Thursday, December 31, 2015

Fukuoka Ramen Show 2015

Fukuoka Ramen Show


My work had me in Fukuoka for a day, and it just so happened that the Fukuoka Ramen Show was happening. Score! I'm usually not so hot on these events, as the quality of the bowls is all over the place. Taking time off to visit them is hit or miss. But when the event is literally next door to where you are working and sleeping, you have to go.


Since this is a festival outside of Tokyo, there were a few famous Tokyo shops present. Pass! I went straight to the local collaborations. First up is one where Ippudo and a popular chicken stew place teamed up. Take a thick soup and top it with some delectable pieces of chicken. The karaage fried chicken and chicken meatball were a legit topping on Ippudo's solid bowl.


There were four local bowls at this festival, but I only had room for two.


Sorry Nagi! See you in Golden Gai!


For the second bowl, I went with Saga Prefecture's ramen group's bowl. Saga is known for being a dull place (they have a famous song about how dull it is). Wrong! Saga has the best nori seaweed in the country. When I asked the staff if they were using their prefecture's famous product, they were so happy about my local knowledge that they threw in an extra sheet.


Nice picture? Most ramen events have a photography area these days. #fukuokaramenshow


I've stayed in Saga a few times, and was always underwhelmed. But after this great bowl, I did a little research. Saga is one of those places where you need a car and a little knowledge. While the vicinity of the main station can be quiet, a short drive away is full of hidden gems.


I really love all that nori.


The event is over, but you can keep tabs on their next event here.


Monday, December 28, 2015

紫 くろ㐂 (Murasaki Kuroki in Akihabara)

紫 くろ㐂


Motenashi Kuroki is one of my favorite ramen shops in Japan. The chef, Kuroki-san, is a true master. With a background in gourmet Italian, he has what it takes to cook anything he wants, and cook it well. His focus on ramen had paid off with a shop that has a perpetual lineup.


On Fridays, and only Fridays, the shop transforms from Motenashi Kuroki to Murasaki Kuroki. And the regular shio is replaced by shoyu. Duck shoyu to be exact.


Kamo, or duck, often finds its way into more traditional buckwheat soba dishes. A bowl of kamosoba at an old, countryside soba shop is an amazing thing. The soup has less of an impact, and more of a deepness, serving to highlight the fresh noodles and roasted duck.

The ramen here is a reflection of that dish.


You won't have the initial hit of flavor that most great ramen has. Instead, it's the warmth and smoothness that you notice. Kuroki's noodles are amazing, made in the shop, with a texture that won this bowl one of the highest ranking on any country-wide list of ramen shops. You can choose thin noodles or hand pressed flat noodles. The flat noodles are the way to go.


Expect lines. But what better way to spend your Friday night than hunched over a bowl like this.


Official shop blog here.

Map of 2-15 Kanda Izumichō, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to 101-0024

Tokyo, Shioda-ka, Kandaizumicho 2-15
Closest station: Akihabara

Open 11:30-14:30, 18:00-20:30
Only on Fridays

Thursday, December 24, 2015

灯花 (Toka in Shinjuku)

鯛塩そば 灯花


I accidentally went to Toka's first shop recently. Their first shop specializes in shio tsukemen, and it was wonderful. Certainly not a mistake I regret. And certainly not a difficult one to remedy. The second shop, their new one, is only half a block away.


This one is also a shio, or salt based soup. But what sets it apart from the rest of the chicken and pork loving world is that the soup is made exclusively with tai, a kind of snapper fish. Fish is the only animal that goes into this one, meaning that the other ingredients, kelp and vegetables, need to be perfectly balanced to work.


And they are. This is an elegant, beautiful bowl of ramen. Just a touch of yuzu zest for a bit of an aroma.


I spoke with the chef, and he assured me that the only meat is the single piece of chashu on top. Pescatarians can rest assured that this is not only a bowl they can slurp, but a bowl that they can really enjoy.


Map of 12 Funamachi, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 160-0006

Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Funamachi 12-13
Closest station: Akebonobashi

Open 11:00-15:00, 17:00-24:00
Closed Sundays

Monday, December 21, 2015

みつ葉 (Mitsuba in Nara)

ラーメン家 みつ葉


This one was on the list for a while. Located way out in Nara Prefecture, It was required that I spend an extra night in Osaka after my work finished, wake up early, and line up well before the shop opened. In case you aren't familiar with the lay of the land, Nara is just less than an hour from Osaka.


Outside, the sandwich board lets you know; 10 people will be about 25 minutes, 20 people equals 50 minutes, and more than 20 people is more than an hour. At 10am (they open at 11), I was number 12. Two minutes after I got in line, there were about 30.

This was on a weekday.

You are warned.


Shoyu or shio, it's your choice. Make sure you get the chashumen for the full effect.


What a beautiful bowl. It wasn't as creamy as I thought it would be. They hit the soup with a hand blender just before serving to froth it up a bit. Underneath the foam is a deep shoyu soup. Amazing stuff. Rare, peppered chashu lining the bowl is their signature.

This bowl looks a lot like one of the best ramen shops in Japan, Ore no Ramen Appare, which actually isn't too far away. If you hit up both shops, you would have eaten at the #2 and #6 ramen shops in Japan, if you follow the popular rankings.


Yes, this shop is out of your way. But if you come here early, you'll be set for a nice day in nearby Nara, one of Japan's famous historical areas. There are temples, quaint restaurants, a big Buddha, and plenty of the area's most famous draw; friendly deer.


I love Nara. People say it is like a mini-Kyoto, but I think of it as a more relaxing experience. The entire place is green and natural, and a short hike up the hill puts you far enough from the city to feel at peace.


I've been hitting off all the big ones lately. Just a few more to go . . .


Map of 3 Chome-3-15-1 Tomio Motomachi, Nara-shi, Nara-ken 631-0078

Nara-ken, Nara-shi, Tomiomotomachi 3-3-15-1
Closest station: Tomio

Open 11:00 until they run out
Closed Sundays and holidays

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Junk Story in Osaka

らーめんstyle Junk Story


I'm a huge fan of junk-style ramen (see here, here, here). So when I was in Osaka and saw that Junk Story was just a short walk from where I was drinking with friends, I was sure to visit.


Alas, this isn't the junky mazesoba that I love, it is just a regular shio ramen topped with all kinds of amazing cuts of chicken. Observing the signage closely shows that it isn't junk-style ramen, but ramen-style junk! The devil is in the details.


Kind of a delightful surprise. This shop feels like an old shack was engulfed by a modern building. Come to think of it, that is a pretty good description of Osaka.


Under-cooked pork, under-cooked chicken, and a half-cooked egg. This is great stuff. All matched with a heavier-than-average chicken shio soup. Aromatic pink peppercorns work to mellow the whole bowl, and the aftertaste is pure umami.


It's a lot of food, but make sure you get the extra toppings. It's called 塩のキラメキ, shio no kirameki on the menu.


Official site here.


Map of 1 Chome-2-11 Kōzu, Chūō-ku, Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu 542-0072

大阪府大阪市中央区高津 1-2-11
Osaka, Osaka-shi, Chuo-ku, Kozu 1-2-11
Closest station: Nippombashi

Open 11:00-14:30, 18:00-22:00

Monday, December 14, 2015

Ginger Noodle Spot 角栄 (Ginger Noodle Spot Kakue Shinjuku)

Ginger Noodle Spot 角栄


Kaku-A is one of my favorite miso spots in Tokyo. As are the rest of the shops in the Gamushara group, a collection of ramen shops celebrating the diverse ramen scene from Niigata Prefecture, a few hundred kilometers north of Tokyo.


One thing about the original Gamushara, out in Hatagaya, is their heavy use of ginger. Taking inspiration from a local Niigata-style, the soup is heavy on the impact, and the aftertaste is full of ginger heat.


Well, now the miso spot becomes a bit of a ginger spot two days a week. This one is lighter than their other one, so there is no reason to be worried about a ginger overload.

The tokusei ramen (特製ラァメン) comes with an egg, and extra slices of meat. Probably the best choice here.


Of course, a week after I went I saw the master, and he said I should really have gotten the tsukemen.


Map of 5 Chome-29-7 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 151-0051

Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-29-7
Closest station: Shinjuku

Open Wednesday and Thursday 11:00-10:00

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Ramen Adventures on Social Media

2015, A Great Year for Ramen.

It's been an amazing year for Ramen Adventures. Ramen in Tokyo is progressively getting better and better, in my opinion, and the ramen scene overseas is following suit.

My goal with Ramen Adventures has been to entertain and inform. The blog format works for writing and photography. Two posts a week, Mondays and Thursdays. This is a pace I can live with.

Not everyone is big on drawn out posts with words and more than one photo. I know that there are Instagrammers, Youtubers, and those who just live on Twitter. Ramen Adventures is on all of those, with each one a little different. I'm grateful for the support on whichever social media platform you love.


I don't like live-posting anything, but dozens of people have told me that I need to be on Instagram. So I've been posting five shots every Friday, with some random bits of culinary Japan thrown in throughout the week for good measure.


I'm actually doubled up on YouTube at the moment. My Ramen Adventure channel, produced by Yummy Japan, has been a bit slow of late. I'm hoping to change that in the coming year, with my goal of 50 videos in sight.

I'm also working with #tokyoextra, produced by Tokyo Broadcasting. These collaboration videos are broadcast over the air and on YouTube live on Sunday nights in Japan. I've been teaming up with some of the girls from AKB48 to introduce a variety of shops.

If either of these channels appeal to you, please subscribe. The producers of these videos were expecting that a high traffic blog like Ramen Adventures would mean hundreds of thousands of views, but that isn't really the result.


I'm on Twitter @ramenadventures, but this is just an automatic system that tweets when a post goes live.


Facebook is where I post about events, my favorite bowls, and where I have the most direct interaction.

Happy 2015 holidays, and have a great New Year! 明けましておめでとう。今からよろしくお願いします。

Monday, December 7, 2015

桜花 (Oka in Shinjuku)



I am always on the hunt for great vegan ramen. So when I heard that a new shop was serving up a vegan bowl, I went for it. I'll be honest, of the five or six places in Tokyo that serve a real vegan bowl of ramen, only two are good; Soranoiro and here at Oka. The other shops are downright awful.


I was very happy with this one. The soup is a light tomato broth, topped with colorful, crisp vegetables.


Notice that strange looking bowl? Well, when your noodles are gone, you are given a small bowl of rice, and can pour some soup in.


The shop even has the Halal stamp of approval for their meat dishes, making this an extremely accessible shop for travelers.


Speaking of meat, their normal bowl is outstanding. The soup is made with red snapper and tomato, topped with a yuzu citrus foam, and served with crispy fried chicken on the side. I ate this bowl as part of a TV shoot recently. Check it out here:


If you aren't a vegan, go for that one, as the fish really adds a lot of depth to the flavor profile.

Oka is a new shop, and is already a hit with the foreign community.


Map of 1 Chome-11-7 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 160-0022, Japan

Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 1-11-7
Closest station: Shinjuku-Gyoenmae

Open 11:30-15:00, 18:00-21:00
Closed Mondays