Monday, April 29, 2013

ソラノイロの限定 (Limited Black at Soranoiro)



Soranoiro is constantly doing limited bowls.


This one was black. Deep, black soup. Noodles a few shades from the traditional white. Soy-soaked egg. Black seaweed on top.


Always unique, always great.


And, like all the limited bowls here, gone for months before this post goes live!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

武道家 (Budoka in Nakano)

横浜家系らーめん 二代目 武道家


Ie-kei, that specific style of ramen from Yokohama, is tough to recommend. It is an intense bowl, almost too intense. Out of the dozen or so spots I have tried, I can only say I really liked two of those; Yoshimura and Oyamaya.


Budoka could be a solid third.


The staff greeting alone makes this place great. Instead of the usual irashaimasen, a shortened sha! is all that is screamed.




Like most ie-kei, it is tough to point out things that make this different. It has the heavy, stinky soup. It has the wonderfully flavorful pork. It has the stewed spinach and nori seaweed. It all comes together to make a decent bowl in Nakano.


This was a recommendation from Miura-san, the man behind my top pick, Kikanbo. Nice!


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Tokyo, Nakano-ku, Nakano 3-34-32
Closest station: Nakano

Open 11:00-15:00, 16:00-1:00am

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Provence in Bangkok

กรุงเทพมหานคร Provence


More boat noodles in Bangkok, this time done to perfection (as far as someone who has only tried a few bowls in Thailand can tell).


This restaurant, Provence, is in the middle of the Peninsula Plaza shopping center, in the heart of Bangkok. A very not-crowded place, this mall screamed old money. Tacky old-lady necklace shops, travel agents with worn leather sofas, and for some reason a really great open-air restaurant smack in the middle.


The soup is decadent. Congealed blood adds a ton of flavor. I would like to see some ramen shops in Japan doing something like this.


See you again, Thailand!


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Nara in Bangkok

กรุงเทพมหานคร Nara


Calling the Thai dish of boat noodles ramen would be like calling Vietnamese Pho spaghetti. But since I'm here in Bangkok searching for great local food, I might as well show you what I found.

Boat noodles are, by definition, rice noodles in a beefy broth that is flavor-enhanced with blood. All kinds of beef or pork parts can make their way in as toppings. This is an intense dish. From the amount of local press, some people are fanatical about this dish. Almost as fanatical as I am about ramen!


Here at Nara, the spicy version came recommended.

It was just so-so. The toppings, various cuts of beef and pork, were quite nice. But the soup was boring. And I'm never a huge fan of rice noodles that look like ramen noodles.

But, like most food in Thailand, it was super cheap. A mango smoothie from the same shop costs more than the bowl of noodles.


Official Site Here

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Chinese Noodles at the Chiang Mai Women's Prison



You can find ramen in the strangest places.


Anyone with a guidebook in Chiang Mai knows about this place. The inmates are given life skills training, namely in traditional Thai massage.


The place is popular, and an hour wait is common.


Chinese noodles! Is it ramen? Who really cares, at only 45 baht this is a no-brainer.


Ramen . . . sort of. I'm fairly certain they didn't make a tare. And I'm pretty sure the noodles aren't made with any sort of Chinese recipe in mind. But this bowl of simple shio ramen was actually pretty great.


A bit of tang, and a bit of a Thai touch. Ground peanuts for some reason.


Excellent massage, by the way.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Ramen Bar Suzuki in Singapore



A trip to Southeast Asia can either be a massive ramen adventure or a massive local foods adventure. I chose the latter, and Ramen Bar Suzuki was the only place I ate at during my spring break holiday.


Around 150 ramen shops in Singapore alone. Other cities like Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur are also chock full of Japanese-style ramen. Most of these shops feel very artificial, though. All the big names like Ippudo, Chabuya, and Menya Musashi have food court ramen in department stores. It is weird, but that is how things work over here. Stand alone shops are very uncommon.


My good friend Take Suzuki actually helped produce quite a few of these shopping mall ramen shops. Finally, after a few years, he was able to branch off and open his own.


Great tonkotsu ramen in the heart of the city.


There is a big variety, with red, green, black, and white versions. I would recommend the white version, as good as you are used to back in Japan. Red is spicy, black garlicky, and green is a kind of Italian fusion thing.


The location is great. Almost on the banks of the Singapore River.


I'm not too knowledgeable about the geography of Singapore, but the riverside promenade that Suzuki is next to is three kilometers of bars. On both sides.

Like I said, great location. It is no wonder they are able to pack in around 300 bowls of ramen a day.


Great city for great food.


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61 Circular RD #01-01, Singapore, Singapore 049415
Close to Raffles Place Station

Open 11:30-10:00pm

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

篝 (Kagari in Ginza)


I need to make a new best-of. Kagari needs to be on people's hit list.


Only a few weeks old, this shop looks more like a pricey sushi bar than a ramen joint. The nondescript back-alley can barely contain the line, which draws stares from the passersby, most on their way to buy a new LV handbag or Jimmy Choos.


The seasonal vegetable topping is a necessary addition to the silky rich tori paitan. Creamy and refined, this shop is at home among the high end upper crust that is Ginza.


The niboshi ramen and tsukemen are highly praised as well.

Bonus! I shot a TV show with AKB48 member Rena Nozawa here. Check it out!


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Tokyo, Chuo-ku, Ginza 4-4-1
Closest station: Ginza

Open 11:00-15:30, 17:00-22:30
Saturday until 21:00
Closed Sundays

Monday, April 15, 2013

弘富 (Hirotomi in Hachioji)



Highly ranked ramen in Hachioji is always dominated by En. No one else even stands a chance.


If gold is out of your reach, why not go for silver? Hirotomi is definitely a contender. Hachioji-style, rich shoyu with a lot of onions, might as well be called Hirotomi-style.


At only 800 yen for the chashumen, this place is a steal.


Check it out a few minutes walk down the tracks, in the opposite direction of En.


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Tokyo, Hachioji-shi, Myojincho 3-11
Closest station: Hachioji

Open 11:00-19:30
Closed Sundays

Saturday, April 13, 2013

GROWTH in Ikebukuro



Another lunch-only shop in Tokyo that runs out of soup daily.


Another winner. The only thing bad about this place is the name. Growth, when spoken in Japanese, is グロス . . . "Gross".


The shop, I should mention, is extremely small. If someone wants to leave, everyone else in the shop has to stand up to let them out. I love it!


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Tokyo, Toshima-ku, Nishi Ikebukuro 3-4-2
Closest station: Ikebukuro

Open 11:30-15:30
Closed Sundays

Thursday, April 11, 2013

写楽 (Sharaku in Kusatsu Onsen)



Onsen cities. These little resort towns cover the countryside extremities of Japan. If you have any interest in coming to Japan, you must spend a night or two soaking in the natural hot springs and eating local food.

Kusatsu is a very well known hot spring town  a few hours out of Tokyo in the mountains of Gunma. I've heard that former emperors were particularly fond of the healing waters, and had their staff (slaves?) haul water a few hundred  kilometers down from the mountains into Edo. It's good to be the king.


Choina Choina!

When it comes to onsen towns and food, kaiseki is the norm. The average tourist will stay at a ryokan, Japanese inn, and be provided with a fabulous spread, served in their room. We're talking about 15 course meals of local fish and game, freshly picked mountain vegetables, and seasonal bits of anything delicious.

Ramen in these towns is usually very sub-par.

I wandered into the almost empty Sharaku at about 10pm.


Unbelievable. This was some of the creamiest pork soup I've had. Perfection. Every aspect was great.


The owner and his wife, both 26 years old, haven't just created a great ramen shop, they've made a cool spot to hang out and drink. Gang Starr on the stereo provided the ice breaker I needed, and I ended up drinking with them and some regulars until late.


Solid shoyu as well, though go with the tonkotsu.


This is a sort of minor trend I have noticed lately. Move to the big city, learn ramen, get married, then move back to your sleepy countryside hometown and open your own shop.

Rent is cheap, customers are laid back, and you can soak in the hot springs daily. Not a bad life!


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Gunma-ken, Agatstumagun, Kustatsumachi, Kusatsu 491-1
Closest station: None really, take a bus

Open 11:00-15:00, 18:00-23:00
Closed Mondays