Wednesday, February 24, 2010

宗家一条流がんこラーメン (Ganko in Ikebukuro)



Another Ganko on the list. This time, it's a lot less of a secret (I'm referring to the one in Baba). Not really a ramen zone, but more of an entertainment and food zone, the area out the West Exit of Ikebukuro should be visited by anyone looking for some interesting food.


The trademark bone and black tarp, of course.


The view from the chairs outside. No line today, but the shop was full inside. RameNate and I had to wait for about 10 minutes. Who else has waited at this same shop, you might ask? Good question. Maybe you've heard of a man called...


... Kenny G?


And... Martha Stewart? A veritable A list of Hollywood's best.


The master kindly requests that you, the ramen manic eating at this popular shop, put away your magazine and cell phone when your soup gets here. The last line is great. "From a nice old man who likes ramen!"


Presenting the nice, ramen loving old man!



I had the shio, even though my ticket was for the shoyu. It's hard to decide who has the best shio ramen, the Ganko shops, or Ivan. Best to keep eating at both. I preferred the Baba Ganko one a little though, the green chilies you could add were a perfect addition.


The shoyu was no slouch either.

Once a month, they serve a "special" shio ramen. All the Ganko shops do this, a special once a month thing. Stay tuned!

More Shop Info Here

太陽のトマト麺 (Taiyo Tomato in Otsuka)



When does ramen cross over into the realm of soupy pasta? Purists would say the soup. Shio, shoyu, tonkotsu, or miso. Anything else and it's not ramen. But these days ramen soup has crossed into the realm of anything goes.


Then is it the noodles? The addition of kansui is what gives ramen noodles it's difference from many western noodles. But in these modern times of the magic of science, we can simulate this naturally occurring sodium carbonate with ease.

So where do you draw the line?


It doesn't really matter, as long as you're enjoying the adventure!

Taiyo Tomato is a chain with a dozen or so shops, all serving up a tomato soup with angel hair-esque noodles. They are really into a healthy image, using a lot of natural ingredients, and relying on the nutrition of tomatoes to draw in customers.


Not sure how healthy my bowl, which was covered in parmesan cheese, was. But it sure was tasty!


Tasted just like it looks. A rich bowl of hot tomato soup. Campbell Cream of Tomato is almost spot on.

Warhol would approve.

Official Site Here
More Shop Info Here

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

一風堂 COLLECTION.MISO (Ippudo Miso in Yoyogi)



For the foreign audience of this blog (which I estimate at 100%, since no one has ever commented in Japanese), Ippudo might sound familiar. The shop they introduced to New York City simply blew up, becoming somewhat of a sensation. But this is a site about ramen in Japan, so let's keep it local.


Ippudo is no slouch in Japan. Over 40 shops dot the landscape, with plenty in Tokyo. I used to frequent the Kichijoji shop when I lived there, though I haven't been much since I moved away. But today was no ordinary Ippudo bowl of creamy tonkotsu ramen. This was the newly created COLLECTION.MISO.


With signage that looked like something out of The Matrix, my interests were piqued. Would I choose the red pill or the white pill?


Just like the standard Ippudo, there is the regular white and more adventurous red. I dipped my spoon into the bright bowl of miso Akamaru. How was this highly anticipated slurp?


Not bad. The miso taste here is very light, and a little sweet. But just a bit too... safe.


A lot of miso ramen shops go for broke, shoving a ton of flavor in your face. Some fail, some succeed. Few sit right in the middle.


The noodles are different than the skinny hakata style noodles you normally get at Ippudo (though if you order the kaedama, an extra helping of noodles, you'll be given the classic). Thick, meant for miso noodles fit the bill quite nicely.


My new friends N and C tried the white. Not sure why only the white came with grated ginger.

Even though COLLECTION.MISO won't be making any top ten lists of mine, it was a good bowl. And one thing about these noodles:


Official Site Here
(awesome design)
More Shop Info Here

Friday, February 19, 2010

六厘舎 x 7-11

六厘舎 x 7-11


Rokurinsha, the hottest tsukemen spot in Tokyo (on earth?) at the moment is milking it for all it's worth. They've opened shop at the newly opened Tokyo Ramen Street, sponsored a recent tsukemen festival, and now are offering a version of their tsukemen at Tokyo 7-11's.

This isn't dried noodles, and it's even a step beyond the common vacuum packed nama noodles that you can sometimes find. This is already cooked. Just nuke it and you are ready to go.


Rokurinsha's noodles (at the real shop) are downright amazing. So I was interested in how they could recreate them. Some sort of jelly substance is sitting on the cold noodles.


The soup and toppings come in a separate bowl. Heavily gelled in the cold form.

Just pop it all into the microwave and enjoy.

But I don't have a microwave. I only have my high tech $1000 steam oven. So I set it to reheat rice mode and let it do it's magic.


The soup melted nicely.


As did the Styrofoam container for the noodles.


It was a solid lunch. For only 498 yen, I could possibly eat this more often. But I won't. There's very little adventure in sitting at home eating instant noodles.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

地雷源 (Jiraigen Soul Noodles in Suginami)



Not sure about this name. The Kanji characters mean earth, thunder, source. Possibly land mine source. Anyways, let's stick with the English. This is (apparently) soul food.


This spot was dubbed Best Shoyu in the World by Keizo from GoRamen. That's a crazy title, considering that he has slurped countless bowls of soy sauce rich ramen.


Inside the shop, some vintage soul food posters adorn the walls. Often, shops that do this sort of thing in Japan do so in poor taste. I've seen old timey black-face countless times in this country. But Jiraigen pulls it off as a really chill spot.


On Fridays you can try a special black ramen made with squid ink. Unfortunately, Friday is not a day for ramen, at least until my schedule changes.


The pots are steaming, and my order is up.



A solid shoyu, accentuated by the freezing cold February morning.


I'll say it now, I disagree with Keizo on this one. It was good and all, but shortly after eating I felt a layer of chicken fat coating my taste buds. I've noticed this lately with a lot of shoyu, the heavy chicken fat flavor. I really really don't go for it.


The egg was superb though.


As were the rest of the toppings. A++ on that menma!


So although its not on the top of my list, this spot should be visited just on the rad factor. The music, by the way, is awesome here.

Official Site Here

More Shop Info Here

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

中本 (Nakamoto in Shinjuku)



If you find yourself on the big, ramen shop a plenty having road running along the Yamanote, next to Shinjuku station, you should be hungry. There are plenty of shops. Menya Musashi is up there on the list. Bakudan is an unexpected favorite. But today was an adventure in spicy. A Scoville excursion if you will.


You know, if there is a massive piece of calligraphy art that roughly translates to "Spicy and Delicious", surrounded by famous people's autograph plaques, that you are in for something good.


And you'd be right.

The Gomoku (mashup of different things) Mongolian style tantan men is rad. Each bite is just enough substance, just enough spicy. There is also a North Pole ramen on the menu, which might knock you on your behind. Since I had to teach in 30 minutes, I opted for safety.


Down to the last red hot drop.

Official Site Here
More Shop Info Here

Thursday, February 11, 2010

ジャンクガレッジ (Junk Garage in Saitama)



Beyond all measures of a doubt, today was what ramen adventurers search for. Not just the noodles at the end of the road, but the road itself. All the better if that road has a few bumps; a few dead ends; maybe a train museum or two.


The day started out normal enough. The original plan was to visit Junk Garage, way up past Omiya, at their opening time, 11:30am, and then move about 30 minutes west to Kawagoe. These strange and foreign place names are major cities in Saitama, Tokyo's less than savory neighbor to the north. Often called Dasaitama, a play on words indicating the extreme uncoolness of the prefecture.


But the trains from Omiya to Higashi-Omiya, a mere 6 minutes away, were all stopped. "At least an hour," said an apologetic station worker. Translation... more like 2.

So Nate, of the accidentally popular (thanks NY Times!) and I, of the accidentally popular (thanks NY Times!) set off for something to kill time with. Maybe a nice cafe near the station. Perhaps browsing at a nearby bookstore. Not when there is the new (relatively) Japan Railways Train Museum within walking distance!


2.5 hours later (we could have stayed longer) and we were back on the train.


With a few of our close friends. Smashed in like sardines, it's a good thing we hadn't eaten anything yet.


Now for the ramen. I had attempted to eat here a few months back, riding my motorcycle for 1 hour, only to find it was the day off. This time we knew they were open. And we knew they closed at 3:00. Due to the train nonsense, it was now after 2:30. I know time is of the essence, but I gotta take this photo!


Just past the questionable sign for "Ramen Land", we got lost a bit, but then somehow ended up approaching the back parking lot of our destination. Success! Japanese heavy metal music on the stereo, welcome to Junk Garage.


Cheering and high-fiving, we both settled in for the Special mazesoba, big size.


This is soup-less ramen, but that doesn't even begin to describe it.


You've gotta start with the word Junk. This has actually become a little more of a mainstream word lately, but it's basically food that is covered with all kinds of tastiness. There's a very high chance it will look horrid. There's an even higher chance that all of the customers will be men. What kind of junk are we talking about:


Garlic, pork fat, and cheese are optional along with a raw egg, spicy shrimp mayonnaise, baby star crispy noodles, bonito fish flakes, and their own special spice mix. Are you ready?




Good god!


Thank you!


This is good stuff. The cheese, the fat, the high quality soy sauce. It all comes together. Layers upon layers of flavor. If you could add a pastry cover, something to hide the junk, this would pass as a gourmet gastronomical masterpiece.

It should be noted that the noodles here are of extreme high quality. Junk Garage has a relationship with Rokurinsha, the hottest tsukemen noodle place in Tokyo, and they use noodles from the same place.


We talked about what other junk might go well on top. Nate said crushed up Doritos. Cool Ranch Doritos, I added. I'll be back, as the shop is open until 3 am. 3am! In the warmer months, riding my motorcycle up to dasaitama, Doritos in my camera bag.

And check out the video I made from my "ram-cam" head mounted video camera. Itadakimasu!

Official Site Here
(Good design!)
More Shop Info Here