Sunday, September 27, 2020

魚と豚と黒三兵 (Kurosanbe in Shinjuku, Tokyo)


Kurosanbe (full name Sakana to Buta to Kurosanbe) is a newly opened shop that took over when another shop in the back alleys of Nishi-Shinjuku shut down. I can't for the life of me remember the last shop's name, it must not have resonated with me. Though I forgot the last one, Kurosanbe is one to remember.

The name Sanbe (三兵) literally means three warriors. Perhaps this name comes from the three ramen chefs who run this spot. They all trained in Osaka with the Sabaroku Seimenjo group which is part of a larger Fuijio Food Group. I've never been to any of the 12 Sabaroku shops, but the internet tells me that they focus on using saba for a nice umami punch in their ramen. 

Kurosanbe is, as expected, using dried saba fish as a base. Pork plays a major role as well. The result is a solid tonkotsu gyokai style bowl.

The bonus that makes this one special is the non-ramen menu. Gyoza for days.

The signature gyoza are served on a hot iron plate and the shrimp gyoza are essentially an entire XL shrimp done gyoza style. The shop has drinks as well. Gyoza + beer = good.

Homemade noodles. MSG-free. English menu.

I hope business is ok on this back street. I know locals go to the handful of shops around here, but none of these shops (there are half a dozen spots on the street) ever seem too busy.

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Thursday, September 24, 2020

IRUCA Tokyo in Higashi-Kurume, Tokyo

 本格柚子塩らぁ麺 IRUCA Tokyo

Yuzu ramen is a thing. Thanks to some well-managed branding from Afuri, I receive frequent requests from Americans for the 411 on my favorite yuzu ramen spot. In the past, I never really had an answer. Yuzu makes its way into all kinds of ramen, regardless if that ramen is labeled as yuzu ramen or not. That said, I now have an easy answer to one of my top picks for yuzu ramen. IRUCA Tokyo has you covered.

Unfortunately, IRUCA is a bit of a trek from central Tokyo. Expect an hour or so by train and about the same by car.

For a ramen hunter, the trip is worth it. Master Ogawa-san trained at some top shops in Japan, including Nagi, Afuri, and Itto. 

He's combined aspects from all of these shops, though the yuzu shio ramen (柚子塩らぁ麺) at IRUCA is most closely connected to the yuzu shio ramen from Afuri.

Quality chicken from Nagoya and Daisen as well as a blend of five different salts make the base of this bowl deep and flavorful.

The toppings make it something special.

Chicken meatballs, slow-cooked chicken breast, and roasted duck chashu.

Of course, the list of ingredients is much more detailed than that. Different noodles for the shio and shoyu come custom-made from Mikawa Seimen, one of Tokyo's most famous noodle makers.

The soup contains common mussels called murugai (ムール貝) for added umami. Aromatic oils from the Nagoya Kochin chicken fat is infused with porcini mushroom for the shoyu ramen. Meats are all prepared using different homemade tare sauces.

Open since 2019.

Official blog here.

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Sunday, September 20, 2020

とんくる (Tonkuro in Sasazuka, Tokyo)

ぶたの旨味らーめん とんくる

I was meeting a friend at Minatoya for kakigori. This is one of my favorite shops in Japan for shaved ice. They focus on simple fruit flavors without a lot of added syrups. I prefer this style. My friend was running about 45 minutes late, so I popped into a local ramen shop.

Just look for the turtle outside.

Tonkuro, as expected, serves tonkotsu ramen. Or do they?

The soup here is made with pork, chicken, and fish. They strive to make an easy to slurp ramen with minimal seasonings so the customer can focus on the delicate umami. While tonkotsu is rich and creamy, the flavors from chicken bones and dried fish give a little extra balance.

Very basic, clean bowl. You can spice it up with spicy takana mustard greens, Hakata-style. I heard through the grapevine that this ramen shop employed a number of minor television personalities; they will let you work odd hours in order to make it to all of the auditions you are up for.

And for those with attention to detail, the shop used to be called Sanzen (三ZEN) before it became Tonkuro.

Official site here.

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