Monday, April 27, 2009

Bassanova in Shindaita


(from Shindaita station make a right out the exit. It's about a minute up on the other side of the street)

This place was recommended a while back by Keizo over at GoRamen. Since he was in town, it was a perfect excuse to check it out. We also met up with another English ramen blogger Nate from Waseda-Ramen. Rolling 3 deep, we went on the attack.


Basanova does the fusion thing, with a highly recommended green curry ramen and tom yum ramen on the menu. The green curry is Keizo's staple here.


I've had some "Thai" style ramen before, and it usually just tastes like reused curry broth poured over noodles. This often doesn't work because curry or tom yum soup is meant to be eaten differently, with rice balancing out the intense heat. Noodles don't really take the edge off of the spice as well. But this one was very well balanced. More of a tangy spice than a burning pain spice. Excellent.


I asked the chef what he recommends for a first time, and had the tondatsu wadasisoba. 1st item on the menu.


Very solid bowl, worthy of an extra serving of noodles. Luckily I didn't go for that option, because we weren't done with the ramen for the evening...



More Shop Info Here

麺処 ZERO (Zero in Tachikawa)


(North exit of Tachikawa station. It's on the other side of the Isetan building)

There was a copy of Tachikawa Walker at my school, so I checked out the ramen section. The Walker series of publications shows you, basically, how to spend your money in a certain area. I'm kind of put off by this style of consumerism, but that's a topic for my other blog. Anyways, there is always a ramen section. The number 1 ranking for the Tachikawa edition was Kyoka, which I went to the other week. Number 2 was Zero Ramen.


Go down the stairs into this funky little place. What the heck is Jumpin' Junk noodles?


Only one way to find out.


The salt ramen was the おすすめ, and here it is. I was proper good.


A lot of chicken taste in this one. The stewed-in-soy pork was decadent.


But I never did find out what was so jumping or junky about this stuff. Me thinks I'll return here again, after I finish with #3, #4, and #5.

More Shop Info Here

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

大勝軒 (Taishoken in Eifukucho)


(from Eifukucho station, it's just across the street from the exit)

Taishoken is very old. You're sure to realize that upon entering. You are greeted with the usual fanfare of a good ramen shop, and also some huge black and white photos from what looks like the 50s. Does old translate to good in the language of ramen?


First off, let me say this. The layer of oil on this shoyu ramen is scalding hot. I wish I would have familiarized myself with rameniac's account of the place and prepared. I didn't, and 24 hours later am still recovering from singeing off all my tastbuds.


Don't let this photo fool you. That soup spoon is more than double the size of a normal soup spoon. This is a big, expensive bowl. The cheapest one is a whopping 1050 yen. I don't often post prices, because almost every bowl in Japan is 700-800 yen. But breaking the 1000 yen barrier with no real selection of toppings... I'm against that notion.


I couldn't finish this bowl. I had burnt my tongue, and even the warm left over soup hurt. But it wasn't a bad bowl. Actually, it was really good. So good that they have a thriving omiyage, gift pack, business.


You can fill out a delivery slip and they will send it anywhere in Japan. Too bad all my ramen friends live stateside!


I had a real delight when I found a small piece of yuzu peel in my soup. Their broth is complex like that. And the noodles are curly, springy, eggy delights. But seriously, eat them 2 at a time or you will burn yourself. My slurping skills are pretty good I humbly admit, but I was beaten down at Taishoken.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bad Luck Comes in Threes

First, Nagi changed their menu.

Second, Kamakura sucked.

Third, I show up at this place after riding the motorcycle for 30 minutes, and a nice old man told me:


Thursday is the day off.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

神座 (Kamukura in Shibuya 2nd Time)


A few month ago I went to Kamukura Ramen in Shibuya for the first time. You may remember I praised it, even said it could be a must visit in Tokyo. You may also remember their philosophy.


1st time you will be surprised... check.
2nd time you will experience a new taste... check.


So how was the 2nd time? Meh.


That's right, it was a totally new taste. And that taste wasn't really much. Just kind of... plain. Maybe the kimchi I got this time killed the flavor. I don't know. Maybe, because it was really really cold in January, this ramen did the trick. Be sure to check Keizo's blog, we met up to go here.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

鏡花 (Kyoka in Tachikawa)


(from Tachikawa station walk south, under the monorail station and make the first right. It's a block or two up)

鏡花 looks to me that it's just 2 random kanji characters. The first is mirror, the second is flower. But a search shows that its from a saying, 鏡花水月(kyoukasuigetsu) which means, like the moon and flowers reflected in water, something so profoundly beautiful that words can't describe it. How can they possibly live up to something like that?!?


By recreating the moon reflecting into your bowl of ramen... that's how! The lights are turned down way low, and each seat has a tiny moveable LED lamp for you to see by. Brilliant.


How did I miss this cool place? The interior alone is worth a visit. The only step up in relaxing would be reclining leather chairs and some jazz music.


Shoyu ramen done right. You can see the layer of oil on top. This is how it should be done. The oil acts as insulation and keeps the soup piping hot.


Hot soup leads to hot noodles and some serious slurping. I love big thick noodles with my shoyu ramen, as opposed to the thin hard ones with my tonkotsu. These delivered.


Oh yeah, this was number 6 of 12 on my stamp rally challenge. 1 more and I get a free rice bowl. 6 more and I get a shirt. The guy sitting next to me had 10 on his stamp card. He also spoke really good English and let me try his abura ramen. This place is recommended!


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

凪 (Nagi in Shibuya)


It's been a while since I've been to Nagi in Shibuya. The first time I went, I sang it's praises and it became an almost weekly trip. I loved sitting down and ordering a だれやめ set, beer with a side of grilled chashu pork and menma. The lights were dim, the staff friendly, and the ramen excellent. I taught a private lesson near this shop, so it was a match made in heaven. Teach some English, eat some ramen.

But times change. My lesson moved to another part of town, and this shop is the opposite direction. Today I made the trek, and was greeted by a surprise. 2 of the 3 things I loved about Nagi are gone!

First, the decore. It used to have bottles of shochu lined up along the walls, and toy pigs scattered throughout. It was tacky, in the way that makes a dive bar come to life. But now it's empty. The wall of booze had a curtain, and not a butta to be seen.

Second, the menu is new!


Nagi is now just a standard Hakata ramen place. Take a look at the old menu for comparison.


There were over 40 different items. The daily ramen experiment, ramen omelet, fried ramen with cheese. It was the funnest ramen I've seen in Japan. The menu was hand written in messy kanji that I could barely make out. Ordering involved chatting with the staff. It was good.

Now, it's a 1 item thing. I don't really understand why they would change things up. Maybe it's a new owner. No clue.

But, the new ramen is really good here. I can't complain at all about about the outcome. Richer than the other Hakata style I've had so far. I think they may be using the same recipe as the Nagi in Tachikawa, though it tastes... better. However, I probably won't be going back here as often as I did, which is kind of sad. Maybe I'll give it a month or so, and see how I feel then.

By the way, this review is outdated, but I've gone back to make a YouTube video. Check out!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

アイバンラーメン (Ivan Ramen in Rokakoen)

(from Rokakoen station, take the north exit and turn left at the first intersection)

A visit from fellow English language ramen blogger Keizo warranted a visit to Ivan Ramen. Opened back in 2007 by a foreigner from New York, this shop has been a huge buzz in the Tokyo ramen world.


In Tokyo, there's a funny, and sad, fact about restaurants and foreigners. There still exists a fascination with foreign things, especially in the realm of food. This leads to a lame result... any knuckle head can open a restaurant if they look the part. For example, a good friend of mine got a job at a French restaurant a few month ago. She just happens to be French. Her job was to be the wine and cheese person. So far, so good. But, she admits to me, she knows almost nothing about wine and cheese. She's just French, and that's enough.


Ok, so people are fascinated by foreignness. They are going to be doubly fascinated if a foreigner opens something beyond their norm. Enter Ivan Orkin. And a ramen shop. I'll admit it, I was skeptical. The whole thing could just be some ploy. A lot of the big money ramen industry runs on gimmicky fuel, like television spots or challenge style eating. "I saw Aoi Miyazaki eat a triple size bowl! We have to go!"


The shop's been open for some time now, and still had a 15 minute wait to get in. During this time Ivan himself came out to talk with us. He explained his philosophy towards cooking and ramen. He wants something where each aspect can be fully enjoyed by itself or with the rest. Ramen is a group effort, the right noodles, soup, and toppings. But to make something where each aspect stands out, therin lies the chef's goal.


The menu has a lot of items. Besides the standard shoyu and shio ramen and tsukemen, there are more "gourmet" fair. So I went for a bowl of his shio ramen, and a small roasted tomato and pork rice bowl. The rice bowl was wonderful. If you have an appetite, definately tack one of these on to your order. But on to the ramen...


Salt ramen is actually not so common. The reason, I think, is that a bad salt broth is horrid, while a bad soy sauce broth or miso broth is palatable. Ivan's creation is, as expected, delicious. Although not the porky goodness of the tonkotsu I usually go for, this soup is complex. The menma was awesome. The pork great. The half cooked egg didn't disappoint. And the handmade noodles were perfect, nice and thin.


Keizo had the tsukemen. I had a taste, and they were pretty good. Ivan mentioned that he might be delving into more cold style noodles this summer.

But for the time being, I'm sold. I'll make a couple more trips out here to try the spicy chili ramen and the roasted garlic ramen. There's also homemade ice cream, which I totally forgot about.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

旅人の木 (Tabibitonoki in Kichijoji)


(from Kichijoji station, go out the Central exit and turn left. It's about a 10 minute walk, just keep going straight. You will cross the main road after a minute and walk along a nice shopping street. Address is 3-23-9 Hon Chome)

The name of this shop means "Traveler's Tree". And yep, that's this traveler's motorcycle out front. Kick ass! This is number 4 out of 12 on my stamp rally card. It might be hard to do all 12 by the end of the month, but I'll try. I start a new job soon, so daytime ramen will be numbered.


The master recommended the soy sauce ramen. Which I had with some 岩のり, a type of seaweed. It was well done, and I can understand why this place has a line on weekends.


The shop seems to specialize in cold, soup-less noodles, but since it was a brisk April day, I went for something hot. Summer is just around the corner, so I might go back.


And I've finally got plans to go to Ivan Ramen. Look for an upcoming review from myself and Keizo over at GO RAMEN!