Tuesday, March 20, 2012

井の庄 (Inosho in Nerima)

濃菜麺 井の庄


Let's take a moment and switch gears. Though we can all agree that a thick tonkotsu-shoyu soup is ambrosia, the nectar of the gods, we might not be able to agree on which god is slurping away up in his (or her) kingdom.

If you look at my ancestry, it's a Jewish gd. If you look at my recent travels, I am a devout Buddhist. If you look at the hip hop on my iPod, I associate with Muslims. I've chanted with cults, sang gospel in churches, and been audited by Scientology. This stuff fascinates me, and when I have the time, I will listen to people's religious spiel.


I ran into a group of 20 year old Mormons on their mission out on the Seibu line. Japan . . . not a bad place to be stuck for 2 years! Land of soy sauce and Mothra. They seized the chance to tell me more about their passion, and I took the chance to do the same. And that is how Elder Prince, Elder Zamarripa, Elder Reynolds, and I ended up at Inosho.


Inosho has a fairly famous shop in Shakujikoen. Their spicy tsukemen has been ranked on the short-list of Tokyo's hottest. I was completely unprepared for the Inosho in Nerima.




It would appear that way. I'm not the biggest fan of the garlic-ladden, male-sided Jiro style, but I'm in the clear minority. Inosho's stand-out difference was the atmosphere. Relaxed and friendly.

Get the ベジ topping. It's a bowl of cabbage and bean sprouts and extra that you dump in your ramen for a kick. The extra in question comes in 4 varieties. The ジロベジ was suggested by the staff. You can probably guess what comes with that.


As the name jiro-vegi suggests, it's garlic, garlic, garlic.


The spicy topping needs less of an explanation.


The tomato-vegi topping looked popular with the ladies.


Definitely an intense bowl, as all jiro-kei bowls are.


Thanks guys! Hope you didn't get any soup on your white shirts.


Tokyo, Nerima-ku, Nerima 1-6-18
Closest station: Nerima

Open 11:00-16:30, 17:30-1:30am
Sunday 11:00-16:30, 17:30-23:30

Friday, March 16, 2012

も一回ソラノイロ (Return to Soranoiro)


Neat business card. I had a chance to talk with Miyazaki-san, tencho at Soranoiro. This place is extremely busy at lunch, but in the evening it is a bit more leisurely. A perfect time for some ramen talk. Even though they are known as one of the best newcomers on the shoyu-scene, I was compelled to sample the vegetable offering on my first visit. Very good, and worth a try.


Get ready for some collaborations. At the time-of-slurping, Soranoiro was making a shio wontonmen with noodles from across-town ramen shop Nyaganyagatei.


Everything but the noodles are from Soranoiro, by the way.


Great looking men!


Nice execution. The wonton were super good and super big. So big that any attempt to lift one with the spoon resulted in said wonton reverting back to it's base ingredients. Using chopsticks is near impossible.


Though the shio was good, the shoyu was better. Smoky and rich, this is a satisfying bowl.


I mentioned collaborations a minute ago. Get ready for a ton of the hottest ramen shops in Tokyo to not only do an April bonanza of collabs, but a stamp rally / point card . . . with prizes. I'll let you know more when I know more!


My camera is incapable of taking good photos in other people's hand.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

はやしまる (Hayashimaru in Koenji)

麺屋 はやしまる


I kind of had to come here, to this Koenji local ramen spot. You see, in a recent issue of プレイボーイ, I claimed Hayashimaru as the best wontonmen in Tokyo. At least, that is what was printed. The truth is that Abram, the other half of ラーメンアメリカ人, was the one who made that quote. I hadn't even been here. Hayashimaru quickly moved to the top of my list.


Homemade noodles and homemade wontons are rarely a losing combination.


As expected, this place is great. It's very . . . local. Don't expect a line, or even another customer for that matter. But the mixed wontonmen, with a few pork wontons and a few shrimp wontons, is great. It's Tokyo-style, meaning a niboshi-shoyu soup. Although not technically part of the Tokyo-style definition, most shops like this have wontons. It's always worth the extra yen.


Tokyo, Suginami-ku, Koenjikita 2-22-11
Closest station: Koenji

Open 11:30-15:00, 17:00-21:45
Weekends 11:30-21:00
Closed Wednesdays and some Tuesdays

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Diet and Contest

In the beginning of February, my student / doctor took my blood pressure. 130/76. Not terribly high, but defined as pre-hypertension by a quick google search. My doctor's advice? You guessed it; stop drinking the ramen soup.


Let me make one thing clear. I hang out with ramen geeks. We drink ramen soup. Case in point, a recent video from Keizo, aka Go Ramen, aka the manager at one of the best ramen shops in Tokyo, Bassanova.

Actually, I am fairly in tune with my health. Go back 6 years and I was a 270 pound, Taco Bell eating, Mountian Dew drinking fat man. The story of my diet success is long, but the end result is that now I sit at around 180, and have never felt better. I watch what I eat, and was curious how ramen soup correlated to my high-ish blood pressure.


For the next month . . . no soup. Eat the noodles, spare the broth. It wasn't easy, but I did it. From 130/76 to 123/69. There you go. A month of no ramen soup and I dropped 5%. Was it worth it? Not really. Was it a truly scientific health study? No way.

I'm off for a bit of an adventure in America for the remainder of March. Will said adventure include ramen? Seeing as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York are all in the cards, it is a likely possibility. Stay tuned. I will post some mini updates over at the Ramen Adventure facebook page, so head on over and click the いいね! button already!

Speaking of facebook, I've got a contest over there. Leave a comment on or like the contest post to be entered. Good luck!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

黒門 (Kuromon in Shinjuku)

西新宿 つけそば 黒門


Even though I had a dinner date later in the evening, walking with my camera in Tokyo will inevitably lead to a ramen adventure. Kuromon is in my neighborhood of Shinjuku, and I had passed the shop a few hundred times before. Unfortunately for Kuromon, it lies just off the main drag of ramen shops on Shinjuku's skyscraper side; too far for a random hungry walker to stumble in to by accident. Also, it is close enough to Nagi Nicai for a seasoned eater to avoid it all together. But like I said, I had my camera with me.


The 200g 麻辛丸 looked like the one for me. 麻辛丸 doesn't have much meaning, unless you sound it out. Ma-Shin-Gan.


This semi-automatic comes at you from a few angles. First, the soup is meant to knock you down with spice. More of a tang, this bullet was a dud.


Trying to flank you, the 200g of pork is a heavy hitter.


Wow. This much meat at a place without a crowd can be a bad thing. Being stuck with a quarter kilo of tough, dry pork is something I have done a few times in the past. Not keen to do it again.


Luckily, the pork here was excellent. Nowhere present in any best-of lists, but tender enough, once dipped in the soup, to be thoroughly enjoyed. The tangy, the fatty, the smoky; not bad.

But like I said, this shop is in the middle of a major ramen zone, and there are many tastier offerings.


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Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 7-10-12
Closest station: Shinjuku

Open 11:30-15:30, 17:15-24:00
Sunday 11:30-20:00

Sunday, March 4, 2012

馬賊 (Bazoku in Nippori)



You come here for the handmade-on-the-spot noodles.


Flour flying everywhere.


You come here for the noodles.


The ramen at Bazoku is definitely on the standard-tasting side. Don't expect wisps of kodawari flavors to come through anytime soon. But in the search for gourmet ramen, where rare and novel ingredients push the latest shop to the top of the list, it can be easy to forget what is so good about a simple bowl of noodles. The original purpose of that soup that has become so important was to keep the noodles hot. A little salty and fatty for flavor, in no way meant to come near the star of the bowl. The noodles are what sustain you. And the noodles here are cheap, irregularly shaped, and perfect.


Tokyo, Arakawa-ku, Nishinippori 2-18-2
Closest station: Nippori

Open 11:00-23:30