Monday, April 28, 2014

晴 (Haru in Uguisudani)


Beautiful. Haru, over on Tokyo's east side, is one of those bowls that tastes as good as it looks. Simple, but screaming in terms of impact and umami flavors.


Located just a few minutes from Uguisudani Station, that one station on the famed Yamanote Line that no one ever uses.


It is a typical light soup of niboshi (dried fish), pork, and chicken. While the rest of the world seems to be going crazier and crazier with their soups, I'm liking this Tokyo trend of simple and light.


Slow roasted chashu and quality menma on top.


While this spot is on the opposite side of town for anyone in Shinjuku or Shibuya, residents or tourists over in the east might find a journey to Haru to be a nice detour.


Tokyo, Taito-ku, Shitaya 1-11-7
Closest station: Uguisudani

Open 11:30-14:30, 18:00-22:00
Sundays 11:00-15:00, 18:00-21:00
Closed Saturdays

Thursday, April 24, 2014

ちくてい (Chikutei in Matsue)



I tucked into a pint of Guiness at the local Matsue gaijin bar, St. Jame's Gate. As always, the Tokyo traveler is expected to explain himself. Why am I in Matsue? To eat ramen, of course!


Though no one believed my white lie (I was actually here for other work), a well-dressed gentleman with a gorgeous Leica camera spoke up. Chikutei is his go-to ramen in town.

This was at about 12:30, and Chikutei closes at 1am. Perfect.


Though the noren banner was down, indicating that they were done with service for the day, the lights were on and the master let me in for the last bowl of the day.

Strictly standard, though I could see this being a local's favorite ramen joint. The shop had just enough counter seating for the quick diner, and a tatami dinning room for long-stay drinkers or families. The bowl itself was a chickeny Chinese style that went down smooth.


Random autographs on the wall featured a plate written in English from 2006 from a famous octopus researcher.


How about more recommendations from locals? If you only have an hour to spare, take the boat around the castle moat. We had exactly two hours before our airport bus was due. An elderly boat driver was happy to drop us off near a local soba house.


Soba noodles in a light duck broth.


Tempura bamboo shoots, picked the day before in the restaurants backyard forest. If I were to rank non-ramen food, this would be in the top three of 2014.


Soup-less soba with all the fixings.

Although I wasn't too impressed with the ramen scene here in Matsue, the town itself should be on anyone's list if they plan on hitting the northern coast of Shimane and Tottori. These prefectures are definitely just footnotes in your average guidebook, but have a lot to offer.


Shimane-ken, Matsue-shi, Higashihonmachicho 3-14
Closest station: Matsue

Open 19:00-1:00am
Closed Sundays

Monday, April 21, 2014

トタン屋 (Totanya in Matsue)

麺'sダイニング トタン屋


I wish I had better things to say about ramen in Matsue, the capital city of Shimane Prefecture. The town itself is quite lovely. An old samurai city on the banks of lake Shinjiko, you would think the hungry travelers who frequent Matsue would influence some decent noodles.


Pokemon plane!


Anyways, I was drawn here by the name alone. 麺'sダイニング - Men's Dining. The signature dish, Totan Ramen, was a "light tonkotosu" that was more like garlic-oil flavored water.

Stay tuned, the bad-ramen-in-Matsue commentary continues!


Shimane-len, Matsue-shi, Wadamicho 80
Closest station: Matsue

Open 18:00-3:00am

Thursday, April 17, 2014

しながわ (Shinagawa in Ikebukuro)



Shinagawa is an offshoot of nearby BASSO. If the connection is any indication, this should be an excellent bowl. The homemade noodles from this group are solid.


Your standard chukasoba. At 1000 yen for the special bowl (extra pork, egg, menma, and nori) it is a bit on the pricey side. Worth it?


Despite the rest of the ramen world raving about this bowl, I wasn't impressed. Not a lot of impact, and a huge amount of hot oil on the top. Yeah, the noodles were excellent, but I wanted them in a different soup.


The niboshisoba might be a better match, but I won't be going back to find out.


Tokyo, Toshima-ku, Nishi-Ikebukuro 4-19-14
Closest station: Ikebukuro

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

Monday, April 14, 2014

炭家 (Sumiya in Nakano)

花田流焼肉 炭家


I have heard that there are around 9000 places to eat ramen in Tokyo. This is, of course, counting everywhere ramen is served. Chain ramen shops, family restaurants (i.e. Denny's), Chinese dives, and in this case, Korean barbecue. Usually these outlying ramen shops don't make it to Ramen Adventures, because, well, they tend to suck.


Sumiya, a nondescript Korean barbecue place a few stops out of Shinjuku, proved me wrong.

The word 〆 (shime) can be added to the front of a menu item to indicate that it is something to be eaten after the rest of the food. In this case, the shimenoramen in question is an insanely kodawari bowl made with freshwater clams from Lake Jusanko in Aomori, breaking all stereotypes that non-ramen-shop ramen is bad.

Usually reserved for high end bowls of miso soup, these are some of the best of the best in Japan. Add to that noodles from Shimane Prefecture, and a simple Japanese broth made from high quality konbu and katsuo, and this was the ultimate shime after some fatty cuts of prime beef.


Apologies for forgetting to take shots of the meat. We were filming for an upcoming episode of オスカルX21! and I didn't have time to get the camera out. On air May 9th!


Wow, I was shocked by this bowl. Most of the time, shime ramen just means that you dump noodles into a pot of whatever was eaten before. Usually leftover soup in a hot pot type of dish. Most of the time, shime ramen is just a delivery method to get some post-meat carbs.


Shockingly good. The shop's meat specialty is a cut of A5 wagyu with garlic butter. This simple bowl was an excellent refresher.


The master was happy to show off the konbu, from the far reaches of Hokkaido, bought at tsukiji fish market.


With only enough seating for about 10 people, you might want to call ahead.


Tokyo, Nakano-ku, Numabukuro 4-32-6
Closest station: Numabukuro

Open 6:00pm until late
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

Thursday, April 10, 2014

ソラノイロ Salt & Mushroom (Soranoiro Salt and Mushroom in Kojimachi)

ソラノイロ Salt and Mushroom


The 2nd official shop of long-time favorite Soranoiro continues along the same lines as the original. A few solid standards and some unique bowls as well.


Mushrooms are a theme, both in the decor and the bowls.


The chef's station is chock full of bits and pieces. To be specific, the regular menu offers a niboshi shoyu, a shio, a mushroom veggie soba, and a niku soba. That is just the regular menu. Expect limited bowls to be a normal thing.


The bowl of standard shio was, without a doubt, great. I'm, in general, not a huge shio fan, so I'm sure the rest of the menu will impress as well.


For an extra 150 yen, the shop has a fresh fruit smoothie. It was . . . healthy?


Bonus! I managed to go there again before posting.


The mushroom veggie-soba is on the crazy side. In the bowl - tofu, fried cheese, parma ham, chicken chashu, all in a cream of mushroom soup. Interesting. I prefer the original shop's veggie offering, but this one will do, especially if you are a mushroom fan.

Just about two minutes from the original shop.


Expect a couple more visits in the near future.


Tokyo, Chioda-ku, Kojimachi 3-4-3
Closest Station: Kojimachi

Open 11:00-15:00, 19:00-22:30
Saturday 11:00-15:30
Closed Sundays

Monday, April 7, 2014

アジアン麺 (Asian Noodle in Nishi-Shinjuku)



I pass by this shop every time I go to the supermarket. Asian Noodle isn't really ramen, per se. More of a thai noodle place.


But with an eclectic mix of Thai and Japanese (harumaki rolls along side fried chicken along side a goya-potato salad) this shop gets a spot on the site.




There was a mix of thin rice noodles and thick wheat noodles in my bowl. Not a combination you want to be slurping. And it only got worse, as the noodles dissolved into various states of sogginess.


One and done!


Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Honmachi 3-41-12
Closest station: Nishi-Shinjuku-Go-Chome

Open 12:00-14:00, 18:00-2:00am
Closed Saturdays