Monday, November 24, 2008

Ramen in Hong Kong

Spent a weekend in Hong Kong. There are many things in this city inspired by Japanese. Many restaurants especially. Teppanyaki seemed very popular, which is funny because places like Benihanas (where dinner is the show) aren't big in Japan. Noodles are of course common in China and Hong Kong, but I happened to find some ramen shops as well.

I wasn't hungry, so I didn't eat here, but it was an actual ramen shop with a line.

The menu had a selection of all styles of ramen.

Ajisen ramen was at the airport. It actually looked pretty good, but I wasn't hungry.

The ramen had little strange additions, like this one which says it has beans in it.


虎洞 (Kodo in Kichijoji Winter Release)


Every season brings a new release at this Kichijoji shop. I had the spring release, a shrimp soup with shrimp wonton and asparagus. I had the summer release, a spicy dipping noodle. I missed the autumn. And now it's the winter one.

The broth has almost no flavor. The noodles were way soft. The cabbage didn't add much. Is this a complaint? Not really. This ramen would be great as a chicken soup substitute for the sick. About half a dozen won-tons add to this. Actually, it tastes almost exactly like won-ton soup at Chinese restaurants in America.

If you are easy to get jealous, you will see what other people are eating and suddenly that green eyed monster will rear it's head. There is something called "mega meat" I think. It's the polar opposite of light and healthy. But sometimes the body needs to cleanse for a little.

Refreshing is a good adjective.

一風堂 (Ippudo in Kichijoji)


Straight from the streets of New York comes Ippudo. Whats that? It was here in Japan long before? Oh.

Ippudo is big in recent ramen news.

You see, Ippudo took the New York scene by storm, becoming a very trendy spot in one of the trendiest cities in the world. I hear it's good stuff, loyal to the shops out here in Japan. I'm all for ramen expansion across the globe. I only knew instant noodle ramen when I lived in California. To someone who doesn't understand, it's like comparing Spaghetti-Os with homemade family recipe spaghetti at a little shop in Napoli.

The menu is simple. You can get the traditional shiro motoaji (白丸元味) Hakata style ramen, or the modern akamaru shinaji (赤丸新味) style, which adds garlic oil and a stronger soup. There are a few other things on the menu, I hear the gyoza is good. Also, there are "Hakata Buns" which use the same pork from ramen in a bun with some toppings. They looked good too. Future prospects.

Ippudo should be on every first timers list. It a great intro to the creamy smooth soup that comes out of Hakata in Kyushu. Ichiran is another choice for this style, but I don't like the solitary seating style at that one. Ippudo is a much more social type place. The one in Kichijoji is downstairs, open very late, and comfortable to hang out in with friends.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

汐留ラーメン (Shiodome Ramen in Shidome)


Actually, I went here almost a year ago. This was before I started my ramen hunting adventures. It was December 8th, 2007. I had just moved from Kure, a city in Hiroshima prefecture, and hadn't had good ramen in a really long time. But I knew one guy who could set me straight.

Jackie Chan!

A few days prior he had been to this area and ate here. Actually, this shop is in the NTV building. So maybe it's sort of a celebrity hangout. Don't expect to meet Jackie Chan. If you are lucky, you could meet a Japanese celebrity, like that guy who dresses like a school girl and beats people with a kendo sword. Or that dude who counts, and every time he says "8" he makes a funny face. He's very popular (in Japan).

The ramen here was created by some guy who won some TV contest. That's all I know. I told you, it was like a year ago, before I became a ramen maniac.

The soup is a soy sauce broth with seafood used to flavor it. I remember it being on the strong side.

At the end of the meal, toss in a bowl of rice with fried pork into you soup. Yum.

Sorry, that's all I have to say. This was so long ago, but I remember that day. You can go to Shiodome station and find this place.

ばんから (Bankara in Tachikawa again)


This time I brought my camera to take some photos of the soy sauce ramen. This bowl is rich and full of abura. What could make it more delicious? Bunkara's giant slab of pork, which comes along side the regular slice of chayshu. This is a great bowl, but I recommend the tonkotsu more. And yes, the tonkotsu comes with a giant slab of pork as well.

Also on the menu today was a side of rice topped with mountain vegetables. If you are feling like even more meat, you can order rice topped with grilled meat (pork I'm assuming). I saved about half the soup broth and dumped the rice in at the end of the meal. Suddenly I had what equated to another bowl of ramen on my hands. Yeah, it was too much.

Finding a balance is a hard thing to do.

Monday, November 3, 2008

大勝軒 (Taishoken in Ikebukuro)


Actually, I wasn't hungry at all. I had just eaten. But I had some time to kill in Ikebukuro, so I thought I'd find where the #5 Ramen shop was. It's the last one in central Tokyo on my list. It was a little off the beaten path, out past the Sunshine 60 building. Who goes past Sunshine 60? Apparently ramen lovers do.

Here's some foreshadowing for you... CLOSED

I swear I'm on the right block. But I can't find any addresses. Just this.

A massive construction site.

I wandered around the area in disbelief for about 20 minutes. Sure enough, Taishoken is no more. Funny thing though, it's still there on google earth.

View Larger Map

I take note and leave. Thanks to the internet, I'm able to find out what happened.

Urban development.

And damn, I sure missed out. Turns out this is the birthplace of Tsukemen, the concept of dipping noodles into a separate sauce. The master at Taishoken was ramen royalty. Hour long waits and an uproar over his (attempted) retirement add to the allure.

But in February of 2007, the doors shut.

If you want to read more, check out a review at rameniac.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

ゴリララーメン (Gorilla Ramen in Fuchu)


Somewhere in Fuchu city, on Route 20, is a place called Gorilla Ramen.

Actually, I was trying to get to the #3 place on my list, but they were closed... again. I've been there a few times, and each time is the same story. Today I think I just missed them, as the gate on the store was halfway open.

Driving home on congested Route 20, I saw this place. I couldn't resist.

Not crowded at all, just one other guy reading a manga. The staff was in good spirits at having some strange foreign guy in their store taking photos. Trying to hold back their laughter, they took my order. Of course, I ordered the ゴーリラーラーメン, Gorilla Ramen. It was a spicy bowl of shoyu, with ground meat in the soup.

Seriously, the master was cracking up with his friend in the back the whole time I was there.

Fairly standard stuff, with a perfect kick of spice. The heat stuck on my tongue for a while after I left.

Most people don't finish the soup in their shoyu ramen, but I did. Surprise!