Saturday, March 30, 2013

Mister Donuts Ramen

Mister Donuts


Simply eaten because it sits in my ramen bucket list. No expectations. Scratch that . . . low expectations.


Mister Donuts is a nationwide chain of donut shops. The cheap ones are about a buck, and premium ones not much more than that. I have been here hundreds of times, as they give free refills on their tasty cafe au lait.

And for some reason, they serve a very limited menu of Chinese food; noodles and dumplings.


The ramen . . . not bad! I'm sure the kakuni topping was preserved in an airlock bag and shipped from some far off place, and I'm sure the soup was from a bottle of concentrated brown liquid. But it wasn't awful. I'll just leave it at that.


About six bucks for the ramen, donut, and coffee.


This place is everywhere, and the hours are all a bit different.

Official Site Here

Thursday, March 28, 2013

ねいろ屋 (Neiro in Ogikubo)



This bowl was ranked as one of the best new shio ramen spots in Tokyo.


But there is a problem with that ranking. There are so few places trying to make a name with shio that you are pretty much guaranteed a spot on the annual lists.


A solid bowl, but nothing amazing. The shop occupies the old residence of Futaba, which I really loved. Armed with those memories of delicious ramen, Neiro had no chance with me.


But what's this? Today's special kakigori?


Yeeeeeeeesssssssssss! Kakigori, to branch as far away from ramen as possible for a minute, is Japanese shaved ice. But it is so much more. In the past (and present if you travel into the countryside), fresh river water was frozen in sheets and saved for the summer. The blocks are shaved with razor sharp blades to make this treat more of a cloud than a snowball.


And the toppings! Sugary syrup is strictly for the kids at the outdoor festivals. Real kakigori uses fresh everything. Expect juice squeezed at the shop, and honey infused with all kinds of flavors. On this day, the special was spicy ginger syrup topped with lime juice.



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Tokyo, Suginami-ku, Amanuma 3-26-14
Closest station: Ogikubo

Open 11:30-20:00
Closed Tuesdays and some Wednesdays

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

じもと (Jimoto in Nishidai)



Beef aburasoba is the lure at this lunchtime-only shop on the north side of Tokyo.


The first thing you notice is the smell. Beef fat. Smells like a steakhouse. Intense. Add to that beef tounge, chunks of fried beef, and three half-cooked quail eggs for something that has made all the magazines of late.


Jimoto turns into an izakaya at night, serving drinks and snacks into the late hours.


Definitively something worth checking out if you have the chance. Nishidai is a bit out of the way for most people, so I won't feel bad if you can't make it here for a weekday lunch.

There was a bit of a beef boom a few years back, and a bunch of bad shops made bad beef ramen. With shops like Jimoto and Matador on the scene, though, there is hope for the bovine based noodles.


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Tokyo, Itabashi-ku, Takashimadaira 1-79-1
Closest station: Nishidai

Open 11:30-14:30
Closed Tuesdays

Sunday, March 24, 2013

ホープ軒 (Hopuken in Sendagaya)



It is the other Hopu! Or is it Hope?


Awesome shop. I hope you can make it here. The ground floor is a standing counter, 2nd floor counter seating, and 3rd floor is tables.


This bowl is intense. Please, for the love of your digestive tract, approach this one with caution. This bowl is completely loaded with silky pork fat. There is soup in there, somewhere, beneath the inch of oil. Please don't try and drink this one, unless you known what you are doing.

Such a beautiful bowl, though. Wouldn't you agree?


And please, for the love of wontons, get the wontons. Mega-meaty things that match the bowl perfectly.

By the way, everything here is made in-house.


This shop has a lot of history. Back in 1960, the owner pulled a little yatai around the streets of Kabukicho, serving the late-night crowds. "We want white soup! Cook it longer," they cried. Instead of going down the road of Hakata's well known yatais style, Hopuken made his own.

For 15 years he dragged that cart around. I can only imagine what Japan was like then.


Official Site Here

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Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 2-33-9
Closest station: Kokuritsukyogijo

Open 24/7

Friday, March 22, 2013

野方ホープ (Nogata Hopu in Sendagaya)



Somewhere, on some list, I had written something about some ramen shop with ホープ in the name. It was a warm day, the first in a while, so I hopped on my bicycle and headed out. A Google Map search showed that it was somewhere super easy to get to. Just take the big road by my house, and turn on another big road a few kilometers away. No need to write anything down! Simple!


But I turned one street too late, and though not lost, was unsure where this place was. The next 30 minutes were spent searching randomly. Finally I ran right into it! Lucky?


Nogata Hopu, though it looks intense, had almost no taste. I would have never thought such a heavy bowl could be flavorless.

This is abura style ramen. Pork stock, flavored with soy sauce, and topped with a lot of pork back fat. My all-time favorite in this genre is Sengoku Jiman.

But, yeah, this one had no taste.


Until I added a massive pile of the table-side kimchi and raw garlic. Then it just tasted like garlic and kimchi.


When I got home, shock! This Hopu was the wrong Hopu! Just around the corner from Nogata Hopu is Hopu Ken. Yeah, I went to the wrong one.


Official Site Here

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Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 2-1-8
Closest station: Kitasando

Open 11:00-4:00am

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ramen Meccas: Nagasaki


Nagasaki City is just about the westernmost big city in Japan. The location is prime for trade, historically at least, and the area developed with a huge Chinese and Dutch influence. During the sakoku period (鎖国) a small part of Nagasaki was open to foreign trade. Stepping foot on Japanese soil anywhere else meant a swift death.


What did this mean for food? Well, the area supposedly mixed Chinese, Japanese, and Dutch cuisine into one. Honestly, I found that the only real European thing was the castella cake, of which there is an abundance. The rest is an Asian fusion which, as expected, includes noodles.


This is champon, Nagasaki's gift to the ramen world.


Champon, unlike other noodle dishes, is a one pot dish. Soup is boiled, noodles are dumped in the soup, and toppings are added. The word champon can mean a mix of things. It is often referenced as a bad formula for drinking. Beer before liquor, never sicker. More like beer before shochu before sake before highballs in Japan. Don't champon!


But do eat the champon in Nagasaki.


Even Rilakuma is a fan. I was only able to eat at three of the dozens of shops, and would recommend Eiseiro as the top pick. It had a small-shop feel, while the others were massive Chinese restaurants that felt more like a banquet.

For an in-depth (and funny Engrish lesson) check out this link:

By the way, of the dozen or so people I spoke with, most of them say Ringer Hut it their favorite. Go figure.


But what about ramen? Being Kyushu, you are sure to find a lot of good tonkotsu ramen shops. Most of the ramen is right around China Town. Not a lot, but enough for a tourist for sure. Check out this rad map!

nagasaki ramen map.jpg

Courtesy of Anna (

Monday, March 18, 2013

オールウェイズ (Always in Nagasaki)

麺也 オールウェイズ


I take all recommendations seriously. And when fellow Yahoo! Japan Ramen Ambassador Anna suggested this as her #1 in Nagasaki, I made sure to go.


Did Always name their restaurant with a glimpse of the future? Because if I lived in Nagasaki, I would always be going! (to this part of town because this is where all the ramen shops seem to be)


Tonkotsu soup (is there any other in Kyushu?) with all the trimmings.


The egg is local Nagasaki grown. The egg is good.


I had just eaten a few minutes before this bowl, so I didn't get the house special, aptly named Always Ramen. It looked great, though, with five pieces of their excellent chashu and a mound of julienned carrot.

Also on the menu is a lemon ramen with おすすめ printed next to it.


Expect a line.


Official Site Here

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Nagasaki-ken, Nagasaki-shi, Yorozuyamachi 5-22
Closest station: Shianbashi

Open 11:00-15:00, 18:00-24:00
Closed some Thursdays

Saturday, March 16, 2013

江山楼 (Kosanro in Nagasaki)



Kosanro is another highly rated champon spot in Nagasaki. What sets this one apart, besides the price, is the varied menu. Come with four or five people and you can have a Chinese feast. One can sample the champon, plus a few other things, by ordering the 4000 yen course. I went with just the champon. At 1500 yen, this is probably the most expensive one in Nagasaki. By comparison, the other two bowls I had were 1000 yen. Yeah, champon is on the spendy side.


But it lives up to the price when you see the toppings.


While the vegetables are strictly normal, the seafood it top notch. Yes, that is a shark fin on top. Also encountered were scallops, oysters, shrimp, squid, octopus, chicken meatballs, some kind of dumpling, a quail egg, and mysterious sea creature bits that might have been sea cucumber.

Mega-creamy soup. Too creamy to make this a regular dining spot.

If anything, this bowl was a lot of fun for a tourist like me.


I waited about an hour for a table, but that was during the annual lantern festival. Probably the busiest day of the year.


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Nagasaki-ken, Nagasaki-shi, Shinchimachi 12-2
Closest station: Shianbashi

Open 11:00-21:00

Thursday, March 14, 2013

永盛楼 (Eiseiro in Nagasaki)



Beautiful. Just look at that bowl!


Actually, I wanted to go to highly-rated Kanro for lunch, but it turns out that the famous shop, located in the middle of Nagasaki's red light district, is only open at night.

Eiseiro was the next on the list. If you get lost (as I did), as any local shop owner. They all know where this one is. I asked someone who sells tortoise shell art.


Now this is what I am talking about! The soup: a simple clear broth. The noodles: hearty, but nothing too special. The toppings: crisp and colorful.

This bowl simply speaks for itself. If you need more convincing, I'll be glad to help. Somewhere in the mix of bright orange, pink, and green was a half cooked quail egg and a ginger-tinted chicken meatball. The octopus, squid, and fried pork were all lightly seasoned, a perfect match for those vegetables.


The saraudon was equally great. Saraudon is, 100% of the time, available at champon shops.Similar toppings over crispy fried noodles. While champon is kind of a ramen with Chinese flavors, saraudon is all Chinese.



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Nagasaki-ken, Nagasaki-shi, Dozamachi 3-26
Closest station: Nishihamanomachi

Open 11:00-14:30, 17:00-19:30