Monday, May 23, 2016

おとど食堂 (Otodo Shokudo in Kasai)

おとど食堂 葛西店


Otodo. I was first introduced to this bowl during a TV shooting. They were one of the contenders at a tsukemen festival, and my ramen buddy Abram and I were at the height of our tenure with Weekly Playboy magazine. Out Ramem Americans column helped land us a a few gigs, and this was one.


Otodo went on to win a silver prize at that festival, if memory serves me. They've gone on after that to win more and more, and not just for ramen. They won prizes at a rice bowl festival and a gyoza festival to name a few.


Well, I'm back at a different branch of Otodo, this one named Otodo Shokudo. The shokudo in the name means it is more than just ramen. In fact, the menu is so big that only a digital ticket machine would do.


Noodles dishes, rice dishes, and sides. As this is Kasai, out towards rural Chiba, a shop owner can have a bigger shop and not have to worry so much about the bottom line.

Well, as this was a TV shooting, I completely forgot to take my regular photos of the ramen (link to the video is down below). I can say that it is the typical gatsuri style that Otodo is known for. Heavy on the garlic, with a triple meat soup. Chicken, pork, and beef come together not in a refined elegant way, but in an in-your-face meat explosion. Good stuff, though unless you live out in the sticks, head to the Koenji shop for convenience.


As I was checking the accolades, I notices that they had won a gold ribbon for their gyoza. I'm a fan of Japanese-style pot stickers, but I'm rarely blown away. They are either good or bad, and I've never had dumplings that I could really rave about.


Until I had these. Yes, these gyoza are noticeably better than any I've ever had. Rich and juicy, they didn't even need any of the usual soy sauce or vinegar.

The secret? The filling is enhanced with seabura, pork back fat. When they cook, the fat melts, but stays inside. You can probably imagine how they taste.


Check the video!

Official Site Here


Map of 6 Chome-15-1 Higashikasai, Edogawa-ku, Tōkyō-to 134-0084

Tokyo, Edogawa-ku, Higashikasai 6-15-1
Closest station: Kasai

Open 11:30-1:00am

Thursday, May 19, 2016

伊藤 (Ito in Ginza)

自家製麺 伊藤 銀座店


I'd been to Ito years ago, up at their main shop in Akabane. Ito serves a bowl of niboshi ramen, with amazing handmade noodles. Soup and noodles, and nothing else, is the recommended bowl.


My visit to the Akabane store was for a TV shooting, some show that aired at 4:30am on a Tuesday. A show that was seen by no one. I can usually tell if a TV show is popular by the jump in hits to this site. Tuesday morning had no visible spike.


Years later, and Ito has a few more shops around Tokyo. Today's visit to the Ito in Ginza was also for a TV taping. And . . . action!


Niboshi, dried baby sardine, is an amazing ingredient, and niboshi ramen should be tried by everyone at least once. Some people are put off by the bitter, smoky flavor, but the majority of folks fall in love at first slurp. Ito is one of the best, and though the shop has expanded into a bit of a mini-chain, they still keep the quality top-notch.

Very convenient location in the heart of Ginza.

Check out the video!


Map of 6 Chome-12-2 Ginza, Chūō-ku, Tōkyō-to 104-0061

Tokyo, Chuo-ku, Ginza 6-12-2
Closest station: Ginza

Open 11:00-23:00
Weekends 11:00-20:00

Monday, May 16, 2016

素良 (Sora in Kojimachi)



No photos. No press. No nuthin',


That is the mantra at the latest shop from Miyazaki-san, the master of Soranoiro.


This shop replaces his Salt & Mushroom establishment. The idea is for 100% of their following to be word of mouth. Fans will tell fans, and it will organically become one of Tokyo's most famous shops.

Does it have what it takes?

Absolutely. Every ingredient is premium. Miyazaki-san has been travelling the country, meeting with small-time farms, getting the best-of-the-best chicken and pork. All that hard work pays off.

Should I write more? Should I write in detail about the use of clams to increase the level of umami? Should I discuss the Aomori chicken that is some of the most tender I've tasted? Should I nerd out about the pork, specifically sourced from a farm near the Seto Inland Sea?

You should just go for yourself. This is some next level gourmet ramen. Lunch only. No photos. Enjoy.


Map of 3 Chome-4-3 Kōjimachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to 102-0083

Tokyo, Chioda-ku, Kojimachi 3-4-3
Closest station: Kojimachi

Open 12:00-15:00
Closed Sunday and Monday

Thursday, May 12, 2016

凪 (Nagi in Omiya)


The Nagi we all know and love has expanded with voracity over the past few years.


One of their latest shops is just outside massive Omiya Station, up in Saitama. Omiya is a major transit point, and business is booming.


In case you can't decipher all that Japanese on the storefront, I'll explain. This shop is using an automated iPad ordering system, and delivering your ramen via an air cushion.


I think my explanation makes perfect sense, but I'll break it down.


Get a QR code when you order.


Snap a shot.


Take some selphies.


Wait for the air-cushion-ramen-retrieval system to activate.


And here it is!

Kind of silly, kind of pointless. There were enough staff on hand to make this system unnecessary, but where is the fun in that?

The ramen is typical Nagi. You can get the niboshi or the tonkotsu. Both are fine, though I'm sure I'll never come back here. Everyone should go to their Golden Gai location.


Official site here.

Map of 1 Chome-24 Daimonchō, Ōmiya-ku, Saitama-shi, Saitama-ken 330-0846

Saitama-ken, Saitama-shi, Omiya-ku, Daimoncho 1-24-1
Closest station: Omiya

Open 24/7/365

Monday, May 9, 2016

真武咲弥 (Shinbusakiya in Shibuya)



The search for good miso ramen in Tokyo is never ending.


Sometimes you hope that the quest will be easy. Nothing is easier than a shop that sits adjacent to Shibuya Station. A shop that is open until 7am on weekends (only 5am on weekdays).


Shinbusakiya is part of the Samurai group. I might have been to one of these shops many, many years ago. Well, my opinion on chains, or restaurant groups in general, is usually biased to the negative. I like mom and pop ramen shops, just like most of my readers tend to do.


Shinbusakiya wasn't a bad bowl, but it was nothing stellar. I'd consider it if I was out clubbing at nearby Dogenzaka and had missed my last train. Yeah, this would be an excellent pre-hangover tincture.

This one is Sapporo style, a little oily, with a strong miso taste. Cut it with fresh ginger.


Although I shy away from franchise shops, one cool thing about all that organization and money is that they can give back to the community. Helping children's welfare in Cambodia is a good cause.


I like that you can donate directly from the ticket machine.


Official site here.

Map of 2 Chome-10-3 Dōgenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 150-0043

Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 2-10-3
Closest station: Shibuya

Open 11:00-5:00am
Friday and Saturday until 7:00am
Sunday until 2:00am

Thursday, May 5, 2016

極鶏 (Gokkei in Kyoto)

麺屋 極鶏


A shop worthy of an adventure!


I managed to secure a reservation at a middle-of-nowhere fermented sushi restaurant that had been on my non-ramen list for years. This place was so tough to reserve that I had to settle for a Friday lunch seat, as opposed to the Saturday evening I wanted. That's all well and good, but it meant that I had a few days extra to spend in the area. Camping on the shore of Lake Biwa seemed like something to try.


As did traversing a mountain to get into Kyoto for some ramen. Sure, the train from JR Oimaiko Station is only an hour or so to Kyoto, but the map showed a much shorter route over Mt. Hiei.


So I hiked. This historic mountain was built to protect ancient Kyoto from evil forces to the Northeast. This seemed to work, until the shogun Nobunaga burned the complex to the ground in 1571.

Well, the mountain's rope way was closed, so what should have taken an hour ended up being a four hour hike.


But right on the other side of this historic mountain was my goal, a ramen shop called Gokkei. I wasn't the only one out for ramen that day (though I was probably the only one who hiked a mountain pass to get there). When I arrived at 1:00pm, they added me to the list and told me to return an hour and a half later.


Return I did.


Yes, that is the soup. A chicken porridge. I've never had anything like this before. The closest I can think of is the 100% pork soup at Muttepo, but that would be like comparing apples and oranges, or in this case pork and chicken.


Probably one of the best bowls I've had in Japan. I really fell in love with this one, though the extended journey to arrive here may have played a role.


The only shop in Kyoto from my recent 50-best obsession.


For those not willing to wait so long, you might try coming back at 2:30 on the dot, as they were letting a few people in who didn't have a timed ticket.


Map of 29-7 Ichijōji Nishitojikawarachō, Sakyō-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 606-8123

Kyoto, Kyoto-shi, Sakyo-ku, Ichijojinishitojikawaracho 29-7
Closest station: Shugakuin

Open 11:30-22:00 (but when I went they were closed between 2:30pm and 5:30pm)
Closed Mondays