Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ramen Riders! 八平 (Hachibei in Chiba)



I had a free Saturday, the weather was good, and mega-countryside 江ざわ was still on my list after failing to eat there last year. I had the coordinates in my GPS, what could possibly go wrong?


The shop moved! Only a month ago, they packed up and moved. If you stand outside the new place, a standard, run-of-the-mill shokudo style restaurant, you are bound to meet at least a dozen people who had your idea of amazing tantanmen, but didn't get the news.


We were quite hungry after taking the long way from Tokyo to Chiba, and decided to grab a snack anyways. The fried chicken plate looked much better than it tasted. For those who are interested in talk about routes, you should take the Aqua Line. Or, take the C1 through Tokyo to the 7 to the Keiyo Road, because the C2 doesn't connect with the Keiyo Road route and you will have to go a bit out of your way. Just trust your GPS. Route talk over!

After some talk with the chicken-cook, we found that the new shop is only 40km away, which would probably take 30 minutes on Chiba's back roads. Thankfully we called them before we left. Sure enough, they were out of soup for the day. This was at noon. They open at 11. Crazy.


But I had an ace up my sleeve. Another potentially tasty countryside ramen shop to the north called Hachibei.


My Garmin GPS put us squarely in the middle of a rice paddy. After slowly circling the area for a few kliometers, we made it. It isn't easy to find, but when you finally turn down the correct driveway, you know you are at the right place.


Nice dog!


About 30 people waited in line at this little shack. Evidence of the success of Hachibei can be seen next door, at the owners brand new, multi-story house, overlooking the madness below.


This shops specialty is Ariran ramen. The story of Arirang is an interesting one. From the shop's site:


Basically, a famous folk song about the trials of crossing a difficult mountain pass. And sticking with the Japanese belief that garlic, onions, and spices give you stamina, it makes sense that a bowl of Ariran ramen would give you that extra push to make it to the other side.


Wow. Mounds of fresh garlic, onions, and spices went into this one. I've never come across a shoyu ramen with so many aromatic onions and garlic cooked into the soup. Kind of the perfect bowl after a day of riding.


The chashu is excellent, though I was still on the full side from all that fried chicken before.


And the noodles! Homemade and kind of perfect. My buddy Leo on the BMW said, as we waited, that he's not a fan of noodles that absorb the color of the soup. Hachibei changed his mind.


The road back was straight and fast, with just a little traffic in the tunnel under Tokyo Bay.

A solid ride for sure. I've got a jam-packed February, so it looks like the next ramen ride will be in March. And in case you were wondering, the KTM is the same one I had my accident on. If you look very closely you can see the only damage it sustained; a scratch. Wish I could have said the same for my leg!

Stay safe out there!

Official Site Here

Chiba, Ichihara-shi, Yonezawa 344-2
Closest station: Kazusaushiku

Open 11:00-20:00
Closed Thursdays

Monday, January 27, 2014

El Dorado in Fussa



The Jiraigan Syndicate produced one of my favorite ramen shops, Saikoro in Nakano. But the brains behind the business lives out near Fussa, about an hour from central Tokyo. Using his success in the more central branches, he recently opened a shop closer to home.


The finest noodles!

I was out here for a random, non-ramen related adventure, and stopping by El Dorado on the way home was no problem.


Homemade noodles are a standard at anything with the Jiraigen stamp on it.


As is simplicity. The menu is shio or shoyu. With an egg or without. Extra pork on request.


Fantastic, as expected. Always go for extra pork at a Jiraigen shop.


This one is much lighter than the other shops, without that heavy niboshi kick that I really like at Saikoro. But lacking the kick is no problem, and every customer in the shop crushed this bowl completely.


This shop is mere minutes from Yokotoa Air Base, so if any of my viewers are military men or women, check it out! I can't be sure, but it is probably better than the ramen on base!


Tokyo, Fussa-shi, Fussa 867-7
Closest station: Fussa

Open 12:00-2:30, there is a night menu but I can't find the hours

Thursday, January 23, 2014

麺屋宗限定 (Limited at Menya Sou in Takadanobaba)

麺屋宗 -sou- 高田馬場本店


Another winter gentei; limited bowl. This one is from Sou, a popular Takadanobaba shop that I have yet to visit on a regular day. This year's crop of winter limited bowls brought a lot of light flavors, with many shops using simple bowls to highlight fish toppings. Sou went a different route.


If this creation looks a bit on the decadent side, that is because if uses Beurre d'Echire. Considered the gold standard of fine French butter, Beurre d'Echire has probably never touched a bowl of ramen until now. Croissants and pastries, sure, but how does it sit with a light shio ramen?


Certainly rich. And with a slice of parma ham and a bit of lemon, this is about as far from ramen that you can get away with.


These limited bowls are fun, and I am happy that they exist . . . for a limited time. I'll be back for the regular bowl here, which is highly ranked among Tokyo's elite ramen shops.


And now I know about Beurre d'Echire, the 84% butterfat butter that I will be buttering my toast with from now on, once I can find it in the Tokyo capital.


Official Site Here

Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Takadanobaba 1-4-21
Closest station: Takadanobaba

Open 11:30-16:00, 18:00-22:30

Monday, January 20, 2014

KABOちゃんの限定 (Limited Bowl at Kabochan)



I was lucky enough to hear about, at the last minute, a 1-day mash-up gentei bowl between Kabochan and Nishio. If you are very nerdy about ramen, you will know that Nishio, part of the amazing Nagi group, closed his shop a while ago, and helped Kabochan open in his place. The coolest part of the story is that Kabochan was a complete ramen rookie. Just a guy who loved to eat the stuff.


The 5 seat shop was perfect for this type of endeavor, and Kabochan (that is the master's nickname) became a bit of a sleeper hit in town.

We (Hiroshi and I) arrived at the exact last minute.


We literally got the last bit of tare of the day. Today's seasoning brought to you buy some ultra-premium shoyu from Yamaroku, a famous brewer from Kagawa prefecture.


I miss this place. This 1-day collab bowl was made with ingredients from about 30 different prefectures in Japan. It was a veritable who's who of local goods. Konbo from Hokkaido. Chicken from Akita. Green onions from Kyoto. The list went on and on.


You see, I used to live around the corner, and popping in for a solid bowl was always an option. I'm now across town, with different local haunts.


Though it was dropping into single digit temperature outside, I had to try the waiting-in-line-special.


Fresh apple kakigori! And, yes, the apples were from Aomori, one of the most famous apple regions of Japan.


Original Review Here

Tokyo, Kita-ku, Nishigahara 1-54-1
Closest station: Komagome

Open 11:30-15:30, 17:30-21:00

Thursday, January 16, 2014

けやき (Keyaki in Hiroo)


Hiroo is home to some of the most prominent embassies, and therefore one of the wealthier parts of town. The little bistros in the area are excellent, as they probably cater to Europeans with sophisticated palates. Rare imported cheeses, fine wine, all that jazz. And then there is this ramen shop. Next to the Lamborghini dealer.

An easy to read English menu, as expected.

And a poor bowl, as expected.

Would an excellent ramen shop be popular with the upper-crust expat community? Probably not.

Tokyo, Minato-ku, Minami Azabu 5-10
Closest station: Hiroo

Open ??

Monday, January 13, 2014

箱根大観らーめん (Hakone Taikan Ramen at the Toyo Tires Turnpike)



First bowl of 2014. And what a stinker!


But tradition dictates that on January 1st, we ride. The route is usually up the Hakone turnpike. When the sky is clear, the views of Mt. Fuji and the ocean are spectacular. And though it is cold, it is always a great way to start the year with some friends.

And though the ramen was bad, the latte at the cafe was good, and the my friend's "Mt Fuji curry", though it looked like something left outside overnight, was pretty tasty.


From Odawara, next to the sea, you pay a 500 yen toll and ride one of the best roads in the area. About 1000 meters elevation gain. Here's a random video I found on YouTube:

But unlike that video, the recent cold left quite a bit of snow on the sides of the road, slowly melting, and giving a chance of black ice on the curves. So while sport bikes can really fly up this hill, today was a cautious ride.


Oh, man was this one bad. It tasted like it came from a can!


Upon further inspection, it totally did! Wow, I've never seen industrial sized cans of concentrated ramen soup before, in all my years of ramen hunting.


New Years resolution: no more bad ramen! Stay tuned, my next couple reviews break that tradition pretty quickly!


Thank you as always to everyone I ride with. Another New Years resolution is to kick the Ramen Riders into full swing, with some great riding and great eating.


And even an official logo! Free stickers to the first person who can identify where I stole this logo idea from!


Official Site of the Toyo Tires turnpike

Kanagawa-ken, Ashigarashimogun, Yugawaramachi, Kajiya 955
Closest station: No way

Open ??

Thursday, January 9, 2014

そると (Soruto in Shimo-Kitazawa)

鶏そばつけそば そると


I'm thinking of unsing the acronym JASR to describe my ongoing search for good shio ramen in Japan. Just Another Shio Ramen!


But that's not to say that the bowl of chicken shio ramen at Soruto isn't recommended. The soup is nice and light, with perfectly matched thin noodles and a bevy of veggies on top. Roast sweet potato, eggplant, and tomato.


JASR plays back to my childhood in America. Stateside, we don't really have shoyu, miso, or tonkotsu flavors in soups. But a clear chicken soup? That is a taste that your average American grows up with.


Shimo-Kitazawa doesn't have many ramen shops, so Soruto manages to get a nod from me. But with so many great little yakitori shops and classy bistros in the area, I probably won't go back for JASR anytime soon.


Tokyo, Setagaya-ku, Kitazawa 5-36-13
Closest station: Shimo-Kitazawa

Open 11:30-1:30am