Monday, August 31, 2015

やまの (Yamano in Nerima)

麺 酒 やまの


Every year sees a new ramen trend in Tokyo. Some, like beef ramen a few years back, fail completely. Others, like the heavy tonkotsu gyokai tsukemen craze, persist to this day.


The latest, and still relatively untested, is Nagoya-style Taiwan mazesoba. The original shop, Hanabi, is one of my favorite in the country. Take some thick noodles, cover them with spicy meat, some fish powder, a raw egg, and whatever else seems tasty, and serve.


Yamano is the highest ranked new Nagoya-style mazesoba in Tokyo. I know that is a narrow field, but you gotta take your wins where you can get them.


As always, mix it up with vigor.


I wasn't super into this one. My mistake, I think, was ordering the torobuta mazesoba (トロ豚ませそば). This one came with a massive chunk of stewed pork belly. It seems counter intuitive not to order delicious stewed pork, but this one was overly sweet, and clashed with the spicy, fatty flavors of the rest of the bowl. Stick with the basic mazesoba.


I'm a huge fan of junky, sloppy ramen, so I may have set the bar too high.



Map of 5 Chome-23-11 Toyotamakita, Nerima-ku, Tōkyō-to 176-0012

Tokyo, Nerima-ku, Toyotamakita 5-23-11
Closest station: Nerima

Open 11:30-14:00, 18:30-2:00am
Weekends until 1:00am
Sunday until 11:00pm
Closed Mondays and some Sundays

Thursday, August 27, 2015

味仙 (Misen in Nagoya)

中国台湾料理 味仙 今池本店


Taiwan ramen is a creation not from the country of Taiwan, but from Japan's fourth largest city, Nagoya. The history is fairly straightforward; a chef at a Chinese restaurant wanted something to serve his workers. Nagoya natives are known for having a strong palate, so mixing some of the shop's noodles with an extra spicy soup was an easy choice. Turned out that the dish was quite good, and soon became a regular menu item.

Since then, Taiwan ramen shops have popped up all over Nagoya. It wasn't until a few years ago, when Hanabi created their soupless Taiwan mazesoba, that the rest of the country took note.


Although Misen, the originator of this ramen style, has a few shops around town, I ventured to the honten, the shop that started it all. Take the subway a few stops, then look for the signs or ask a local. Everyone knows this shop.


There was a line of about 15 people, but being a single diner meant I was instantly given a no-thrills seat at the counter. One Taiwan ramen. please!


Simple as it gets. Remember, this was a dish meant for the staff. Ground pork, bean sprouts, and nira are the only toppings.

And, yes, it is hot. Very hot. But it's that hot that lingers until it becomes delicious. Get past the initial wave of pain, and you'll be slurping every last drop.


The bowl seems smaller than your average bowl of ramen. Not an issue, as it's only 630 yen. That's about five bucks.


Misen is, at heart, a Chinese restaurant. They menu is deep, with 40 or 50 dishes to try.


Groups of diners tend to order a bowl of ramen each, and an extra dish per person as well, for a veritable feast.


But, as I was alone, the only other thing I had was some water.


I asked about the California license plates, and they told me that there was a branch in Chinatown, which I don't think is true.

Check another one off the long list of ganso (original) ramen shops.


Official Site Here

Map of 1 Chome-12-10 Imaike, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya-shi, Aichi-ken 464-0850, Japan

Aichi-ken, Nagoya-shi, Chikusa-ku, Imaike 1-12-10
Closest station: Imaike

Open 5:30pm-2:00am

Monday, August 24, 2015

鉢ノ葦葉 (Hachinoashiha in Yokkaichi, Mie)

らーめん 鉢ノ葦葉 本店


My work brought me to Tsu this time, in Mie Prefecture. Tsu is a rather small town an hour south of Nagoya, with unagi eel being their claim to culinary fame. But I wasn't in the mood. There's got to be some decent ramen out here!


I vaguely remember someone mentioning Yokkaichi. As this station was on the way, I hopped off for a few minutes to have a slurp. The station attendant even gave me a note so I could get back in. Thanks!


Hachinoashiha is the spot to hit. It's highly ranked; the only one with a decent rating of the dozen or so local shops in the area. It is also a lunch-only shop on weekdays, while it opens for a dinner service on the weekend.


Pretty decent. The shop boasts their use of all Japanese ingredients and a non chemical mantra. Very chicken-y, with some nice fried onion as an accent.

They offer a few other items on the menu, but first-timers should get the shio ramen, without a doubt.

Official Site Here


Map of 1-12 Shirokitachō, Yokkaichi-shi, Mie-ken 510-0823

Mie Prefecture, Yokkaichi-shi, Shirokitacho 1-12
Closest station: Yokkaichi

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

Thursday, August 20, 2015

空 (Sora at Sapporo Airport)

らーめん空 新千歳空港店


Sigh . . .

Every year, I work in Sapporo a few times. And every year, I'm strapped for time. This time around, we caught a bus directly from the airport to the remote wilderness, and caught a bus directly back. No chance for anything. Anything except some ramen at the airport's famous Ramen Dojo.


This counts as the fourth shop, out of eight, that I have made it to. The others, Jirocho, Kaiko, and Ichigen were all serviceable, they just lacked a bit in ambiance. This is, after all, the airport.


On a side note, a few years ago I decided I would probably never go back to Las Vegas. Which is why I took an interest in Sora. Number one in Vegas? Is that even a viable ranking?


Well, if this bowl is any indication, then the bar is set very low in Sin City.


Nothing really stood out in this bowl. I feel like you really need to bring your A game when your miso ramen is one of six or seven other miso ramen shops. You need to bring that miso punch. You need something that stands out.


I'm heading to Sapporo again in a few weeks, on another tight schedule. I'll try, try, try to make it to some better spots. I feel it is a great disservice not to eat amazing miso ramen in Hokkaido.


Located at New Chitose Airport in the Ramen Dojo

Open 10am until 8pm.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Mail Order Ramen Direct from the Shops

Mail order ramen is a thing. And I'm not talking about the omiyage ramen packs, with dried noodles and concentrated soup that you can buy at train stations and tourism offices around the country. An interesting company called Takumen actually packs an entire bowl of real ramen, straight from the shop, into a frozen, cook-at-home kit.

When I first heard about this concept, I immediately thought of the possibilities. Could you ship overseas and serve in some kind of brick and mortar shop? Some kind of amazing shop that has some of Japan's best ramen on their menu?

Of course! And if you live in Singapore, this actually exists. The Takumen Ramen Gallery features six different Japanese bowls, shipped direct from the source.

I suppose this is a sort of sponsored post. The founder of Takumen sent me some bowls to try out at home. Here they are, from my favorite to the ones that didn't do it for me.

1. ど・みそ (Do Miso)


I'm a fan of their Tokyo shop, and the delivered version lived up to expectations. The pack of rich miso hid a massive piece of chashu. Those noodles were thick, and cooked well in my crappy Japanese home kitchen. This will be a theme with these packs; thicker noodles were much easier to cook well.


2. ちばから (Chiba Kara)


As the name implies, Chiba Kara is from Chiba. Though I'm not a real Jirorian (die hard fan of Jiro), this Jiro-kei bowl was rich and filling.

I should also note that each delivered bowl comes with a list of recommended toppings. I didn't add any, but this one recommends bean sprouts, shredded cabbage, and heaps of raw garlic.



3. 作田家 (Sakutaya)


Sakutaya is a decent Ie-kei bowl, meaning it is Yokohama-style ramen. The signature nori, spinach, and chashu toppings are all included.

4. 本田商店 (Honda Shoten)


And now the thinner noodle bowls. Thicker frozen noodles cook in 5-6 minutes, while the thin noodles are just over a minute. I had a problem, which would probably be remedied if I was a little more careful.

Honda Shoten brought authentic Kyushu tonkotsu ramen to my door. The soup was decadent, and that chashu tender. But I didn't cook the noodles long enough. My bad.

5. 元 (Hajime)


Hajime gets put on the top of many shio ramen lists in Tokyo. The broth is light and full of umami. The original shop's noodles are excellent, thin and firm. A perfect match with the soup. I, unfortunately, cooked them about a minute too long. It was really unfortunate to waste such a stellar bowl.



If you live in Japan, and can decipher the Japanese, you can order many, many different bowls from Prices are comparable to what you would pay in the shop.

If anyone lives in Singapore, check out the Takumen shop and let me know how it is. It looks like they use the packs, along with some fresh toppings, to recreate the original experience. They have two shops.

Official Site Here.

Map of 66 Circular Rd, Singapore 049420

Map of 100 Tras St, Singapore 079027

Thursday, August 13, 2015

ラーメンXかき氷 (Ramen and Shaved Ice)



I was out grabbing the limited chilled noodles at Soranoiro Salt and Mushroom the other day. At least that is the excuse I'm giving!


Sure, their chilled noodle dish was fantastic. Goya, daikon, and a vinegar sesame sauce all came together to help me cool off in the heat.


But the real reason I was here was for the kakigori. Japanese-style shaved ice is amazing. Unlike the stuff you are used to at festivals in America, the stuff in Japan is on another level. Crunchy ice? No way, Japanese-style is finely shaved, akin to fresh powder snow. Sickly sweet syrups? Nope, Japanese-style is usually very lightly sweetened using only fruit, cream, and flavorings like matcha.


And for some reason I can't quite figure out, a few ramen shops are serving up kakigori as part of their summer menus.


Here at Soranoiro, they had Hokkaido strawberry, roasted soybean flour with black sugar, kiwi, and sweetened milk. They had a special Fukushima peach bowl  on this day.

This one was epic. Instead of a regular block of ice, they used milk and fresh cream to make the mountain for snow. It was like eating a cloud. The strawberry matched perfect. Strawberries and cream, Japanese style.

They around only serving this from 1pm to 3pm, and then again from 6pm until around 9pm.


A few other shops do this during the summer. Ones that pop into my mind are Kabo-chan (above) and Neiroya (below). I can't recommend these enough. Come September, expect them to have melted away.