Thursday, August 30, 2012

南京町ラーメン (Kobe Chinatown Ramen)



Kobe isn't known as a ramen town by any means. Though the namesake Kobe Beef has been used to make ramen, you are better off seeking your fix elsewhere.


Though I consider ramen a total Japanese food, the Chinese roots mean that most Chinese restaurants serve the stuff. It should be obvious that a Chinatown would be a good spot to search. Kobe is one of the three major Chinatowns in Japan. Yokohama and Nagasaki play host to the other two. But San Franciscans be warned, the only thing Chinese about these so called towns is the generic font that the shops use. Touristy to say the least. But touristy can be good sometimes.


Grab a seat. The main square has a handful of street-side ramen shops, all with prices at about 300 yen.


Simple, shark fin (probably fake) noodles.


On the small side, but a good value for the novelty factor. The ultra-thick soup is magma-hot. Be careful.


Oh, and get the frozen, shaved fruit cups. The wait was like 20 minutes . . .


. . . but this was rad!


Monday, August 27, 2012

GR8 in Ichikawa

自然派レストラン グレイト(GR8)


Ever since slurping my first bowl of green curry ramen at Basanova all those years ago, I've been intrigued by the combination. Other shops have the stuff, but it has never been something I would think of ordering again. I heard that GR8 (great?) out in Chiba had a creamy green curry ramen on their menu. Intrigued.


The shop is less of a ramen shop and more of a soups-that-match-with-rice shop. You can technically throw noodles in any soup and call it ramen, a practice that is still common at Thai restaurants in the city. A practice that is quite abominable!

But you have to give a shop a chance.


The toppings are eclectic. Grilled chicken, melty cheese, mounds of mushrooms. I went with the double veggies for 200 yen.


Well, at first, the "double" veggies is a disappointment. Is that just an extra pinch of lettuce? It's a rhetorical question.

The soup made up for that. A solid, Thai-style curry. Creamy and just a bit spicy.


Didn't match well with noodles. Once again, this was just a great bowl of soup with noodles thrown in. Most menu items are available with either ramen noodles or some nice full-grain rice. Go with the rice.


The thick rice ice cream is fantastic.


Chiba-ken, Ichikawa-shi, Ichikawa 1-26-10
Closest station: Ichikawa

Open 11:30-24:00

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Chianti Lunchtime Ramen



Chianti is a slightly overpriced chain of Italian eateries, with shops all over the country, mostly in Tokyo. Not exactly my kind of place to eat at.


My daily bicycle commute takes me past one of these shops, so the opening of a special lunchtime Italian ramen shop was quickly noticed. Anticipation was high. The Buono! Buono! at the bottom of the noren hinted that maybe, just maybe, this was a reincarnation of long-closed Buono Buono in Nakameguro, one of the best Italian tomato ramen shops I have been to.


Unfortunately . . . no relation.

Unfortunately . . . tasted like Cambell's Soup with some instant noodles tossed in.

Unfortunately . . . there was a hair in my oshibori (moist hand cloth).


Skip it.


Tokyo, Nakano-ku, Honmachi 2-29-13
Closest station: Nakanosakaue

Open 11:45-14:00
Closed Weekends

Friday, August 17, 2012

田中商店 - Tanaka Shouten in Adachi-ku



Here it is . . . Tanaka Shoten. This is perhaps the most famous shop in the greater Tokyo area for Nagahama-style tonkotsu ramen. I say Tokyo area because, though it is technically within the city limits, this place is a trek to get to. But more often than not, the trek can elevate a bowl from normal to extraordinary. Tanaka Shoten is the perfect example.


For me, from Shinjuku, it took about 30 minutes racing along on my motorcycle. By train it is much more of an endeavor. From my station it is about an hour with five line changes on the way. On the map, it is just off the 318, a road that circumnavigates the entire Tokyo area. Check it out!

Is Tanaka Shoten is the most revered Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen outside of Kyushu? It is as traditional as it gets, down to the open-late mentality. Four in the morning is the last order.


The shop is stinky, the line is long but quick, and the menu is small.


Of course, I went with the standard. Not that I had much choice. I could have had it with more pork, or more green onion, or more of whatever topping I wanted. All bowl come with the same soup and noodles, and that is what I was concerned with.


The only outlying option here is the 赤オニ, red devil spice mix. A tangy dollop of spiced ground pork.


A good bowl, though the trek could either make or break your opinion of it. If you travel solo far out of your way for this bowl, you will be disappointed. But if you make an adventure out of it, this is a great bowl of destination ramen in Tokyo.


Tokyo, Adachi-ku, Hitotsuya 2-14-6
Closest station: Rokucho

Open 18:00-4:00am

Monday, August 13, 2012

弥彦の夏限定 - Summer Special at Yahiko



Three of my favorite things:


My bicycle. Finding a 22 inch mountain bike in Japan was tough.



And Mexican spices. Actually, I am a complete chili nut. Growing up in California, I had ample access to a dozen or so varieties of dried and fresh chilis. Pasella, pobleno, ancho . . . I learned how to cook with them all.


This is a great limited special, but don't expect much Mexican flair. Japan is probably one of the least knowledgeable countries in the world when it comes to real Mexican cuisine. Yahiko goes a step beyond the standard taco-taste, albeit a small step. Corn, tomatoes, and some tortilla chips account for the Mexican toppings, and a chili spice mix is added to their always excellent curry soup.


I would actually recommend their original curry tsukemen over this. But if you want to do the whole summer limited thing, you won't be disappointed.


Eleven secret spices? Not a secret anymore!


Friday, August 10, 2012

りんすず (Rinsuzu in Oshima)

中華蕎麦 りんすず食堂


Lemon ramen?


This local shop, out on the east side of Tokyo is a bit of a mystery.


The menu includes random choices like clam ramen and spicy curry ramen, all at prices you would never find in a more central location. 650 yen is a steal of a deal these days!

We had a few people, so a sampling of choices was no problem.


The regular Rinsuzu ramen.


The spicy rayu ramen.


And the lemon ramen.

Unfortunately, the lemon overpowered the flavor of the two other bowls, so I can't really comment.

Fortunately, the lemon was the unexpected winner of the bunch. Who would have known that a citrus overload could match well with a shoyu soup. Well it does, though the strangeness makes this something I won't be making the trek out for on a regular basis.

Bonus! I shot a video with AKB48  member Rina Hirata a few years after this post. Enjoy!


Tokyo, Koto-ku, Oshima 5-7-3
Closest station: Oshima

Open 11:30-14:30, 18:30-22:00
Closed Tuesdays

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

ソラノイロの夏限定 - Summer Special at Soranoiro



Soranoiro can do no wrong. The head chef, Miyazaki-san, is a rising star in the ramen scene. You can be sure that a limited summer special is going to be something fantastic.


There is a definite color theme going on here. Going clockwise, that is gari (pickled ginger), yamaimo (a kind of slimy root vegetable),umeboshi (pickled plum [actually a kind of apricot]), chicken chashu, an egg, and pickled cabbage on the top. A lot of pickled things means sourness abounds in this one.


Add in some lemon jelly.


Go ahead!


Dump it all in. Sweet and sour, this cold noodle dish is super fun.


You can bet I drained the bowl!

Soranoiro has been making a lot of genteis lately. Keep it up!


Saturday, August 4, 2012

我武者羅の夏限定 - Summer Special at Gamushara



Summer time is a time for ramen shops to let down their hair and do something different. The limited edition (限定 - gentei) offerings can be anything really. Strange flavors and unusual ingredients are the norm. And if your shop is already successful, it doesn't really matter if your experiment is a hit or miss.


Gamushara has a definite hit with this one. Ume tsukemen. The noodles are tossed with sour plum flavoring, the soup spiked with chopped up umeboshi (pickled plum), and the whole thing is accented with shiso. These are all fairly dominant flavors, so a weaker soup makes the best match. It is hard to say whether or not you should try this. If you like umeboshi and shiso, the answer is yes. If you don't, then it is a solid maybe.


Awesome twist at the end. Your left over soup becomes ochazuke, a rice dish of a hot tea soup poured over rice. I finish a lot of meals in Japan with a small wasabi and umeboshi ochazuke, but this was a first at a ramen shop.

On second thought those maybes should be upgraded to certainly.