Wednesday, November 30, 2011

ラーメンアメリカ人 0-3 (Ramen Americans Month One)

Here's a quick breakdown of our first month of having a column in the popular Weekly Playboy magazine. Available everywhere in Japan.

Week 0


Basically an introduction of Abram and myself. We talk a bit about our past in the ramen world, and what inspires us to be maniacs about ramen food culture in Japan.


The cover features actress Ayase Haruka. Other things in the issue? Micro 4/3 camera reviews, cosplay tips, and some retro guravia photography.

Week 1


We get into it a little about our philosophies of food. Shops with a huge line aren't always the greatest, and simply being on TV can be enough to propel a bowl of ramen into stardom. We promise to give honest opinions!


Actress Aragaki Yui graces the cover. Inside: compact cars, a mushroom buying guide, and more AKB48 than you know what to do with.

Week 2


Now we start to get into some of our favorite shops in Tokyo. This issue is all about shoyu. Abram gives nods to En, Dokkan, and Ranchu. I go with Futaba, Nishio, and Shichisai. We also argue about chashu. I still think Shichisai is the best in town, even though Abram (and the writer Kei) disagree.


AKB overload! Also a Korean bar guide, girls in bikinis eating ice cream, and tips for erectile dysfunctional.

Week 3


This time, we talk about miso ramen, but the conversation goes more into our memories of times past in Japan. There aren't a lot of amazing miso bowls in Tokyo, but the ones that shine are great. Abram disagrees with my choice of Kururi, but we both agree that Oyaji out in Machida is amazing.


Sasaki Nozomi on the front. A lot of discussion about world finance in the issue. Good to know that Japan can save itself by taxing pachinko parlors.

See you next month!

長崎お土産 (Souvenir Ramen from Nagasaki)



My High School students took their annual field trip to Nagasaki last week. Omiyage, the obligatory gifts that you need to bring back, was a given. Expecting a couple rice crackers, I begged my girls for ramen. And sure enough, 2 of my 4 classes brought me back some Nagasaki ramen. Champon to be exact. Thank you, thank you, thank you!


But how to make it? I don't actually own a stove yet at my new apartment.


Hey Keizo, help me out!


Walking into a ramen shop and asking them to cook a bowl that you bought somewhere else is a definite no-no. That being said, Keizo and the Bassanova crew hooked it up.


Nice smell!



It was a bit salty, and the fact that there is corn in it makes it strange... but it's the thought that counts. It's actually the first time I've had champon from what I can remember. A strange type of ramen for sure. bits of seafood and vegetables are wok fried, then the soup and noodles are added together. It's almost more of a soup yakisoba than a ramen.

Thanks again! How about some reaction videos:




Wow, we should invest in some acting lessons before we continue down this road.


We had to try the secret Bassanova menu. If you read Go Ramen, you'll see a lot of this. The secret back fat is a great addition to the ramen. Nice work!


And the secret pork bowl was rad. Secret sauce!


Congrats Boom.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

神のしずく (Kaminoshizuku in Shinjuku)



The ラーメンアメリカ人 crew was at it again, checking out more noodle spots in Kabukicho. This time was to the relatively new Kaminoshizuku. Drops of the gods! Way to set the bar high.


Being Kabukicho, you need to be open late. Kaminoshizuku raises the bar and is open from 11am until 9am. Yeah, a mere 2 hours of down time to clean up and get ready for the next day. Keep that in mind.


Keep that in mind because I have, in my younger days, been stuck in Shinjuku after the last train of the night has left the station. Countryside dwellers need to be on the 11:30pm express, or else it's time for an all-nighter. A realxing ramen shop fits perfectly into the equation, and at Kaminoshizuku you can get a nice table in the back. A nice table complete with privacy curtain and... chandelier?


On this point, this shop is amazing. So relaxing and comfortable.


The counter seating out front proudly displays the ingredients in the soup. What can you recognize?




The menu isn't just ramen. Plenty of alcohol and snacks are available. Of course, we tried as much as we could.


The gyoza were normal. Your choice of Aomori prefecture garlic or Kagoshima prefecture pork.

The fried squid was excellent.


And then the ramen. There are an absolute ton of options. The best looking (from the plastic models displayed out front) was the spicy toributa. Made from a blend of pork and chicken bones, this one definitely had the look of tasty. But, to me, it wasn't as flavorful as I would have liked, and laden with oil. Too bad!


The standard shoyu ramen was the best of the bunch. Made with the past in mind, it is smooth and has a lot of flavors going on. You saw all the ingredients, here is where you see what they can do.


Then there were the outliers. The menu shows off a few curious choices. The milk and cheese tsukemen and the Napoli style tsukemen were 2 that caught my eye. Well, eye, how is it?


The Napoli style was , as expected, a tomato based soup. Mixed with a chicken broth and some sort of meat sauce, the smell was fantastic. But when the noodles were dipped, a definite under-performer. Taking a soup spoon, I tried the dipping sauce alone, sans noodles. It was great. The soup alone is like something you would get at a nice soup restaurant. The noodles are a complete mis-match here. If I could change it, I would go with a thin noodle, and cover those noodles with powdered parmesean cheese (fresh-grated would be great, but unrealistic). The noodles would catch the soup a bit easier that way. But maybe that wouldn't fit in with the "Napoli" image.

Despite the disappointing ramen, this place is one that I will keep in the back of my mind, for the next time that last train goes whizzing off and a need a place to sit down for a spell.

Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Kabukicho 1-27-5
Closest station: Shinjuku

Open 11:00am-9:00am (!!)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ramen American in Osaka

Nice work Abram!

笑梟 (Fukuro in Nishi-Shinjuku)

肉そば家 笑梟


This shop, whose name means laughing owl, is just around the corner from my apartment. It is also right across the street from Shinjuku's Chuo Park, often lovingly referred to as Murder Park. The implication is that it is scary there at night. Best to cross the road and have a bowl.


Lunch time gets you a free bowl of rice. My kind of price!


This ramen wasn't bad. Nothing spectacular, but definitely a good spot to get lunch at if you work in the area.


Remember, ramen at it's base level is a hearty fast food for the working man. Gourmet ingredients and shops with hour long waits are not possible for the average Joe.


Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 4-14-2
Closest station: Nishi-Shinjuku-Gochome

Open 11:30-16:00, 17:30-1:00am
Closed Sundays

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Tokyo Toy Run 2011


Sorry for the completely un-ramen related post. That's me in the Santa suit, my motorcycle covered with toys.

Every year, my motorcycle club organizes a charity event. We collect toys, load up our bikes with said toys, and ride from Tokyo to orphanages in the surrounding area. The idea of a "Toy Run" is very common around the world. But for some reason, it never happened in Japan. We set about to change that, and had a very successful 2009 event, with about 80 riders showing up. In 2010, that number almost doubled. We also did a lot more, like collecting money from organizations in order to buy some much needed things for the kids, like shoes and a bench for the orphanage. We are hoping that 2011 will be even larger!

You can see some pictures from the 2009 event here and the 2010 event here.

If you would like to make a donation to our event, please click the paypal link below. This year's event is on December 11th. Donations after that day will go to the next years run. Anything will help, even just a couple bucks.

Thanks for the distraction!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

花道 (Hanamichi in Nakano)

味噌麺処 花道


Research is often an afterthought on the ramen adventure. Note down a shop, maybe look up their hours, and when the time and location is good, eat. Hanamichi's research taught me that the chef worked for both Inosho and Nakamoto, 2 of the hottest bowls around. Of course, this research was done after I ate their standard, spiceless bowl of miso ramen.


Free garlic, fresh and raw.


This is one thick bowl of miso. Intense and creamy, it would make a great backdrop for some spice. If I had done my research.


I bet these noodles, eggy and cooked firm, would have held onto just the right amount of fire.

Regrets aside, this miso is a contender. I'll be back.


Tokyo, Nakano-ku, Nogata 6-23-12
Closest station: Nogata

Open 10:30-15:30. 18:00-22:30
Weekends 10:30-21:30
Closed Tuesdays

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

虎嘯 (Kosho in Roppongi)

麺屋武蔵 虎嘯


The shop I planned on eating at this day was unexpectedly closed. Which meant I was wandering around Roppongi at 11am looking for a ramen shop. Roppongi is one of the worst neighborhoods for good ramen. The expat community here, wealthy bankers mostly, tend not to wait in lines for cheap eats. A reservation for 2 at Pierre Gagnaire... sure. A ramen shop... not so much. This leads to Roppongi ramen that caters to the other side of the expat community, drunks.

Maybe you can read between the lines, I despise Roppongi.


But the latest crop of ramen magazines seem to be Roppongi-centric. One recommended rookie was near the famous crosswalk, as was I.


The latest Menya Musashi.


If anything, these shops are gorgeous. The attention to detail is everywhere. Kosho, the tiger's roar, means tiger motif. While you wait for your ramen, go ahead and see how many you can spot.

Dark walls, flawless steel, and dynamic lighting all add to the relaxing atmosphere.


Not the best in it's class, but satisfying. I always feel like something is lacking at the Menya Musashi shops.

On the other side though, there is always some point that stands out, something great, at these shops. Here, the pork is deep.


At 1000 yen, it's a bit spendy. Who would I recommend this shop to? Anyone in the vicinity, as it may be the best bowl in central Roppongi.

Tokyo, Minato-ku, Roppongi 4-12-6
Closest station: Roppongi

Open 11:00-22:00

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

中村屋@WeST PArK CaFE in Kichijoji

中村屋@WeST PArK CaFE


WeST PArk CaFE is a popular burger joint in Kichijoji. Classy burger joints are a theme in this part of Tokyo, as are all manner of chic eateries.


Nakamuraya is the renowned ramen shop from Ebina. Sometime last year they teamed up, and the result is one of the most popular shops in the area.


A burger?!? What is the meaning of this!


That's better. The shio is dusted with yuzu peel. Great stuff, very fitting of the atmosphere.

Speaking of atmosphere, this shop's second floor is a bit of a book cafe. What sort of reading is appropriate?


Irony never tasted so good.


Dr. Atkins approves! Go ahead and eat as much ramen as you want, and watch those kilograms disappear.


Tokyo, Musashino-shi, Kichijojihonchome 2-19-7
Closest station: Kichijoji

Open 11:30-22:00
Weekends and holidays until 23:00