Wednesday, December 30, 2009

太 (Futo in Takadanobaba)



This shop was (past tense) a temporary collaboration between two awesome shops. Kaikaro brought the noodles, and Mengekijo Genei brought the soup. I had tried to go a few weeks ago, but Monday was the day off, and I wanted to go on a Monday. Since the 30th of December was the absolute last day to try this, it had to be done.


Nate of's description of the shop, sent via a series of text messages while waiting in line and after eating, completely sold me. Let the picture speak for itself!


The creamy side, on the left, was made with all sorts of seafood, including clams and shrimp. It reminded me of the rice congee porridge that is popular in Korea and China. Thick and luscious.

The other side was flavored with what tasted like shoyu and sesame oil.


Two thin slices of kabocha, Japanese pumpkin, was a nice touch.


The stewed pork was nothing short of amazing. It tasted like beef jerky. Not the crap you get at Costco either, but the homemade countryside beef jerky that you find out in the middle of nowhere on road trips.


800 yen for a bowl... if you don't like to write. If you create a simple message using the word Futo (it means fat), then you can eat for 650 yen.


Some of the past customer's messages.


Mine. Fat-tastic!


The staff was having a great time. Recently, I've really been noticing the dynamics of the staff at popular ramen shops. Some are serious, and all about getting business done. But others are just having fun, laughing, and loving the ramen life. Shops leaning towards the latter get big props from me.

Nate's Entry

More Shop Info Here

侍 (Samurai in Shibuya)


I was walking along the row of ramen shops on Shibuya's south side. For anyone in Shibuya, exit the New South Exit from the station, and you will be on a road with about 10 popular shops. Tucked in a receded storefront is Samurai. It's Yokohama style.

With Yokohama style ramen, I'd say that 85% of the shops are horrible. The original, Yoshimura, is nothing short of amazing. The immitators... not so much. 85% of the time.


This one was... in the majority. Awful. This samurai should commit honorable suicide. I literally ate 2 bites, then just finished the nori seaweed and spinach.

But.... I totally found a 500 yen coin on the ground! So this bowl only cost me about 100 yen after the fact. Score... sort of.

More Shop Info Here

camino (near Ikenoue)



I came for the vegetables, and stayed for the booze! Look at all that liquor.


I found camino on one of the Japanese ramen blogs I follow. Besides having regular fare, they make a yasai (vegetable) tsukemen that looks gorgeous. Check this out:


Yeah, I had to make the trip out for this. I can count at least 8 different kinds of vegetables. Some of the vegetables were cooked in boiling water, alongside the noodles, to make them tender.


The soup I ordered was a shio dipping sauce. It was okay, but I think the regular style tsukemen soup looked better.


Eating it was a challenge. Do I dip the big piece of lettuce into the hot soup and eat it? Should I eat noodles and carrot in the same bite?


The atmosphere of the shop was like a cozy neighborhood cafe. I'd totally hang out here if I lived around the corner.

And, by the way, the name camino has no special meaning to the store. I think they just liked the word.

Official Site Here (there is a coupon on the page for 100 yen off)

More Shop Info Here

5 Bowls, 1 Day

I didn't actually eat 5 bowls. I guess I ate 3.5 bowls. Still it was a lot.


Ikaruga was first up. No, this isn't a normal day of ramen eating for me.


A bowl at Gogyo was next. Actually, I was touring someone around to some top Tokyo ramen shops.


The ramen at Nagi in Shibuya is always a winner. The goal of the day was to take photos, eating was second priority.


Since they were all repeat bowls up to this point, I had to go off on my own and try a new shop. More on Camino in my next post.


And, as always, we ended the night at Bassanova.

I've had some very unique ramen adventures in the past couple of months. And I'll talk about it... in due time.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled ramen shop reviews.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

アイバンラーメン (Ivan's on Christmas)



We rolled up to Ivan's just before closing time. Was it going to be the standard salt ramen? Or maybe the shoyu? No way, I had to go with the limited edition "Mexican Chili Mazemen"


Basically taco rice ramen. Taco rice, for those not in Japan, is taco beef, lettuce, and tomato served on a bed of rice. It's awesome by he way. As were these noodles.


Ivan didn't just pop a packet of Mexican seasonings onto some noodles. Dried chilies and spices imported from the States were a key ingredient.


So good, though I wanted to add my own hot sauce and dip some tortilla chips in, once the noodles were done.

Mexico + Texas = Tex-Mex.
Tex-Mex + Ramen = .... Ra-Mex? Tex-Men?

Hurry up and get yours soon!

山小屋 (Yamagoya in Kiyosumi)



My first choice for ramen in the Kiyosumishirokawa area of Tokyo was... well I forgot my map today. My ramen map. My ramen map, while doubling as just a regular detailed map of Tokyo neighborhoods, has a list of shops I want to go to. So what was to be a ramen adventure turned into a search for something that... exists. I lack internet search capabilities on my phone, so strolling around was the only option. Anything would do.

I'd seen the storefront for Yamagoya before. All 5 stories of it to be exact. I wonder what kind of ramen they might have? With a whole floor of signage devoted to 九州, the mystery is short lived.


Good bowl of creamy Kyushu tonkotsu, good price. Nothing amazing or inventive, but that's usually what you get from a massive chain of hundreds of shops. This one had seats for about 20 people, and over half were full. I should also note that this was Christmas Eve, so only single Japanese guys were here, as Eve is more important than Valentine's Day for couples in Japan. And couple don't do ramen, at least not on the number one romantic day of the year. They should, but they don't.

Random, but it looks like Yamagoya has ventured into Thai territory, opening shops in Bankok. And backed by the boss of Singha beer.

Fitting, as most single white guys living in Japan spend the holiday season abroad in Thailand.

Official Website Here
More Shop Info Here
Nate from Ramenate went there

Happy Holidays from Tokyo


May all your ramen dreams come true.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

すーぷ道 連 (Supudo Ren in Bunkyo)

すーぷ道 連


A text message on my phone from Nate had me drooling. He was waiting in a long line at Futo, and offered me a lengthy description. My thoughts raced. Dreams of 2 kinds of soup. Visions of an epic collaboration between ramen experts. An image of deliciousness. Limited run until the end of 2009.

But they were closed on Monday. My friend J quickly searched his memory for plan B. Plan B was tsukemen at Supudo Ren, close to my apartment in Bunkyo.


Solid, normal tsukemen.


The addition of some wasabi (can't remember if it was flavored with yuzu citrus fruit or not) was good.


Yum, it's normal tsukemen soup.


Talking with Nate yesterday, he has come up with a theory about tsukemen. Let me paraphrase. Besides the few inventive tsukemens like Keisuke Yondaime, almost all tsukemen is the same. A thick pork and fish soup to dip your huge noodles in. But the subtle differences that make ramen so amazing are almost unnoticeable in tsukemen. Therefore, tsukemen is not an alternative to ramen, but an alternative to udon or soba, which are commonly eaten cold and dipped in the soup. And the other commonality is that almost all soba and udon tastes the same. Nourishing noodles, but you almost always know exactly what you are going to get when you step into an udon shop in Japan.

What do you think of this thought? In 2009, tsukemen really blew up on the ramen scene in Tokyo. But, to me, each bowl was akin to the last. This is in no way a bad thing, as I gotta say that tsukemen is completely comforting.

And the trend for 2010? Apparently it's going to be light, refined tastes. Lots of clear salt broth ramen.

More Shop Info Here

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

赤のれん (Akanoren in Roppongi)



I was walking with my friend K, and she wanted ramen. Badly. I was trying to remember the way to Gogyo, as we were walking in the horrid part of Tokyo known as Roppongi, but she wasn't having any of my adventurous ramen hunting antics. We stopped in at this place, which happened to be the nearest thing in line of sight.


It's a chain place. There's one in Shibuya, one in Roppongi, and another near Tokyo station. This is a bad point, as those are all just places to get unknowing suckers to come to the store. Even worse, unknowing drunk suckers, as these are spots for plentiful boozing and, minus the Tokyo area, all night clubbing.


For a boring, underachieving bowl.


The ramen here is not recommended. Drunk club goers in Roppongi might stumble in here at all hours of the night, but I don't want to be part of that. The shop even smelled bad, but that could be said of most tonkotsu ramen shops.

Turns out Gogyo was about 3 minutes walk from this spot.

It's been a bad couple weeks for stinky Kyushu style ramen it seems.

More Shop Info Here

あ、ガッチャ麺 (A, Gacchamen in Bunkyo)



This is maybe the closest shop to my apartment. But we decided to take the longer, more adventurous route to get there.


First on Keizo, Nate, and I's hit list was Nishio, a hot newcomer on the scene. Luckily we checked beforehand, and avoided showing up at a closed shop. So we started walking. The number two, decided by a hurried research session online, was on holiday as well. Next was a sort of "Asian" noodle place nearby that was voted down upon arrival. The last option, before resorting to Sengoku Jiman, was just down the road.


a, Gacchamen is the name. That's a small あ at the front, by the way. You'll be treated to a decent miso if you come here. The added yuzu wasabi and ginger kick it up a notch. Here is the basic:


But I took it even further. You see, Ebisu, the god of wealth and fortune was smiling on me today. I had just setup and paid for, Nate's new website name. The deal was simple. You buy my domain, and I'll buy your next bowl. And it just so happened that a, Gacchamen has an 1800 yen bowl. That's like $20!


Of course, anything this special is going to make the ramen pages of a few magazines. But what is it? ワイントン, Wine-ton.


What the hell is Wine-ton?


Let me explain. As the swine is raised, it is fed a healthy amount of... wine. These booze enhanced pigs have more supple, tender meat. It's true that you can soak meat in liquor to tenderize it some, but this is taking it to another level.


Another level is a good place to go to.


The meat is lean and tender, almost buttery. This is the kobe beef of the other white meat world. But it comes at a price. Each slice adds almost $5 to the total. That's big money for a bite of meat. At least when it comes to ramen prices that is.

The staff was happy to show me the pricey cut of meat.


And stop for the photo that is becoming a standard on this site.


Official Blog Here

More Shop Info Here