Sunday, May 31, 2009

だるま (Daruma Ramen in Akihabara)


(hard to describe, check the link at the bottom. It's near Akihabara station.

You know you're in Akihabara when you see this in a ramen shop.


Sexy anime girl toys. Speaking of hot, this ramen was hot. Not the sexy kind, but the scalding oil variety of hot.


I've never had a tonkotsu with half an inch of boiling oil on top. The best way to cool it off was to load on the toppings. Standard fare here, but this time you get your own mortar and pestle to crush the sesame seeds and garlic. Fun!


The guys next to me were trading collectible maid cosplay cards.


This shop was right in the middle of the Akihabara madness. I bought some cheap SD cards next door. Just down the street is Super Potato, your retro gaming one-stop superstore. There was a guy dressed as Pikachu handing out cakes on the road. I like it here.

Trouble finding the shop? It's right under a giant adult movie store. Enjoy!


The ramen was standard. I think the hot oil on top takes a lot of the flavor away. Maybe that's because my taste buds were singed off though.

Store Info Link

やすべえ (Yasube in Takadanobaba)


(From the Waseda exit, go right, and right again on the large road. It's just past the building covered in crazy chains, which incidentally is a school for the blind)

After a lengthy detour down some back alleys of Takadanobaba, there was Yasube. And there was the line of 18 people. If you are a ramen nut, and have the time, this usually isn't a problem. Someone once calculated that it was 4 or 5 minutes per person in line. But this is a tsukemen shop, and things are different.


As you can see from the sign above, all the sizes are 720 yen. This is one of the selling points of tsukemen. Most shops offer any size you want for the same price. So it's essentially an all-you-can-eat noodle buffet! Just don't order the big one and only eat half. I've never seen someone order a 440 grams of wet noodles and then leave it. I can only imagine the shame.


A line of 18 people, and I sat down after only about 15 minutes. How is that possible? Well, tsukemen arrives cold, and cold goes down much faster than piping hot, oil covered ramen.

Today I ordered the spicy tsukemen.


It wasn't too spicy, but you can feel free to load a pile of diced onions into the soup, like most people were doing.


I'm not down with onions in my ramen.


Yasube was pretty standard. I'm not, nor will I ever be, a tsukemen guy. One reason is that I always tend to get soup splattered on my shirt.

But Yasube actually had bibs. Rock on, you may make a convert out of me yet.


I gotta say, though, if you are hungry, nay famished, these big thick noodles are the way to go.


But, like I said, all these tsukemen shops taste the same to me.

Shop Info Here

Sunday, May 17, 2009

鷹流 (Yatai Ramen in Takadanobaba)


(turn left out of the Waseda Exit at Takadanobaba station. A couple blocks along the main road, hop over to the alley running parallel. It's over there)

Yatai is the... wordiest shop I've seen in a while.


Inside there were instruction manuals about how to eat the different bowls. "Don't add ingredient X and ingredient Y, only 1 is good!" Luckily I was with Nate who possesses the skills to pay the bills.


On one wall is a plethora of ramen related reading. On the other wall...


The owner is into Harley's. The 3rd, un-photographed wall had bottles of スズメ蜂 wine. What's that? It's booze made from killer Japanese wasps, that's what!


And in front of you? A hair band so the ladies (and hippy college students who frequent the area) don't get hair in their ramen. Genius!

What kind of ramen comes from such an eccentric place?


The awesome kind.


Salt from Iwate prefecture melds with piles of chicken for a refreshing bowl of ramen. It was served warm, not blazing hot, and fit perfect with the heat outside. Tomato and lettuce, and what I can only describe as young menma finished the toppings. And hella chicken.


Also olive oil.

東京ビッグサイトラーメン (Convention Ramen at Big Sight)

Tokyo Big Sight is a massive convention hall in the Odaiba area of Tokyo. This is one of the places to go see hella cosplay people, a firefighting trade show, or the bi-annual Design Festa.

I found ramen in the food area. There were kebabs... and I passed them up for ramen. Well, what's done is done, and here's what I ate. (tried to eat)


Paiko Ramen. Paiko is a big piece of fatty pork, deep fried and just tossed on top. It was horrid.

I've got nothing against deep fried. Actually, some sort of southern fried steak might go great on top of some miso ramen.

Now that I think about it, Paiko is pretty much just a fatty pork chop. And I know pork chops. You wanna eat well? Invite me over and give me a pork chop, frying pan, and oven. You gotta tenderize that piece of meat first and foremost. Then you must sear it. Finally, slow roasting is necessary. Damn, the lack of ovens in Japan means I haven't had a good pork chop in 3 years. Here's a tip: Coca Cola glaze is knocking at the door, let him in, he wants to make sweet sweet love to your dinner.

Anyways, don't eat ramen at convention halls (duh).

Monday, May 11, 2009

那の福 (Nanofuku at a Highway Parking Area in Saitama)



Would you ever eat ramen at the Japanese equivalent of a highway truck stop?


I would!


Actually, highway rest stops, called parking areas or service areas, are a sight to behold. There is a toll system across this country on the expressways, and getting off the road is not an option. So for gas and food they have these massive stops every 30 or 40 km. Japanese style fast food prevails, with tempura, rice bowls, and of course ramen being prevalent. Usually it's just a generic soy sauce ramen, but at 上里 rest stop on the Kan-Etsu Expressway there was a cool looking Hakata style shop.


This shop is an extension of a shop in Tenjin, Kyushu. You're a long way from home buddy!


My lens was fogging up, it was rainy and humid out this day. Anyways, very standard stuff. I can't really recommend it, but it's not like you're going to go there anyways (about 2000 yen and an hour each way from Tokyo to this area on the expressway).


But the fun came with a separate bowl of rice, nori seaweed, and spicy cod roe. Finish the noodles, and dump that into your soup!


Mmmmm, pinky goodness. As always, dumping a bowl of rice into your ramen soup turns one meal into two.

In May I truly think it best
To be a robin lightly dressed
Concocting soup inside my nest
Mix it once, mix it twice
Mix that ramen soup with rice

Shop info here

鏑矢 (Kaburaya in Shibuya)


(Exit Shibuya New South Exit and go straight to the main street. I think it's right a block... or maybe left. Anyways, it's close)

After a day of Shibuya, nothing beats a bowl of ramen. What is a day of Shibuya you ask? I could be a standard day of shopping for $600 motorcycle vests that say "Engage the Cool. Porno Story" at the 109-2 men's store. Or maybe it means a leisurly visit to the Tabaco and Salt Museum. Today my Shibuya day consisted of marching in a worker's demonstration. This is slightly relevant to ramen because much of the staff of ramen shops are part time workers who deserve financial stability. Let's eat!


Due to Mos Burger being out of their vegie burger, our non-ramen friend headed out and Nate of Waseda Ramen and I had a discussion. There are a ton of shops around the main street in Shibuya, Center-Gai, but they aren't really amazing. But luckily, there is a less traveled-to south side with a nice ramen presence.


We counted about a dozen shops within 3 minutes of each other. Kaburaya popped out.


The house serves up a porky soy sauce soup, thick noodles, and tons of toppings on the counter. Nothing amazing, but a jack of all trades for sure, this was pretty damn satisfying after a long day's march.

Shop info here

Saturday, May 2, 2009

なんでんかんでん (Nandenkanden in Shindaita)


(from Shindaita, make a right and walk about 8 minutes... that's Nate and Keizo in that pic... rock on)

After eating at Basanova at around 8pm, having 2 or 8 drinks at a local bar, and discussing the many fine points of ramen, Keizo, Nate, and I decided to eat another bowl. We passed Nandenkanden on our walk from Basanova to the bar. This is one of those shops you can smell from a block away. Stinky stink tonkatsu soup.


This place is goofy. It was opened by some Indian guy**. Say hello to the wacky Indian guy.

**Turns out he's just an eccentric Japanese dude from Kyushu. Sorry if I offended**** anyone from India or Japan.

****Naw, I'm not really sorry.



The menu includes your standard, but also some バカ items. Baka means stoopid. If you get this, the bowl will be covered in toppings, either nori seaweed, green onions, or quail eggs... or all 3. Having drank a bit, and eaten a lot already, we all went with the standard.


Stinky and simple. It's good stuff. But the fun of Hakata style ramen is with the toppings. Load em on!


Let's see... we've got:


Karashi Tanaka - spicy, pickled mustard greens. Use sparingly, as some shops' versions are much more potent than others.


Crushed sesame seeds - ads a nutty, creamy flavor.


Benishoga - pickled red ginger gives a tangy kick.


Fresh crushed garlic - it's a good thing.







This shop is open really late. I'm not sure why, it's not really in a happening neighborhood. But that didn't keep the seats empty.

Official Site

More Shop Info Here