Monday, March 28, 2011

ラーメン義援隊 (Ramen Aid)

Ramen shops in Tokyo (and across Japan) are teaming up to provide some much needed aid, in the form of both money and time, to the disaster in the North. For now, all the information is in Japanese. Check the links below if you can read 日本語. The gist is that a lot of shops will be sending staff up north to make some much needed comfort food for those in need.

Many shops will also have collection boxes, which will go directly to the Red Cross of Japan. When your change falls out of the ticket machine at your favorite ramen shop, drop it on in.

Official Blog

List of participating shops


Gourmet Navi

Ramen Database

秀ちゃんラーメン (Hide-Chan in Hong Kong)


Walking through the Lan Kwai Fong district of Hong Kong, I saw a recognizable sight. Ramen.


But the newest branch of internationally famous Hide-Chan was yet to open. And my return to Japan was uncertain. Noticing that the opening date could possibly be after my flight, I asked the staff, busy with preparations, for some info. After some formal trading of business cards, I was invited to a VIP tasting event later that night. Always carry official looking business cards, and always be ready for an adventure.


Later in the day, I found the shop's rookie staff in a nearby park, waiting for the boss to call them back in. Cool kids, good luck with you're Japanese studies!


Once again, you get a questionnaire style order sheet. Once again, I had to ask for the Japanese version. A lot of options here. I'm guessing a lot of the slurpers will be intoxicated people finishing up their drinking session in nearby LKF. Go ahead and check off garlic, it's healthy for a hangover.


On the menu: White, Black, Red.


The red comes with a healthy dose of hot. Hong Kong people have a bit more of a tolerance for spice, as evident here. Be careful!


The black adds a little mayu to the mix.


As for the ramen, it could use some work. I think they took it down a bit to cater to the Hong Kong palette. Not so rich and creamy, and a bit heavy on the spice. I think back to the limited Hide-Chan I had a few months ago, and am surprised at how different the taste is.


The shop, on the other hand, is gorgeous. A massive wooden counter, where every step of the ramen making process is viewable to the customers, both in the shop and on the street. Jet black walls, highlighted by a lone red lamp in the entrance. Loud music. Even though the food wasn't as good as it could be, this shop has all the makings of a trend setter.

If you give it a try, let me know what you think. I'd love to hear what some Hong Kong natives think. I would especially like to hear people's comparisons of Hide-Chan and Butao. Both with roots in Kyushu tonkatsu, but taking very different steps in the foreign market.


On April 1st, all proceeds will go to the Red Cross to support Japan.

豚王 (Butao in Hong Kong!)



An unexpected extension of my spring break in Hong Kong left me with a lot of extra time. My 5 day limited adventures left little room for ramen. My new 3 week vacation gave me nothing but free time. But let me say, Nagi's first overseas shop, Butao, was definitely scheduled in the 5 day version.

I rolled up at about 3pm and asked the staff if they would be open a little later at 6pm. "Sorry, we are already almost out of soup for the day". Maybe it was my use of Japanese, or the fact that master chef Ikota-san recognized me, but the last 2 bowls of the day were mine.

You see, serving up a mere 200 bowls a day means a heavily weighted supply and demand curve. The line is easily 2 hours throughout the day, and shows no sign of slowing up.


Taking a page out of *shudder* ichiran's book, you are given a multiple choice questionnaire to help decide. Please note, if you want Japanese, you'll have to ask for it; the default is Chinese and English.

Four choices: Normal, Black, Red, and Green.


My friend went with the green. Basil olive oil and parmesan cheese add an interesting touch. Untraditional, but good if you want a change from the norm.


I went with the black. Now we're talking. What is that thing anyways?


Black usually means a drizzle of mayu, burnt garlic oil. But Butao's black ball was a total mystery. If I had to crack a guess, I would say it's ground pork flavored with miso and colored with squid ink. Just a shot in the dark though.


I'm happy to say that Butao brought it. They really took what is great about thick tonkotsu ramen and introduced it to Hong Kong. Creamy and rich.


For those keeping score, it's very similar to their Shibuya shop.


Do me a favor, try it before you search the internet for reviews. Hong Kong's immensely popular seems to suffer from the same problem as America's Haters. On the other hand, thick, oily tonkotsu is definitely not a Hong Kong taste. Many reviewers point this out. The negative press is moot though, just look at the line.


I'd love to say it's the best ramen in Hong Kong, but I only tried one other shop. Most ramen in Hong Kong looks like the type you'd get at a shopping mall food court or the airport.


If you live and work in Hong Kong, it might be tough to take a few hours out of your day. But if you are just passing through, do yourself a favor and get in that line.

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


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.


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).


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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!


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.


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.


Four spoons, four votes.


Just drop them into the bin of your choice.


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.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

In this Tragedy, I'm OK

Just a quick update to let people know that everything is fine on my end. I flew to Hong Kong a day before the massive earthquake in Japan, missing out on it completely.

Please send good thoughts to those affected-


Tuesday, March 8, 2011


All you gotta say is, "Kaedama kudasai!"





Life is good.

大至 (Daishi in Ochanomizu)



I ventured out to another shop that was recommended by a ramen adventures site reader. I welcome all suggestions!


Daishi is listed as a simple shoyu ramen shop. A nice break from the usual heavy soups that I tend to find myself eating of late.


Can't find the shop? Look for the cute kitty brick on the ground.


Standard ramen with the shop's super won ton.


Simple, light, warming. Making the soup is a 10 hour process involving choice chicken parts and scallops, among other things.


Make sure you get the won tons, they are some of the best I've had.


I'm glad I tried their standard ramen, but the limited cheese fondue tsukemen was calling to me. It's only a few minutes from my apartment, so I'll try and make it back someday.


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Supleks dB

無鉄砲 (Muteppo in Nakano)



Muteppo is highly ranked. Sure, there are a dozen or so publications and websites with ramen rankings, but when your shop is on almost all of them, there's got to be something special about it.


Less than 6 months old, they already have a devout following. All I knew going in was that it is a tonkotsu shop. I was expecting creamy white soup with the standard toppings.


The staff asked how I wanted my noodles cooked. A usual question. But then, they asked if seiabura, back fat, was ok. That is definitely not a standard tonkotsu question. Of course, I accepted.


Wow. Intense hardly describes what is going on here.

The shop uses over 300kg of roasted pork bones a day. You can bet the impact is there. This is the definition of kotteri, thick and rich.


Top it with some soy marinated garlic slices.


My apologies to anyone sitting next to me on the train.


Another bonus, you can order a free side of light soup to add. Choose from either a fish broth or a light tonkotsu broth.


For certain one of the most intense tonkotsu ramens out there.

By the way, according to their website, they have a branch in Sydney. Any ramen adventurers down under? I'd love to here about it.

Check out my video review here!

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Official Site

More Info Here