Thursday, September 23, 2010

アイバンラーメンPlus (Ivan Plus in Kyodo)



At 11:30am on Thursday the 23rd of September, Ivan opened his second shop. Although I had sampled it a week prior, I had the most untraditional item on the menu, the cheese mazemen. It was time for the true test.


It's time for Ivan's special ramen.


Sold out?!? Just kidding. Not sure what this option was for, maybe future seasonal dishes. I went with the ramen. So did my ramen posse for the day. Two ramen fans visiting from the States, my new Japanese friend, and Keizo. 5 bowls of ramen (and an extra mazemen for Keizo).


The shop is full of new equipment. Roast, broil, steam... but does it help make good ramen?




This bowl is very unique. At his original shop, Ivan strays from tradition and uses almost no pork in the soup (the chicken bones are roasted in some pork fat if I remember correctly). At Ivan plus, he takes it even further, omitting the chicken as well. This is strictly a fish and vegetable stock. If you've ever had a bowl of udon noodles, you know the taste.


But knowing Ivan, he took it a step further, with a bit of the west thrown in for good measure. At first, I couldn't place it. Then a little voice in my head told me. Or maybe it was Keizo. Anyways, there's a hint of cheese. Ivan confirmed this, and actually there is cheese in almost every menu item.


Ramen without pork, with an essence of cheese? Is it ramen? In the traditional sense of the word, not really. But thats what trends are for! A recent trend in the Tokyo ramen world has been cafe-style ramen shops. Light soups, stylish interiors, healthy options. See the oft mentioned Girl's Ramen Club magazine for a long list of cafe-style ramen shops.


A traditionalist, who longs for the nostalgic days of a tiny old shop serving shoyu ramen, might not be pleased with all this new stuff. But for me, I wouldn't have it any other way.

ど・みそ (Do Miso in Ginza)

らーめんダイニング ど・みそ


One of my adult students wanted to join me on my ramen adventure of the day, and I just happened to have one of my favorite ramen guide books with me. Despite being aimed at the opposite sex, Girl's Ramen Club never fails to disappoint. The maps are easy to read, the photos beautiful, and the choice of ramen is impressive.


Do re mi fa so la ti do! Do Miso is located just at the end of Ginza's fashionable main shopping street. You can easily find a watch or necklace costing more than 10,000 bowls of ramen. Maybe that's your thing. My thing is the later.


Do Miso sounded familiar, but I couldn't place it. As soon as I saw the towel hanging in back, I remembered. They were one of the participants in a recent ramen festival. Actually, it wasn't so good at the event, and most bowls went unfinished. The problem was the spice. It was just too much for the average person. Fear not, you can choose your level, from regular to fire. I played it safe, with the futsu, regular, spicy miso ramen.


Good choice! It was very hot none the less. If you don't love spice, avoid this one.


My student went with the regular miso ramen. He said it was one of the best bowls of miso he'd ever had.


All in all a great bowl. Kikanbou in nearby Kanda rates a little higher for me on the spicy miso chart, but maybe this is a close second.


This ramen would be excellent with a beer or two, but for a couple of guys on our lunch break, that's not an option.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

アイバンラーメン Plus (Ivan Plus in Kyodo)



I had a chance to preview the new Ivan Ramen today. Ivan Plus. The adventure turned out to be the train there. The Odakyu line from Shinuku station comes in 5 or 6 flavors, ranging from a slow local train to the infamous Hakone Romance Car. Most, but not all of the trains stop at Kyodo. Learn from my mistake, and don't take the orange super commuter express line. Take the red express.


After visiting the rice fields of far west Tokyo, I hopped a train in the reverse direction, and made it to the new shop. The design is great, very comfortable, with lots of speakers playing loud music. Ivan even put a speaker in the noodle room, so whoever has the task of cranking out the day's noodles can avoid insanity.


The menu is totally different from the other Ivan shop. The ramen uses more fish in the recipe, as opposed to the chicken heavy soup at his other shop.


The onsen tamago rice bowl went great with this special soy sauce.


Recently, Ivan was on television for some sort of "reduce the salt" challenge. Part of the show involved a tour of a shoyu factory out in Chiba. This is the XO of soy sauce. It's great.


The current menu is only ramen, tsukemen, and mazemen. Each is a completely different thing. I went with the cheese mazemen.


Simple, delicious, and deadly to anyone with a lactose intolerance.


With no soup, it's a much more Italian tasting bowl. In the future, I'd order it with an egg topping for a sort of ramen X carbonara thing.


The noodles are different here as well. Wide and flat. They might be getting wider in the future. It's still a week before the official opening, anything could happen.

Speaking of the opening. I'll be there, on the 23rd, at 11am with some friends if anyone wants to come along. It might be extremely crowded, since it's a holiday and Ivan is pretty famous in Tokyo. The cheese mazemen was an impulse order. I've got to try the regular ramen.


See you next week! 11am outside the Kyodo station gates.

Friday, September 17, 2010

黒部ダムラーメン (Kurobe Dam Green Ramen)



Japan has managed to dam almost every river in the country, in order to provide electricity for it's massive population. One of the side effects of this is countless man-made lakes. Sediments in the ground turn some of these lakes vivid colors, like emerald green or milky white.

The Kurobe dam on the border of Nagano and Toyama has turned green. It's just one of the many natural attractions you can see on the Kurobe Tateyama Alpine Route.


Leave it to the management at the Kurobe dam restaurant to create a special ramen that matches the water.


The green noodles are almost inedible. Who knows where they come from, I'm 99% sure they don't make them on site.


The green soup is actually alright though. It's colored and flavored with spinach, and has a nice leafy flavor.

The pork was horrible.

There is also a fried egg on top, which was fine. How can you mess up a fried egg?

I left a bowl of noodles and pork, drained of the last drop of soup, on my table and headed home.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hiking with Ramen

The plan was to hike the length of the Northern Alps of Japan, camping on mountain peaks, cooking ramen, and enjoying the scenery.

Taking things a step more adventurous, I packed enough nama ramen for 4 days, and enough instant noodles for 3. Nama, meaning raw, means that I would need to actually boil the noodles, strain them, then add them to the soup. It's not a difficult process, as anyone who has ever made spaghetti could tell you, but when backpacking it can be a bit of a challenge. Instant noodles are simple, just boil some water, add the noodles and soup, and let sit for a few minutes.


Made with some of the best water in Japan, straight from the mountains of the Tateyama range.


These noodles are far superior to the dry kind.




Now the bad part. The weather. There were clouds and rain on all the peaks, with visibility of only a dozen or so meters at times, and typhoon level winds. So I decided to head down into the valleys, and eventually ended my trip after 4 days instead of 8.

I learned a few things about ramen. If you're camping, go ahead and do the nama thing. But if you are packing it, carrying everything on your back, stick to lightweight, easy to make instant stuff. I bought all my ramen from the basement of Tokyo station, where there is a gift shop selling about 100 types of nama and instant ramen from around Japan.

Oh, and if you are calling me out, saying that all it takes is a little wind and rain to send me crying home, I made a video of conditions on the peaks. Warning, I drop the f-bomb:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

清勝丸 (Seishomaru in Kyodo)



Keizo and I headed out west (west of me, south of he) to check out the site of Ivan's new shop. This place is going to be great. Stay tuned, I'll be there as close to opening day as I can. By the way, this shop looks about 4 times the size of the original.


On the other side of the station, Seishomaru comes recommended from one or another internet and/or magazine rankings.


But don't always believe what you read online (unless it's this site).


You can add some packs of garlic for stamina. I really love a lot of garlic in my ramen, but unfortunately, I am usually on my way to teach someone, and would probably see my student count drop if I came with a few cloves on my breath.


The miso tsukemen had some nice noodles.


But the soup was boring and thin. Not what I want in tsukemen.


Keizo had the ramen. And, sure enough, his soup was too thick. A mix-up in the back? We both agreed that we ordered the wrong thing. Maybe the regular tsukemen would be ok.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Ramen Adventure?

Is the sun rising over Tokyo a true testament to nature's beauty?


And can one honestly call hopping the Yamanote train, street atlas in hand, an adventure?










Stay tuned, I'll be back in a week or so.