Monday, August 30, 2010

ローメン (Romen Style in Nagano)



I stumbled on this new restaurant in Nagano city a few month ago when I was up visiting a friend. We were refused at the door, and since then my friend was turned away another 2 times. This place is popular! It's a place that serves nothing but Shinshu sake and food (信州 is the old name for the area around Nagano, 200km North of Tokyo). I had to come back.


Little did I know that this would become another ramen adventure. Or should I say romen.


Romen was created in 1955, in a countryside town. It's made with mutton, and more like a soupy yakisoba than a ramen. My friend begged me to to get it. Why?


It's pretty stinky. Definitely not something I would eat often. But it goes great with sake.


Copious amounts of Japanese liquor can lead to ordering some other local delicacies.


The left is grasshopper. The middle bee larvae. The right some sort of river bug. New ramen topping?


Local honey poured on local ice cream.

This place was amazing. There was plenty of normal type food too. Lots of river fish and mountain vegetables. And sake.


Lucky people of Nagano, you are lucky!


You should go to this event. Ramen Fantasia is in the Tokyu building, on the top floor. About a dozen experimental collaborations are being created.


I can't make it, but a collaboration between Junk Garage and Mr. Bond of Hearts! Is that a whole clove of roasted garlic? Someone go and let me know!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

インフィニ (Infinitus Zero in Shinagawa)



This shop is what dreams are made of. At least one man's dream that is. Mr. Mita had one taste of the mazemen at Junk Garage, and fell in love. Everything that I felt, so did he. Big difference though. While I'm content to adventure around eating the stuff, he wanted to make it. And that's how Infinitus came about. At least as far as I can decipher from our short conversation and poking around their website.


Another thing to note, is that this is a shop run by, and built for, soccer fans. Everything is soccer.


From the menu. The toppings menu is actually the "trappings" menu.


To the decor. There's that guy. Sorry, I know absolutely zero on the subject of soccer.


Ramen on the other hand...


The special mazemen is covered in tasty things. Spicy mayo, garlic chips, raw egg, bonito flakes, and a massive pile of grated cheese (hidden from view by the noodles).


Then there is the tare, which is made with beef bones instead of the usual pork or chicken. This lends a sweeter taste. The overall bowl was a bit lighter than the one at Junk Garage, though you can deck it out with as many toppings as you want.


Very good, a must for anyone who likes the junk style. The visual impact alone is worth the trip. I'll be back soon to try their signature dish, some sort of spicy vegetable ramen.


Icing on the cake, a stranger who was done riding trains for the day gave me his 1 day pass. That saved me over 500 yen for the rest of the day's travels. Awesome!


Saturday, August 28, 2010

油そば (Aburasoba in Shibuya)



On the final meeting date of Keizo, Nate, and I, adventurous ramen would be consumed. That was until our original choice of shops turned out to be closed for the day. We didn't have many ideas, but we were only a couple stops away from Shibuya and it's ramen packed South side streets.


Our original choice of noodles for the day was a fatty, soupless ordeal, so we went with that theme for plan B. Abura soba is heavy on the oil, and light on the liquid.


Follow the instructions. A couple turns from each squeeze bottle, mix it up, enjoy.


This is a more traditional style, not that I'm any expert on abura soba. This was maybe the second time I've ever had it. It's for sure something you should try if you have a chance. There are probably some better shops out there, but this one, centrally located in Shibuya, is a safe bet.


It should look something like this.


Then something like this.


That's right, oft mentioned Nate of is gone. Back to the States for school. Nope, he wasn't here on a ramen research grant, but something about post modern Japanese literature. Which means he'll be back. Until that day, good luck to you and your backlog of 400 ramen shops to write about. Now THAT'S anadventure!


And I'm sorry, Nate, I went back to our first choice later that night, and it was rad.

Friday, August 27, 2010

夏のラーメン (Summer Ramen at Nishio)



Sorry for the lack of updates lately. I was living at hotel resorts for a summer camp job in decidedly ramen lacking areas of Japan.

Here's Nishio's summertime special.


Ice cold, literally. The addition of a scoop of slushy broth keeps things temperature controlled. Other additions are a scoop of what tasted like Hawaiian poke and some brightly colored peppers.


Nishio is in my top 10. Good vibe, cool owner, and excellent shoyu ramen. Go if you have a chance.

September is going to be an interesting month for ramen. Can a long distance backpacker survive on ramen and energy bars for a week? Stay tuned.

Monday, August 9, 2010

鶏の穴 (Torinoana in Ikebukuro)



Roughly translating to "Chicken's Hole", Torinoana was on my list for a long time. I adventured out with a new ramen friend I met at my recent kid's summer camp. No, I'm not hanging out, slurping noodles with 4 year olds. With the recent departure of Daniel, and the upcoming departure of Nate, I'm in need of new ramen friends!


It's ramen time!


The soup here is a thick chicken broth, very potage like. Very excellent. Very chicken-y. 2 kinds of chicken meat and an egg. I often have a problem with too much chicken oil, but it was fine here.


The spicy bowl adds just a little kick, nothing major. Flip a coin, you'll be fine with either.


"May the slurp be with you"

It took my 5 minutes to think of that. I'm not happy with myself. Give me a minute...

"You are part of the ramen alliance, and a noodler!"

You do better! Moving on...


A cold summer bowl looks appealing. Umeboshi and fresh shiso leaf. It will be gone at the end of August though.


By the way, if you bring your own chopsticks, you get a free topping.

こうや (Koya in Yotsuya)

支那そば屋 こうや


Ramenate has a knack for meeting eccentric Japanese people. A large portion of that group tends to be as a result of late night drinking in Golden Gai, Shinjuku's shady yet colorful drinking district. Months ago he met an ancient ramen master, and we'd been itching to get to this shop since. Goramen was along for the adventure as well.


In their inebriated states, Nate and the master spoke about how he takes random trips across the globe in the name of research. A few weeks in Cambodia to check out the local peppers? Sure, why not.


The won ton ramen looked perfect. Some of the biggest I've had in Tokyo. Everything is solid at Koya. Not just the food, but the vibe as well.

The atmosphere is great. This shop is massive, with seats for up to 80 people. It's also staffed by half a dozen elderly ramen veterans. The waitress, somewhere in her late 60s, warned Nate about his bowl in the best English she could muster.


"Very hot"

Sure enough, those mysterious spices from far away lands were abundant in the spicy ramen. We speculated some sort of habanero.


By the way, there is a more complicated dinner menu. I'll be back to try some of the more unique creations. And stay tuned to Ramenate for a more detailed, properly researched writeup... someday!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

青木さざえ店 (Aoki Sazae in Izu)

海鮮食楽 青木さざえ店食堂部


I had a 2 week gig working for a children's summer camp down in Izu. Even though Izu is only about 3 hours from Tokyo, you wouldn't know it with the blue skies and white sand beaches. Another difference is the lack of ramen, especially at the hotel up in the mountains where I was living for my time there.


So on the way home, a few fellow camp counselors and I adventured to nearby Yumegahama beach for some Ise Ebi ramen. Ise Ebi is also known as Japanese spiny lobster.


This was recommended in my motorcycle touring book, which almost always steers me to some great food.


Sure does look good!


But, like the last time I ate Ise Ebi ramen in Izu, it was just so so. The one compliment I can make is that the simple miso was buttery and went well with the lobster.

This time made me realize that I don't really like Ise Ebi all that much. The amount of meat you get in one go is about as much as a couple tiger prawns. How does the old saying go? Fool me once, shame on you? A fool and his money are soon parted? Anyways, 1500 yen is what it will cost you.


5 hours of motorcycle touring later....