Monday, January 30, 2012

めとき (Metoki in Okubo)



In English, we say 3rd time's a charm. Seems like a good saying. Most things worth the wait are worth a few tries. But in Japanese, the phrase goes 七転び八起き. 8th time's a charm. Whether or not this was my 8th time to Metoki, I can't be certain. Definitely more than 3.


There was the time that NHK wanted to film me eating here. No go.

Just about everyone who I eat ramen with on a regular basis in Tokyo has met me in Tokyo's Korea town, Okubo, and walked past the massive lines of countless yakiniku and K-pop music shops, only to be witness to another failed attempt.


But the truth of the matter, the shop's master has been getting on in years, and undisclosed health concerns have forced him to take random days off from work.

Hearing through the grapevine that the shop would probably be open again gave me the motivation to try one last time.


This is Tokyo ramen. The light taste of niboshi, much less than other shops in the same category. A massive handful of menma. And a lot of noodles.


By the way, the regular size is simply massive. I could tell that a few other customers (petit ladies as well as large dudes) regretted that decision. Be warned, unless you are training for the next sumo grand tournament, go with the small size.


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Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Okubo 2-29-8
Closest station: Shin-Okubo

Open 11:00-14:30
Closed Sundays and Mondays

Saturday, January 28, 2012

ラーメンアメリカ人 8-11 (Ramen Americans Month Three)

Another month of Weekly Playboy. Another month of Ramen Americans and our ramen discussions. Another month of AKB48!

(If the images below don't show up, I blame SOPA! Someone somewhere seems to be blocking photos of magazines. If you click on the missing photo, it takes you to Flickr, where you can see the photos. If anyone knows how to get around this, let me know!)

Shinoda Mariko. I gotta say, she looks great with the short hair. Read on for some Christmas date ideas for the guys with girlfriends, and some tips on new ways to use your Tenga for the guys without.

In the last column, I said how much I dislike Jiro. I clarify that I only mean the original Jiro. There are actually some Jiro-style shops that I enjoy . . . sometimes. Mmmmm, Fujimaru.

Merry Christmas! That's singer and idol Yoshiki Risa. As a bonus, you get stickers! Of her!

We start talking about trips we've taken to eat ramen. I've traveled a lot in this country, often with the intent of eating. I introduce a couple shops, and then we talk trash about yankees, which are a demographic of young people in the countryside of Japan. One word . . . mullets.

It's the first issue of the new year. AKB on the front, as one would expect. There is a wonderful, photo-rich piece about the state of the disaster zone in the north. The before and after scenes are striking. がんばって日本!

More travel-talk this time. Asahikawa and Fukuoka . . . nice memories! I don't talk a lot about it on this site, but I have a lot of holiday time from my jobs in Japan, and take every chance I get to travel, usually by motorcycle. Very often, a spontaneous ramen adventures happens.

Actress Takei Emi. Not pictured on the cover is Bull Nakano, who gets a few pages. Don't know Bull Nakano? Head over to youtube.

Hanging out at Kaminoshizuku, we talk about the reception our column has gotten. Using our new found fame to pick up girls at the local 7-11? Why not!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

マタドール (Matador in Kita-Senju)

牛骨らぁ麺 マタドール


All the ramen celebrity eaters have been here.


And heaps of congratulation letters cover the wall.


This is what happens when you land your newly opened shop on the cover of the annual TRY magazine. Tokyo Ramen of the Year.

業界最高権威 TRY認定 第12回ラーメン大賞 2011-12 (1週間MOOK)

I like this magazine. It's not so great as a guidebook, but it gives a nice insight into which shops are making waves. Matador sits on the podium for both their shoyu and their originality.


The 贅沢焼牛らぁ麺 (luxirious roast beef ramen) is as good as it looks. Giant slabs of roast beef, local green onion, extremely high grade shoyu and mirin; I usually feel that 1000 yen for a bowl is too high, but in this case it's almost too low.


Since the soup is made from nontraditional beef bones, expect a much sweeter bowl here than your average.


No word on whether any real matadors were employed in the creation of this bowl.


東京都足立区千住東2-4-17 中村ビル1F
Tokyo, Adachi-ku, Senjuazuma 2-4-17
Closest station: Kita-Senju

Open 11:30-14:30, 18:00-soup runs out
Weekends 11:30-soup runs out
Closed Mondays

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

イチゴラーメン (Strawberry Ramen at Papapapapine)



Hold on a second . . .


Why does the shop that serves up pineapple ramen still have such a long line? I admit, it is worth a try, but I am shocked that it has gained such a following. A better question would be, why am I back here?


For their monthly special. Yeah, the shop that only does pineapple juice infused soup, with pineapple toppings and pineapple soaked eggs, has an interesting way to get you coming back.


No, not the pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-point card, though that's a nice touch.


No, not the pineapple beer (which they were out of by the way).


It's this. Strawberry ramen. Their monthly limited edition fruit ramen. Yes, I said limited edition fruit ramen. Next month will be something new.

Is this something that would send you straight to the to-to-to-to-toilet?


At first taste, it kind of was. The smell of strawberry puree in a light shio broth was just as you would imagine. Go ahead, dump a jar of jam into your chicken soup. As smell gives the strongest influence on taste, the first taste was a bit off as well.

But then something magical happened. The raw onion began to soften, and the little bit of cheese hidden under that red strawberry topping began to melt. The unexpected combination . . . was actually good.

Definitely an IMHO though. I finished every last drop, but don't expect anyone else to.


Next month's limited edition fruit ramen? I asked. He answered.


The original review of Papapapapine can be found here.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

風来居 (Furaikyo in Shinjuku)



Happy New Year everyone.


2004 is going to be a good one, I can tell. Judging by the recent trends in ramen, advancements in the instant stuff, and a newly opened ramen museum in Yokohama, this humble food is finally going to get popular!


Looking at the recommended shops within walking distance of my apartment (circa 2004), Furaikyo looked to be the best that I hadn't slurped yet. It was also the only one I hadn't slurped yet, but that is besides the point. The tonkotsu-shio blend looked positively warming, and the recent temperature in Tokyo required hot food.


The spicy version had a lot of Korean flavors in it. Peppy, but nothing to cause any sort of capsaicin-induced pain. Go for something with extra pork here, it was the one thing that stood out the most.


See you in 2005!


東京都新宿区西新宿7-19-18 セドール新宿1F
Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Nishishinjuku 7-19-18
Closest station: Shinjuku

Open 11:00-23:00

Friday, January 20, 2012

純連 (Junren in Takadanobaba)



Have I been here before? Junren is probably the most famous Sapporo-style ramen shop in Japan. The Tokyo branch in Takadanobaba is definitely popular, so why don't I remember eating here? Even the interior gave off a deja-vu vibe for me.


Certainly enough of the ramen elite have been here. The shop has been a mainstay for years, a bit of the north all the way down here in Tokyo.


But I just don't remember. And after this bowl at lunch today, I have a feeling that once again, the memory will disappear. The first sip is good, but after that, I struggled with the second one. The little flavors, the hint of sweetness and ginger, it's gone in a second and replaced by a simple struggle to eat.

I could swear I remember eating here, and I could swear enjoying it. Maybe I read it on someone else's blog.

I remember more about what I drank last night than the bowl I just ate.


Though that was one of the best makoris I've had in Japan. I can taste it now, the milky-white drink, foaming up with live cultures. Amazing.


Turns out I did sample the ramen of Junren in the past. I guess I went to the Tachikawa branch, and labeled it as Jyunren, almost 4 years ago. Yeah, I forgot.

Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Takadanobaba 3-12-8
Closest station: Takadanobaba

Open 11:00-23:30

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

69’N’ ROLL ONE in Machida

ラァメン家 69’N’ ROLL ONE


やった! Few shops in Tokyo elicit that response from me at the mere sight of an open sign. Usually the reason for celebration is that I've been here before, multiple times, but never had a bowl. 69 'n' Roll One falls under the category of ramen shops that are so lauded that they can afford to take random days off whenever they please. So it took me 3 separate treks out to Machida, on the border of Tokyo, to actually try this bowl.


We gotta explain the name. 69 'n' Roll One? Sound it out in Japanese and it's ro-ku-n-roll-one. Let's roku!


The ingredients here are the absolute cream of the crop. Iberico pork, premium soy sauce, and oil rendered from Akita chickens. Yes, the ramen here is way up at the top.


The interior is built like a 50's diner. Some rockabilly paraphernalia here and there, a long counter, and the chef. Junichi Shimazaki is famed for his fashion sense as much as his ramen. Donning a punch-perm and cheetah-print shirt, he silently oversees what has been consistently ranked as the best in Tokyo.


Yes, I said silent. The place is totally silent. Even the staff of 3, including Shimazaki-san, communicate in muted whispers. This is no fluke, it is well known that the shop is a silent place of ramen refuge, where a ringing cell phone is equal to a death sentence. You might get away with a mumbled word or 2, but I wouldn't chance it.

Feeling very reserved, even a little frightened, I didn't take any photos inside. But if you want to see the master, check out the recent Lucky Peach magazine for a comical drawing.

So here is this shop, where you feast on the finest ramen in utter silence, raising the experience to an almost surreal level. You are intensely focused, and every bit, every smell and taste, is an almost religious experience.

Is what I would love to say. But the silent treatment is totally unnecessary. Or is it? I think it would be better if it was more. Shimazaki-san is stern, that's for sure, but he doesn't seem like a bad guy. I want to see the full on Soup Nazi treatment. People kicked out for taking too long at the ticket machine, cell phones grabbed and thrown out the door when they make the *click* sound after taking a photo, tears as a young man chooses ramen over his girlfriend.


Worth the trek for a ramen junkie.

東京都町田市原町田3-1-4 町田ターミナルプラザ2F
Tokyo, Machida-shi, Haramachida 3-1-4
Closest station: Machida

Open 11:00-17:00

Monday, January 16, 2012

ラーメンアメリカ人 4-7 (Ramen Americans Month Two)

The Ramen Americans weekly column is going strong. As always, each week we pick a theme and talk about it. As always, you can grab a copy at your local bookstore, convenience store, or anywhere fine magazines are sold (in Japan!).


Cover-girl of the week is Watanabe Miyu, with promises of a solo photo-shoot inside. You'll also find articles about asbestos disposal in the disaster area and a cardigan buyers guide. Did you forget how random this magazine is?


Our article this week talks about some tonkotsu gyokai tsukemen shops we like. Our main idea is that most shops of this style are very similar, and it doesn't take much to be simply "good". Something extra is needed to make an impact. We both love Fuunji, hands down.


The cover is graced by 21 year old Nakamura Miu. As you can guess, it's not a work-safe photo spread. Inside the mag are articles about the pirate Blackbeard, and a write-up about Japanese sake that is popular overseas. Wow, a whole page on my favorite sake brewer, Masuichi! This is in no way a sake expert's site, but I highly recommend their Hekiiken. A dry brew that always gets compliments.


The article talks Abram's recent trip to Osaka to be on a morning show there. And, yes, I know our weekly English comment is less than correct grammatically.


Kashiwagi Yuki, you can't leave the house in Japan without seeing her and her fellow AKB48 members these days. There is a nice lesson on Chinese in this issue, with some useful phrases like このミカンマークではなく、アップルのiPhone4Sをください.


We talk about Abram's Kansai trip in more detail this time. Tokyo is king, but there are some really interesting looking spots out west.

Oshima Yuko. Didn't think you could learn about so many AKB48 girls on a ramen website? Think again! Also there is a photo-shoot where cute girls recreate キン肉マン fight moves.

Don't believe the hype! There are quite a few shops in Tokyo that are hyped beyond belief. We lay the smack down kinnikuman style. Sapporo Junrei? Go back to Hokkaido. Ichiran? Never. What about Jiro? We are split on that one, but you won't see any reviews of that artery clogging spot here!

See you next time!