Sunday, March 27, 2011

新 東京らーめんチャンピオン (New Tokyo Ramen Champion)

新 東京らーめんチャンピオン

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I have no excuse for not coming to this event earlier. I have a legitimate excuse for not coming to it recently. And I gave it a big chance that when I rolled into the skyscraper district on a Sunday night at 8pm that I would end up missing out completely. Tokyo is doing it's part to conserve energy in the wake of the Tohoku tragedy. That means shutting down early, turning off the lights, and closing down shop for many of the city's eateries. The gleaming towers of Shinjuku, which usually stay ablaze 24 hours a day, were ghostlike.

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But up on the 49th floor of the Sumitomo building, the 3 month long Tokyo Ramen Champion event was still going strong. Twelve shops entered, and it's down to the final 4. Who will come out on top. With powerhouses Nantsutei and Keisuke in the running, it will be hard for underdogs Tanaka and Kibi to compete. But who knows, maybe there will be a... let's see... Butler winning against Florida style upset (I'll admit I had to look up who is in the NCAA finals for that reference).

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As half bowls are on the board, eating 4 bowls is no problem for this seasoned vet.

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A random shuffle of my tickets and I was soon waiting for a bowl of Nantsutei's creation.

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Only a few days left, I would think that this place would be more packed. Three more days everyone! The event is over on March 31st.

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Nantsutei's rich tonkotsu base with the addition of コク style miso. Thick and rich. As if that wasn't enough, uni cream is added for creamy undertones; and the chashu is actually grilled with cheese on top.

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This was one rocking bowl. Grilling cheese onto meat alone is a recipe for tasty, but dump it into a pork/miso/uni soup and it's on a whole other level. Oh, the noodles were good too.

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Sinasoba Kibi brings their "version up" pork to the plate. Inspired by Mexican carnitas, this is as flavorful and succulent as it gets. The chicken and pork soup is accentuated by a shio tare base, using roasted salt.

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The addition of tomato and herbs gives it a very western taste.

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Next up was shodai keisuke's miso creation. Is there ramen under all those toppings? I see an egg (a quarter of one at least), nori, cloud ear mushroom, chunks of pork, menma, and a beautiful piece of pressure cooked chashu. Nice!

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The soup is packed full of ワタリガニ - Portunus trituberculatus. A fancy name for the common Blue Crab. Keisuke is known for using a lot of seafood (his shops use spiny lobster, shrimp, and crab among other seafood ingredients). Like most of Keisuke's creations, this one caused a big divide in opinions.

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Last on the list was Tanaka with their Kitakyushu style nikusoba. A fancy name for simple. This shio broth topped with a few pieces of excellent chashu and rich menma was a good way to finish my marathon eating session. The group sitting next to me, young Japanese drumming circle friends, said this was tops. Amidst some interesting experiments in ramen, Tanaka was the most true to the game.

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Four spoons, four votes.

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Just drop them into the bin of your choice.

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Or vote for none. There was actually one spoon in there.

How did I vote? 3 spoons for ??? and 1 spoon for ???.

I'm not telling!

But I will say that it should be a close vote. Although the 4 dreadlocked drummers went with Tanaka, the 7 year old boy on my other side was clearly in favor of Keisuke. "He likes crab," papa informed me.