Monday, December 22, 2014

はせ川 (Hasegawa in Kitakata, Fukushima)

はせ川松山店

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I had the luck of getting to work for Hasegawa back in 2012 at the Grand Tsukemen Festival. The tsukemen was good, but Kitakata isn't known for tsukemen. Time to try the ramen at the head shop.

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Hasegawa-san runs one of Kitakata's more successful shops. Open for a mere four hours a day, they command a line on all but the rainiest days. A sunny weekend in the autumn? Forty minutes wait.

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We sampled everything. The miso.

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The standard shoyu, par for Kitakata-style ramen.

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The shio, using a light tare.

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The spicy miso.

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Great egg! Great chashu. Be sure you order extra.

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Although they have options, I say go with the shoyu. While most shops are on the lighter side, Hasegawa is a bit more in-your-face. The chashu is amazing.

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福島県喜多方市松山町大飯坂大荒井6
Fukushima-ken, Kitakata-shi, Matsuyamamachi, Oizaka, Oarai 6
Closest station: Kitakata

Open 11:00-15:00
Closed Thursdays and some Wednesdays

Thursday, December 18, 2014

あじ庵食堂 (Asian Shokudo in Kitakata, Fukushima)

あじ庵食堂

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It has been a while since we'd all eaten in the same place at the same time. Abram and I had spoken about a trip to Hiroshi's hometown for years. Kitakata is a mecca for ramen lovers.  I've been to a few shops on my own over the past few years, always as some sort of side mission on a motorcycle trip. In no particular order:

Bannai Honten
Ito
Shanghai Shokudo
Makoto
Genraiken

Time to add six more to that list. Kitakata, according to local officials, has 122 different shops serving ramen. Yes, this town probably has the largest shop per person ratio in the country.

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Kitakata is known for great bowls of asara - morning ramen. Quite a few of the city's 122 shops open for an early service around 7am. Not a bad way to start the day.

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Asian Shokudo offers three choices for their soup; Golden-kei, Chacha-kei, and Gattsu-kei. As it was first thing in the morning, the lighter golden broth was the way to go.

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Golden, indeed! A great morning bowl. Light, with just enough flavor to let you know that you are in one of Japan's most famous ramen towns. Excellent chashu pork that melts in your mouth.

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Asian is right next door to another popular shop called Shanghai Shokudo. Which one should you choose? Why not have breakfast at Asian, walk around for a few hours, and have lunch at Shanghai? Sounds good to me!

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The shop is a family affair, with husband and wife manning the kitchen. Even their young daughter helps out with dish washing (and slurping!)

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Having slurped at 11 of Kitakata's 122 ramen shops, I can safely put Asian in the top five.

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福島県喜多方市字二丁目4650-29
Fukushima-ken, Kitakata-shi, Nichome 4650-29
Closest station: Kitakata

Open 7:00-19:00
Closed Wednesdays

Monday, December 15, 2014

無極 (Mukyoku in Nogata)

無鉄砲 つけ麺 無極

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Muteppo in Nogata (about 15 minutes from Shinjuku) is by far one of the best intensely thick bowls of ramen in Japan. The soup, 100% pork bones, is cooked for a day at high heat, resulting in a sludge that is pure pork heaven.

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I finally made it to their tsukemen shop, located just a couple blocks away. Same deal, more-or-less, but this time the noodles are thicker.

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Like the original, good stuff.

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"Hey ladies! The collagen from pork bones is super healthy for you!"

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Though Mukyoku is good, the original ramen shop is far above it. One reason is that the soup is all made over at the ramen shop. Watching them slosh around the giant vats of bones is an experience.

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Mukyoku is a little closer to the station, if that is what you look for in ramen.

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東京都中野区丸山2-1-1
Tokyo, Nakano-ku, Maruyama 2-1-1
Closest station: Nogata

Open 11:00-15:00, 17:00-22:30
Weekends 11:00-22:30
Closed Mondays

Thursday, December 11, 2014

くじら食堂 (Kujira Shokudo in Higashi-Koganei)

くじら食堂

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Kujira Shokudo has been open about a year now, and I finally made the trek. Not much of a trek, Higashi-Koganei is only about 20 minutes from Shinjuku, but a trek none-the-less.

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In the year since opening, Kujira has been lauded by everyone. The recently released 2014 version of TRY (Tokyo Ramen of the Year) magazine puts them at the #2 overall best new shop. Not a bad way to start your shop's career.

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The master, Shimomura-san, trained at one of my favorite shops, Shichisai, and serves up a very similar bowl. He even does a little 手もみ, hand massaging the noodles before cooking to give them a unique texture. This ten second smoosh cuts cooking time in half, and you'll be treated to a much chewier noodle.

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A near perfect bowl of shoyu ramen.

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When I take people to their first bowls of Japanese ramen, I usually start with this style. The flavors are familiar, but everything is elevated. Every bite is pure comfort, and drinking this bowl dry is no problem.

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Many people live on the Chuo Line, the train line heading directly west out of Shinjuku, in more affordable neighborhoods. Not open for lunch, this is probably your best bet for an evening bowl.

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東京都小金井市梶野町5-1-19
Tokyo, Koganei-shi, Kajinocho 5-1-19
Closest station: Higashikoganei

Open 18:00-1:00am
Closed Sundays

Monday, December 8, 2014

吉田製麺店 (Yoshida in Yokohama)

吉田製麺店

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Yoshida is another highly ranked shop about 20 minutes south of Yokohama. Most people on this train line are headed to the Misaki port town for some of the best tuna in Japan. If you are heading there for their famous maguro ramen, do yourself a favor and have a bowl at Yoshida instead.

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The chef offered two kinds of soup; a pork one and a chicken one. The recommended chicken came out as a milky white paitan style that was both intense and soothing. Very nice, this one is like drinking a rich, salty, meaty cream.

Oh, and they forgo the usual chashu for a couple pieces of motsu offal on top. An interesting choice.

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It is worth noting that they are more famous for their tsukemen than their ramen.

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The noodles are made in-house, and by the sheer number of noodle-storage boxes, they do a lot of business.

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神奈川県横浜市金沢区谷津町347
Kanagawa-ken, Yokohama-shi, Kanazawa-ku, Yatsucho 347
Closest station: Kanazawa-Bunko

Open 11:00-14:30, 17:00-24:00
Weekends 11:00-15:00, 17:00-24:00
Holidays 11:00-15:00, 17:00-21:00
Closed Wednesdays

Thursday, December 4, 2014

うめや (Umeya in Yokohama)

中華そば うめや

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On the express Keikyu line running south of Yokohama, at Kanazawa-Bunko Station, you'll find some great ramen. Who knew!

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Umeya is the highest ranked of the bunch, a deserving distinction. As always, the upper left on the ticket machine is the way to go. 特製うめやそば。

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Thick pork and fish soup, topped with sweeter-than-normal Chinese style chashu pork. The soup is a heavy pork, fish, and soy blend. I'm hoping I get sent here for work again soon.

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Very close to the Yokosuka military base for my readers in the armed forces.

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神奈川県横浜市金沢区釜利谷東2-16-13
Kanagawa-ken, Yokohama-shi, Kanazawa-ku, Kamariyahigashi 2-16-13
Closest station: Kanazawa-Bunko

Open 11:30-14:30, 18:00-21:30
Closed Wednesdays and Thursdays