Monday, May 25, 2015

純 (Jun in Niihama)

濃厚魚介らぅ麺 純


Hands down one of my favorite places to slurp in Japan is at Fuunji. It has everything a solid bowl requires, including a welcoming head chef. Though the shop is in Shinjuku, Miyake-san hails from a small industrial city in Shikoku. And I just so happened to be headed to Niihama.

I asked the master if there were any shops he recommended. He listed a couple, and Jun really stood out to me.


Jun specializes in a typical double soup tsukemen. A heavy pork soup blended with another heavy fish soup. This style is a dime a dozen these days, but even the average shop tends to be quite tasty.


Jun is certainly above average. The smoky fishiness from the katsuo stands out. Shikoku is very well known for their production of excellent katsuo, though that all happens on the opposite side of the island. Also of note in the bowl was the excellent seasoned menma. Great stuff.


For an extra 50 yen, get a spoonful of the shop's homemade rayu. It's not overly spicy in the least, and adds a solid punch to the already solid bowl.


I don't expect many of my readers to make it down here. Matsuyama to the west and Takamatsu to the east offer much more in terms of things to do. Niihama does, though, have some nice roads into the mountains that are worth it if you are on a motorcycle.



Map of 2 Chome-1-43 Kubotachō, Niihama-shi, Ehime-ken 792-0026

Ehime-ken, Niihama-shi, Kubotacho 2-1-43
Closest station: Niihama

Open 11:00-15:00, 17:00-21:00
Weekends 11:00-21:00
Closed Mondays

Thursday, May 21, 2015

清乃 (Seino in Arida)

和dining 清乃


The night before, I was treated to a substandard bowl of Wakayama ramen. Immediately after, I did some research, postponed my morning ferry ride, and set out to Arida, a city just 30km south of Wakayama proper. Can Seino redeem the entire genre of Wakayama ramen?


Highly ranked is always a good sign. Only open for lunch is also a good sign.


People started arriving about an hour before they opened. Another good sign.


There are a lot of choices. You have shoyu, chicken shio, thick Wakayama, and Arida black. They all looked great, and their claim to fame is the shoyu. But I wanted to try the Wakayama. Dreaming of rich brown soup was how I spent the night before.


A note on shoyu; Wakayama is quite famous for their soy sauce history. Many claim that nearby Yuasa (only a few kilometers from this shop) is the birthplace of the stuff, and you can still find craft brewers making small batches of high quality shoyu. A few of the best shops in Tokyo use Wakayama shoyu, a testament to its quality.

But this isn't Tokyo, this is Wakayam. How does this one look?


Yes! This is what ramen adventuring is all about. A ridiculously rich bowl, with just enough bite on the homemade noodles. The soy sauce really comes through with a huge initial impact, followed by a smooth, porky aftertaste. Tender chashu, an egg that burst with flavor, and seasoned menma complete the dish.


A side of shirasu gohan is recommended.


The line wasn't unbearable, but make sure you get there well before they close to avoid disappointment.


Map of 696 No, Arida-shi, Wakayama-ken 649-0314

Wakayama-ken, Arida-shi, No 696
Closest station: Minoshima

Open 11:00-14:00
Closed Tuesdays and some Mondays

Monday, May 18, 2015

龍王亭 (Ryuotei in Wakayama)



I was in Wakayama for a night, getting ready to take the morning ferry across to Shikoku. Wakayama has their own style of ramen, and it is one of the most under-appreciated styles in Japan. Thick, porky tonkotsu soup with a deep shoyu base that gives it a rich brown color. I was excited!


The highly ranked shop near the station was closed, so I randomly chose this one while wandering the streets.


Let this be a lesson. Plan your ramen adventures out in advance, lest you end up slurping a flavorless bowl of salty water.


The shocking part is that Wakayama-style is one of the strongest in the country.

The highly ranked one, by the way, is Ideshoten. I'll keep it in mind, and avoid Wakayama on Thursdays from now on.


Map of 4 Chome-82 Misonochō, Wakayama-shi, Wakayama-ken 640-8331

Wakayama-ken, Wakayama-shi, Misonocho 4-82
Closest station: Wakayama

Open 11:30-15:00, 17:00-23:00
Closed Mondays

Friday, May 15, 2015

My Ramen Book (Out Now in Japan!)

I'll just let Google figure it out for you!

Yep, I wrote a book about ramen. The full name is 最強アメリカ・ラーメン男 東京 極ウマ50店を食べる. Saikyo Amerika Ramen Otoko Tokyo Goku Uma 50 Mise wo Taberu. Let's break it down.

最強 - Saikyo pretty much means amazing.
アメリカ・ラーメン男 - American ramen dude.
東京 - Tokyo.
極ウマ - Goku Uma. Super tasty. Uma (馬) can mean horse, but the uma here means delicious. 
50店 - 50 shops.
食べる - Eat.

More or less a guide to 50 great ramen shops in Tokyo.

You like that cover?


I was able to convince them to include some English as part of the book. Though aimed at the Japanese audience, I hope a lot of English speakers will use it when they visit Tokyo.

The Japanese ramen review pages have more details.

I even included a few essay stories, like this one about my trip up to Kitakata to crush bowls with some friends.

These aren't translated into English, sorry.

So there you have it. If you wanted a guide to 50 great shops in Tokyo, now you have it.

You can click here to get it from Amazon Japan.

Bad news, though, it's only available in Japan! Distribution is in major bookstores and the Japanese Amazon site, but not overseas. If you live overseas and want a copy, you can take advantage of the weak yen and I'll send you one for $25, worldwide express shipping included. Details at my ramen site:


Thursday, May 14, 2015

流れ星 (NAGAREBOSHI in Hamamatsu)



I'm not sure where I heard about Nagareboshi, but it was on my list of non-Tokyo shops to check out.


When the motorcycle navigation system tells you there is ramen nearby, you go! Luckily, I was with a few other ramen riders. This was the start of Golden Week, a national holiday week in the beginning of May.


Hamamatsu is a city about 200km from Tokyo on the east side of Aichi Prefecture. Any foodie can tell you, this town is famous for unagi. And yes, eel makes its way into this bowl of ramen. So does local shirasu whitebait fish, local nori seaweed, and local mikan orange.


We were mixed on this bowl. Personally, I loved it. Eel bones are often fried and then eaten as a snack, and that fried eel bone flavor really came through in this soup. Slightly smoky, slightly buttery.


If you aren't into fishy flavors, stay away from this one.


All around a solid bowl, and they are open late if you are in Hamamatsu for business.


Map of 319-21 Kajimachi, Naka-ku, Hamamatsu-shi, Shizuoka-ken 430-0933

Aichi-ken, Hamamatsu-shi, Chuo-ku, Kajimachi 319-21
Closest station: Hamamatsu

Open 17:00-2:30am
Fridays and Saturdays 17:00-4:30am
Closed Sundays

Monday, May 11, 2015

けんど茶屋 (Kendochaya in Tokushima)



I had less than 40 minutes before the bus would come. It's a common problem with my weekend work. We fly in to who-knows-where, do our job, and hop over to the next big city. So when you work in a place like Tokushima, it can be quite motainai, unfortunate. No time to hunt out famous ramen. Only time to wait for that damn bus.


Well, I was determined. Don't tell anyone, but I still, after all these years, don't own a smartphone. A quick search on a ramen app would have shown half a dozen highly ranked shops in the area. Tokushima is, after all, one of Japan's famous ramen towns. You can refer to some past posts to see what I'm talking about. Inotani, 3no3, and Sanpa.


Instead, I just wandered. Time was of the essence, so the closest thing would have to suffice. The closest thing was on a little shotengai, shopping street, next to the station. Tons of charm, no customers. Is that a good or a bad sign?


Well, the ramen wasn't that great. I'll leave it at that.


But the staff were a collection of characters. She's been cooking here for 44 years. "Go look in the other room," she told me. "You'll see me!"


Sure enough, there was a collection of what I can only describe as fat old lady dolls.




Map of 徳島県徳島市寺島本町西1-59

Tokushima-ken, Tokushima-shi, Terashimahonchōnishi 1-59
Closest station: Tokushima

Open 9:00-20:00

Thursday, May 7, 2015

RAGE in Nishi-Ogikubo



The latest and greatest ramen shop in Tokyo is by far RAGE, out on the Chuo Line in Nishi-Ogikubo.


I prayed for a convenient parking spot.




The menu is only two deep; chicken or fish. Shamosoba is make with Tokyo-raised game fowl. If these chickens aren't fighting in illegal cock fighting rings, they're in your ramen. Definitely an uncommon bird.

The niboshisoba is a blend of three different dried fish.

Both are getting rave reviews, but I went with the shamosoba this time.


So solid. The soup is made with the mentioned chicken, and also a specific ham I'd never heard of. 金華ハム - Kinka ham is a kind of dried Chinese ham. Lots of flavor in this one.


This ongoing trend of refined bowls is still going strong.


Menson is awesome, indeed.

The shop's master worked at Suzuran back in the day, another fine ramen shop in Tokyo.


Map of 東京都杉並区松庵3-37-22

Tokyo, Suginami-ku, Shoan 3-37-22
Closest station: Nishi-Ogikubo

Open 11:00-15:00, 18:00-21:00
Weekends 11:00-16:00
Closed on Tuesdays