Thursday, September 29, 2011

東京らーめん、 (Ramen Ten in Nishi-Shinjuku)



In a veritable checklist for the definition of "local", Ramen Ten is a mere minute walk from my new apartment on the west side of Shinjuku. Local location. Check.


Jumbled exterior, full of discarded noodle containers, empty kegs, and expensive road bikes. Local feel from the outside. Check.


Eclectic interior with piles of popped tops amongst bicycle tools. Local feel on the inside. Check.


Chopsticks laid out on pieces of coral. Artistic creativity. Check.


And some late-night-drunk ramen. Check.

Actually, I was fairly sober at the time I enjoyed this bowl. Sober enough to think that the にんにく卵, garlic egg, soup would be the one for me. The shop actually has four different soups simmering in the back. This one was intense. A shock of garlic and pork. The shops opens for lunch, but I would never ever get this if the prospect of face-to-face contact might occur in the next 12 hours. Not as pungent as popping a spoonful of raw crushed into your bowl, which is the norm at many shops. Ten's soup is infused with the stuff, and you will be reeking of it after.


My local spot used to be the superb Sengoku Jiman, but a quick move across town negated the possibility of any more 1:00am visits there. And though a mere 30 minutes away on just about any mode of transportation, there is no way I can go more than a few blocks at times. I can smell a lot of garlic in my future.


Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Honmachi 3-48-12
Closest station: Nishi-Shinjuku-gochome

Open 11:00-15:00, 17:30-1:00am
Closed Mondays

むろや (Muroya in Shinjuku)



I went to Muroya as part of the gentei adventure; trying a bunch of the crazy seasonal productions that are popping up with the changing of the leaves. Would you pay almost double for a bowl made with some of the most expensive mushrooms in Japan? Mushrooms that spring forth but once a year? You bet!


But they were still sourcing ingredients for their matsutaka mushroom invention, so the normal bowls would have to suffice.


The tsukemen was solid, but missing something. Missing $100 mushrooms perhaps.


Whiffs of yuzu kick up the ramen a bit, though I would rather be whiffing some matsutakas.


Decent shop though, and right next to beautiful Shinjuku Gyoen Park. The fare is your standard pork and fish blend, with some excellent grilled chashu on top.


Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Shigaya 4-25-10
Closest station: Shinjuku-gyoen-mae

Open 11:15-15:00, 17:00-21:00
Closed Sundays

Monday, September 26, 2011

麺バカ息子 (Menbakamusuko in Kamata)



Baka is perhaps one of the first Japanese words I ever learned. When I first came to Japan, I taught young children full time. My 2nd, 3rd, and 4th words are not fit for a ramen review site. Baka means stupid by the way. Thanks kids!


So Menbakamusuko serves up some stupid noodles. But the point of this adventure was to check out their upcoming limited ramen.


Made with spicy Korean miso, and topped with some distinctly Korean tasting sirloin slices, this is sure to be a local hit. Korean miso is a bit sweeter than it's Japanese counterpart.


Back to the baka. This shop has 3 different sizes of noodles for their standard tsukemen. Regular, fat, and stupid. The stupid size noodles are more like bacon size strips of dough. The cooking time is longer, and definitely worth it. Not pictured is the soup, a standard deal that didn't stand out in any way. But the noodles were excellent.


It's nice to see that, along with the stupid tsukemen, they offer an aromatic chicken shio ramen. Topped with some baby bamboo shoots, this is a very artistic looking dish.


Something for everyone!


I was here shooting with Weekly プレイーボイ magazine, for an upcoming seasonal ramen special. If you live in Japan, check out the issues in October 2011 to see what the deal is.


My shots are somewhere between the Nikon D3s with the lighting setup and the iPhone.


Tokyo, Ota-ku, Kamata4-19-2
Closest station: Kamata

Open 11:30-14:30, 18:00-23:00
Closed Mondays

Sunday, September 25, 2011

味功 (Miko in Kokuryo)



What is Taiwan style ramen? Logic would dictate that this spicy shoyu ramen came from, of course, Taiwan. An inquiry with some native Taiwanese, though, reveals that there is no well known spicy noodle dish like this in Taiwan. Further research shows that Taiwan ramen actually originated west of Tokyo, in Nagoya. To make matters even more unclear, this shop has a few dozen different side dishes, most of which are very Chinese.


I would rather skip the semantics, and get down to the food. The menu at this unassuming corner shop does you the benefit of highlighting recommendations. With a few beers, a small group could make it through the entire list and walk away happy.


The Taiwan ramen. A beef based shoyu soup is hit with a spicy oil. Spicy is an overstatement though. Tangy might be a better way to describe it. At only 500 yen, this would be a regular eat for me if I lived out in Kokuryo, 30 minutes west of the main city.

The deep-fried eggs are an interesting topping.




Su-ra-tanmen. Basically hot (ra) and sour (su) soup with ramen noodles. Excellent.


The spotlight dish was definitely the black vinegar stewed pork. Having seen and smelled it at the table next to us, we wasted little time ordering up a plate.


Melt-in-your-mouth boneless pork. So rich.


As with many cheap Chinese spots in Tokyo, Miko has a large-ish menu, full of wok-fried eats and vinegar heavy dishes. But unlike most, the quality here is high enough to make it a local favorite.

Tokyo, Chofu, Kokuryo 2-3-6
Closest station: Kokuryo

Open 11:00am-1:00am
Closed Mondays

Saturday, September 24, 2011

華風伝 (Kabuden in Ishikawa)



The hunt for great ramen is not exactly paying the bills. If anything, it takes a ten buck cut every time. Certainly not complaining, just saying that I have to work! I am lucky enough to have jobs that I enjoy, and one of them sends me on adventures to unknown locations far and wide within the greater metropolitan area.


Today was Myoden, somewhere out in Chiba. The hand-drawn map made by my company staff featured, you bet, a ramen shop. Meant to help me reach the classroom on time, it had the inadvertent benefit of steering me to lunch.


Kabuden is a typical Chinese style ramen shop. Jack of all trades, master of none.


The shrimp wonton ramen was a good choice, with half a dozen fat wontons to make the rather normal bowl a bit better.


No smoking in town, but you can smoke in the shop. So why not pop in for a cigarette and a bowl.

Chiba, Ishikawa-shi, Myoden 4-9-12
Closest station: Myoden

Open 11:00am-1:00am

Thursday, September 22, 2011

桃の木 (Momonoki in Shinjuku)

小麦と肉 桃の木


Translated literally, this shop is named Wheat and Meat, Peach Tree. I think we should stick with the Japanese name. Though, if you really get down to it, it is the wheat and meat that make this place neat.


Momonoki is part of the famed Setagaya group. Like most of the shops veiled under this ramen powerhouse, things get fairly unique here.


Tsukemen is on order, and I went a little crazy with both the egg and W-cheese toppings. By the way, the letter W is pronounced daburu in Engrish. "Double" is also pronounced daburu. No that you know you will see it all over the place.


Very refined. The soup is a bit lighter than other tsukemen shops, shifting the focus towards the excellent noodles a bit. It is usually tough to put light and tsukemen in the same sentence. This shop might be the exception.


The flat noodles are chewy, wheaty, and wonderful.


The chef instructed that the egg go in the noodles, and the cheese in the soup. At first bite, I realized that I had gone a bit overboard. This was a rich combination!


This shop is staffed entirely by pink-uniformed ladies. Adding to the lady appeal, a side tray offers aprons, hair ties, hair pins, and stain removing drops lest some tsukemen splatter make its way onto your clothes. Hmmm, which is more attractive though, a lovely lady with a flawless Hermes shawl, or a lovely lady with said shawl stained by proof of ramen?


Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 1-32-4
Closest station: Shinjuku Gyoenmae

Open 11:00-around 5:00 (until they sell 120 orders)
Closed Sundays and the 1st and 3rd Mondays of the month

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

辰屋 (Tatsuya in Setagaya)



Crazy, the chef at this ramen shop would not let a TV crew film the shop for a place on an upcoming TV show. Such is ramen in Japan. Some chefs just want to make their ramen in peace. Sorry for the upcoming positive review of your shop!


Tatsuya is another jiro-kei shop. Tonkotsu shoyu in the style of famed Ramen Jiro. You can tell by the odoriferous pot of boiling meat parts and the lack of women in the seats. Everyone ordered the Tatsu Shoyu Ramen. Regulars customized their orders by varying the amount of toppings and asking for curry powder. Be careful though, customization is only in the upwards direction of volume, and will only get a beginner in trouble. And even though I have eaten at close to 400 different ramen shops in Japan, I still consider myself a beginner in the world of jiro-kei.


As it comes. Brimming with hot meat liquid, the only way to eat this bowl is to slowly burrow through the mound of cabbage on top. Once you have achieved a tunnel in, you can start rescuing the trapped noodles. Do all of this slowly, lest you cover your clothes with hot meat liquid splatter.


There you go. The bonito flake topping is a great touch, adding some flair to a rather thuggish bowl of noodles.


You are not expected to drink the soup. You are actually not even expected to touch a spoon. If you can finish the greater part of the noodles and cabbage, you have done enough for one day.


Tokyo, Setagaya-ku, Setagaya 4-13-20
Closest station: Shoinjinjamae (Setagaya Line)

Open 11:30-15:00, 18:00-22:00
Sundays only lunch
Closed Mondays

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

紀和 (Kiwa in Ebisu)



The ramen adventure of the day was almost sidetracked when I met up with fellow ramen bloggers Keizo and Hiroshi. "We just ate ramen, we are not down for another bowl." It was logical, but so was what I did next; ordered another beer. And another. And another. Soon ramen was on their minds. Well played.


And just across the street from the 180 yen-a-beer izakaya was some ramen. Easy.


A simple menu, and 3 bowls of chuka were soon being prepared.


Nice! As you can see, this is a simple bowl. But what you can not see is the aroma. An aroma that had me and my ramen-nut friends nose deep in this bowl. Vegetable essence permeated through every bit.

Unfortunately for Kiwa, it lies firmly in the shadow of nearby AFURI, simply one of the best simple shops in town.

Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Ebisunishi 1-13-2
Closest station: Ebisu

Open 11:30-16:00, 17:00-23:00
Closed Sundays