Monday, January 31, 2011

愛宕 (Atago in Shimbashi)

京鰹節つけ麺 愛宕


I taught my weekday student a new word today. Exhausted. As in I think we have exhausted our resources for good ramen in the area where we have our lesson. But my ramen magazine had one remaining shop buried in the back pages. Atago was only a few minutes away. Since it was buried in said back pages, I was a little skeptical.


Until we found it. This is one beautiful shop. The all black interior is a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of Shimbashi. The trip hop playing on the stereo is a welcome break from the usual J-Pop that many shops play. The line was long enough to indicate popularity, but short enough so that we could get inside out of the cold.


Everything about this place is great.


Atago's main star is their katsuo from Kyoto. The fish base for almost anything with a Japanese taste, katsuo is obviously an important part of many ramen recipes. And many would argue that the cream of the crop comes from Kyoto.


The supporting ingredient is the goma tamago, eggs from chickens raised on a sesame seed diet.

Day or night, you'll be getting a taste of these two. But during the daytime, a chicken soup base is used, while night brings in a pork base soup. Since it was lunch, chicken was on the menu.


Superb. Like I said, everything about this shop is great. The ramen was no exception. The fishy flavors really pop. And the egg is, as expected, great. Apparently it's healthier as well.


I recommend a nice dollop of spicy oil.


After eating, you can stroll over to nearby Atago Shrine for some culture.



Saturday, January 29, 2011

七彩 (Shichisai in Nerima)

麺や 七彩


My recent adventure to Kokaiya was a search for the perfect chashu. Pork simmered in shoyu, mirin, and other sweet and savory ingredients until it is tender and rich. I dubbed it excellent, but who would know that just a couple days later I would find one to top it?


Shichisai is an extremely hyped shop. An appearance in every magazine, a flawless victory on a past ramen TV challenge, and a line out the door.


You can choose shoyu or shio. I went with the shoyu. How was it? It was LEGEN... wait for it...


...DARY! Let me break it down, starting with the bits that were great, and moving up.

The shop boasts organic fare. No MSG, no chemicals, just high quality ingredients. There are a lot of shops doing this these days. In fact, I'd say most of the best shops are preservative free.


Then there are the noodles. Wide and curly, it was almost enough to make me order a kaedama (extra serving), which is almost never done at a shoyu shop. Very unique.

Then there was the pork. From the above picture of my bowl, you can see two kinds. Shichisai serves up both sirloin and pork belly. Both are possible the best chashu I've had in Tokyo. That good. Goramen, who has eaten more chashu than you or I combined, calls it the best he's ever had.


I made the mistake of not ordering the chashumen, which for 300 yen more comes covered in the shop's signature meat. I did, though, order a chashu rice bowl which was not really what I wanted. Get the chashumen. Everyone else who walked in the door did.


Noodle ears? You can take home some of the noodle ends for a mere 50 yen, which is a steal for fresh noodles of this quality.


On the way out, this sign caught my attention. Shichisai will be debuting at the Tokyo Ramen Street in April. Congrats! Along with... Junk Garage. This is excellent news indeed.

Official Site Here

I made a video!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

頑者 (Ganja in Kawagoe)



Work out in Saitama gave me an excuse to check out Mega Ganja in Kawagoe. But time was of the essence, as I was meeting one of my site followers with just enough time to eat and make my lesson.


I wasn't in that much of a rush.


So when we arrived at Mega Ganja, it was closed. Finding this place was quite an adventure, though I think it would be a bit easier with the massive line that I'm sure is prevalent during business hours. I quickly went to plan B. Ganja. Didn't you just say Ganja? No, I said Mega Ganja. I'll explain later, things are looking bad on the wristwatch.


Ganja had, as expected, a massive line. They do things like the recently closed Rokurinsha. Empty every seat, then bring in the next 11 people. Only when they finish will the next batch of customers be allowed in. It's a bit slower than normal, but an interesting way to run a shop. We waited about a 45 minutes.


The tsukemen is good, it's your standard tonkotsu gyokai style. A bit fishier than most, and not quite as thick. Definitely well made. I always say that there are too many of these types of shops, but up in countryside Saitama, this is probably the only shop for miles around.


Ganja has actually been around for a while, but recently has really blown up. They took their success, evident with their inclusion at the Yokohama Raumen Museum, and opened a few other shops in Kawagoe. The one I really want to see is called Mega Ganja, a junk style stop with mounds of pork fat piled on top of your cheese noodles. You'll just have to wait!

Oh, I ate this bowl in record speed, ran to the station, caught an express train, ran to my lesson, and made it with 4 minutes to spare. Nice!

航海屋 (Kokaiya in Shinjuku)



Kokaiya was recommended in the comments of an entry I wrote many months ago. Like all suggestions, it went onto the list. On an adventure to check out a possible new apartment in downtown Shinjuku, I managed to check this shop off.


The shop is known for the chashu. Everywhere you look is a reminder that they were on TV. However, the yellowing magazine articles and dated look of the TV appearance make me question if they are as good as "advertised".


I ordered the standard chashumen, ramen with extra pork, after the shop staff wandered over and tried in their best English to explain what ramen is to me. This time they didn't ask me if I could use chopsticks. It happens more than I'd like to admit!


Quite nice. Of course, the chashu is great. You can order a double serving of meat, which I recommend doing. Cover that bowl up. As for the rest of the bowl, it's a basic shoyu. Nothing amazing. Warm and nourishing on a cold day.


Lunch gets you a free bowl of pork rice, made with the left over bits of pork that weren't beautiful enough to go into the ramen.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

悪代官 (Akudaikan in Koiwa)

江戸川ヌードル 悪代官


Some ramen adventures are about finding an excellent bowl of noodles. Some, on the other hand, are just about finding the most shocking, craziest thing you can think of. I came across this picture in a recently published magazine.


北アルプス盛 - Japan's Northern Alps Size. That's a bowl of ramen, topped with a deep fried pork fillet, deep fried chicken pieces, an entire Bunashimeji mushroom, curry sauce, tartar sauce, extra garlic, and maybe an egg or two. I'm here for the scoop, at the expense of my health.


Scanning the menu, I didn't see it. Alas, they have stopped serving what could be the most unhealthy ramen in Tokyo.


Though the secret menu at the bottom is a nice touch. I got the 20 yen salad, which was just some shredded cabbage. Maybe the 20 yen rice topped with a 20 yen spicy egg would have been better.


As for the ramen, I went with the special ぬーどる, noodle. Not the Northern Alps...


but maybe the Southern Alps. This bowl still had the fried chicken, multiple pieces of chashu, tartar sauce, egg, and some thick thick pork soup. And a piece of nori bigger than my face.

Well, it was what it was. I've never liked tartar sauce in any cuisine, and when it mixed into the soup the resulting mayo X tonkotsu was a bit much for me. If you are a fan of Ramen Jiro, you might like this one more than I did.

可以 (Kai in Jimbocho)



Billed as a miso ramen with "impact", Kai was on my list. In fact, that's the most important aspect of miso for me. You want a bit of a shock when you first sip that soup. As the overused phrase goes; No Impact, No Life. Or something like that.


After a midday lesson, I raced my student here. Him on the train, and me on the bicycle. Arriving a few minutes early, I circled the block to find about 4 or 5 ramen shops with lines out the door. Good sign... for the neighborhood. Kai had no line. Bad sign... for the shop. But the fact that it's a bit of an adventure to find this shop (the door is a bit nondescript) might affect it's popularity. Let's hope that's the case.


At the first taste, this shop should have a line. The shops original 3 miso blend is very dark and, when mixed with the fishy stock, makes for that desired impact. The pile of onion gives a sweetness to the whole thing. All in all, not the most amazing miso, but for someone who has to try them all, you won't regret it.


On the way home I noticed this! How sad, that shop was cool!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

バリ男 (Bario in Jimbocho)



!!! This shop is now closed !!!

Wandering the streets of Jimbocho, looking for a good deal on some ski clothing, I passed Bario.


I was in no mood for Jiro-kei, especially not from a place that boasts the kanji for man - 男 - in the name. Its not that I don't like it, but I was meeting out of town friends in a few hours, and the after effects of "にんにくを入れる?" are usually painful for those at the other end. Yes, you can always tell if someone has had some from a Jiro style ramen shop by the garlic on their breath.


But what's this? I pulled a staff member aside and asked if they were really giving away free ramen today.


The fresh flowers to congratulate a fresh shop gave me my answer. Bario was serving anyone who walked by a free bowl of ramen on their opening day.


No ordering. Everyone gets the same bowl.


The same great noodles and the same great soup. And the same fabulous pork. Very lean, which can be rare. Usually "manly" ramen shops give you a chunk of pig fat, call it chashu, and expect you to be thankful. Bario lets you get away with whatever level of manliness you subscribe to.


Though 3 scoops of garlic are what バリ男 eat. Bari Otoko? Burly Men? Very Man? Berrie Boys?


With this style, you are forgiven for not draining the bowl. The amount of suspended fat bits and the layer of hot oil on the top could do some havoc. So stop just below the 男, and leave, without touching your wallet.


Before leaving, a customer motioned me over to see his bowl. Sure enough, a special message for those with iron stomachs.

I gave him my site's business card, and he gave me his. It was none other than Mr. Tsujida, the head of one of the best shops in town.


Good luck Bario! I'm glad I randomly stumbled by!