Thursday, January 31, 2013

裏不如帰 (Ura-Hototogisu in Hatagaya)



Not really a 限定 (limited offering), but Hototogisu in Hatagaya becomes Ura (opposite) on Thursdays.


The soup is made with three kinds of niboshi, and the line is always long.

This was great, but I wasn't blown away. I absolutely love their regular bowl, though. So I'm going to be all ura myself and say that the rest of the week is better.


My original (very old) review of Hototogisu is here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Chinese Tapas Renge in Shinjuku

Chinese Tapas Renge


Be careful when you see a bowl in a magazine. Let me rephrase. Be careful if you see a bowl in a fashion magazine.


Sometime last year I picked up a copy of UOMO, a fashion magazine whose target audience is men in their 30s who have stylish handbags. I'm in my 30s, and I have a few stylish handbags, but the magazine had a nice feature about tantanmen shops in Tokyo that I was more interested in. Keep in mind that tantanmen is often served not at specialty noodle shops, but at your run-of-the-mill Chinese eatery as well. High-end Chinese spots also tend to serve up bowls.

There was no indication in the magazine of what category Renge fell into.


When I rolled in, solo, the staff looked at me like I was in the wrong place. Sure, the color of my skin and my uncommon height often do this in Japan, but this time it was the solo part. This is totally a date restaurant.

Bring a date, order some wine, and gorge on tasty Chinese-style tapas. Japan has a whole category of food that is akin to tapas; izakaya. For this reason, the concept of small plates served with the intent to drink isn't as magical as it felt back in America.

I ordered the XO ramen, the cheapest one on the menu at 1800 yen. The tantanmen was for some reason something like 3000 yen. There was also a Shanghai hairy crab ramen for just shy of 5000 yen. I was quietly informed that this is a tapas restaurant, and I need to first order some appetizers and drinks. The photo above is my five-piece set (the three-piece set is only for couples, I was also informed). Some olives, pickles, Shanghai sausage, chicken with house-blend spice, and fried wonton.


Then came the ramen. About half the size of a standard bowl, it was . . . refreshing. This XO sauce tinted pork topping added a nice layer on top of the consomme broth. Very basic, it definitely brought me back to the simplicity of noodles in Hong Kong. Noodles that cost about a dollar (in Hong Kong).

Which brings me to my conclusion. Though a nice, tasty snack, the bill of 4700 yen (over $50) for this was a bit too much.

I have a short list of high-end Chinese places that serve noodles, but I'll do my preparation in the future to avoid another surprise.


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Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-12-1
Closest station: Shinjuku

Open 18:00-24:00
Closed Mondays

Sunday, January 27, 2013

ムタヒロ (Chicken Mutahiro in Kokubunji)



Mutahiro, in Kokubunji, is one of the best shops on the Chuo line. Ah, the Chuo. The 2nd most famous train line in Tokyo. While the first, the Yamanote, just circles the metropolis in an endless loop, the Chuo heads out in a perfectly straight line deep into the heart of Japan. Don't fall asleep and miss your stop!


Mutahiro was making a bit too much good ramen. Is there such a thing? Not really, but if your shop makes two completely different types of bowls, a fishy niboshi and a simple chicken shio, why not expand? Why not have one shop for each. Mere blocks from each other.


So now, if you want niboshi, head out the south exit. If you want chicken, head out the north.


I've had the original chicken bowl before (it is great), but today was a special limited offering. Famous chicken and eggs from Oyama in Tottori Prefecture. Noodles made pasta-style. And a prize!


On this day only, customers got a Mutahiro sticker. Show it off on your cell phone, and in the future, your toppings are free. That's right, a VIP card.


In the future, you too can get a VIP sticker . . . if you get the lucky bowl. If the you finish the soup, you might see some lucky kanji at the bottom. Good luck!


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Tokyo, Kokubunji-shi, Honmachi 2-3-6
Closest station: Kokubunji

Open 11:30-15:00, 18:00-23:00
Closed Wednesdays

Friday, January 25, 2013

モモンガ (Momonga in Shinjuku)



All the latest ramen magazines say that shrimp ramen is a major trend. I have to agree. There are a dozen or so shops in my area going this route. Nearby Gonokamiseisakujo is one of my top shops.


Momonga's take is a winner. Thick soup, a touch of yuzu citrus, and plenty of dried sakura ebi for that extra shrimp kick.


There are non-shrimp options, for those with an aversion.


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Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Kabukicho 2-24-7
Closest station: Shinjuku

Open 11:30-24:00
Weekends until 22:00

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

バサノバの限定 (Limited B-C-T at Basanova)



Broccoli. Cheese. Tondaku.

Cream of broccoli blended with tonkotsu soup. Topped with bacon bits.

Hidden ham surprise inside.

It will be gone once the snow melts. Get it NOW!


Original review here.

Monday, January 21, 2013

金燕酒家 (Kinensyuka in Shinjuku)



You know what they call Christmas day in Japan?



Sure, Christmas Eve has been commercialized beyond belief, with every couple in the country eating specially made two-person cakes (about $40 from the 7-11 to around $100 from high-end cake shops), but Christmas day is just another day at the office.

We Jews can relate. Chinese food and a movie is an annual tradition.


Luckily, the Shinjuku mega-plex had a 2pm showing of The Hobbit, and there are endless choices for good Chinese in the neighborhood.


Hand-cut noodles done right. The perfect yin to the recent yang at the airport.


This is how they should be. The noodles are firm, and the spice is intense.


And when you ask for some extra sansho, they bring out an entire bowl of the Chinese numbing pepper.

Kinensyuka means some kind of golden swallow, by the way.


Capsule hotel on the 3rd floor, by the way.

Official Site Here

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Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Kabukicho 1-2-5
Closest station: Shinjuku

Open 11:30-2:30, 5:30-11:00

Saturday, January 19, 2013

メガガンジャ (Mega Ganja in Kawagoe)



Mega Ganja! What a name!


Actually, this is very closely related (in name and management at least) to the awesome Ganja tsukemen shop. When I heard that they opened a junk-style outlet, I put it on the short list of must-eats. But Kawagoe is a bit of a trek, about 40 minutes from Ikebukuro, and I'm not often out this way.


But today I was. Look at that bowl! I am a massive fan of Junk Garage, could this be on par? A sloppy mess of everything-good-ramen?


Not really. The key with junk-style isn't just fat. While Junk Garage ads texture (babystar) and spice (spicy shrimp mayo), Ganja just piles on the grease.

The one redeeming factor is the challenge factor. A group of high school boys, sat just down the counter from me, all ordered the big sized versions, and much trash talking followed as they slurped down the 4000 or so calories. The quickest of the lot was beaming with an alpha-male glow as he stumbled out ahead of his pals.


But unless you have something to prove, give this one a pass.

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Saitama-ken, Kawagoe-shi, Wakitamachi 5-5
Closest station: Kawagoe

Open 11:30-15:00, 17:30-22:00
Closed Mondays

Thursday, January 17, 2013

ヤナギヤ (Yanagiya in Morioka)



Kimchi natto miso ramen. With a 40 year history.


Talk about local!


I was, as is usual in these countryside towns I visit for work, toured around by a local. This was the final stop on a mega-食べ歩き night.


The key is that the kimchi and natto are blended with the soup, as opposed to being simple toppings.

I don't hate natto, but it isn't something I care for much in it's slimy, natural state. Blended with the soup, though, and all that remained was a slight essence of the stuff. A whiff of stinky, fermented soy beans if you will.


Yes, I will!


Wait, what's that on top?

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the rare cheese topping. It was odd for sure, and I don't know if I can recommend it. The sweetness of the local cheese, the stinky natto, the spicy kimchi, and the creamy miso. A lot going on. If you want complicated, this is for you!


Official Site Here

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Iwate-ken, Morioka-shi, Odori 2-2-15
Closest station: Morioka

Open 11:00-16:00, 18:00-5:00am
Closed Mondays

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

しじみ食堂 (Shijimi Shokudo in Meguro)



Remember the stamp rally I was on a mission to complete?


Boom! Of these eight shops, three were good. Of those three, one is Shijimi Shokudo.



A light shio, tinted with baby clams. The strainer full of clams was a definite first. Smart!


Sure, the shop is open for lunch, but they are also open well into the late hours of the night. Shijimi, those clams you just ate, are known as a hangover-prevention food. Smart!


Also on the menu was a maboroshi egg. The English speaking staff, a couple dictionaries, and I couldn't find a good translation for this word. Something along the lines of a dreamy illusion, so good it defies expectations. Totally true. This was one tasty egg! Shipped in from a local ranch in Okayama prefecture, topped with choice soy sauce and shaved bonito flakes.

Save room.


Official Site Here

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Tokyo, Meguro-ku, Meguro 1-17-23
Closest station: Meguro

Open 11:00-23:00

Sunday, January 13, 2013

渋谷三丁目 (Shibuya San Chome in Shibuya)

らあめん 渋谷三丁目


I woke up the next day and checked my camera. Even in states of inebriation, ramen is a must in Tokyo. What exactly happened?


Cake! This was actually an end-of-the-year party for one of the many facebook ramen groups I belong to. Very cool, about a hundred noodle lovers from the greater Tokyo area converging in Shibuya to drink and eat cake. Become a fan!


You can imagine that we eventually made a decision to get our slurp on. But where? We had a group of about nine, and fitting into a ramen shop with that many is tough. Luckily Shibuya San Chome, on that ramen-heavy street out the South Exit of Shibuya Station, had us covered.


A vinegary su-men. Hmmmm . . .


A soupless mazemen made with thin Hakata noodles. Hmmmmm . . .


Ah, the standard stuff. Shibuya San Chome is a Hakata-style tonkotsu place, though they tried to make it into a veritable Chinese restaurant with all the side menu items and variations on the norm.

Frankly, those variations were all kind of weird. The standard one is the way to go!

Sure, the nearby Nagi is leaps and bounds better, but this was a rad bowl with some rad new friends, so who can complain.


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Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 3-

Open 11:00-4:00am