meet a friend at Narita, and suddenly had three hours of free time. Thank you San Francisco fog delay!

Terminal 1 at Narita International Airport has quite a nice shopping center. Japanese goods, ranging from cheap ninja souvenirs, to finely made Japanese canvas bags. And of course, food.

Memories of the Haneda Airport ramen made me cringe at the idea of eating here. But, as anything spicy does, these noodles looked really good.


Shock! This was actually an excellent bowl. The マーラー was spicy and numbing and fully satisfying. Of course, it is no where on the level of somewhere like Lashohan or Kikanbo, but this one worked. The noodles are the hand cut style, More doughy than your typical Japanese ramen noodles.


I forgot to take a shot of the exterior, so here is one of my buddy's dad slurping like a pro!


Official Site Here

Narita Terminal 1 4F
Closest station: The airport
Open 8:30-21:00