Monday, September 28, 2015

渡海家 (Tokaiya in Otaru, Hokkaido)



I had a few minutes after work in Otaru, so I found the closest ramen shop with a respectable rating. Tokaiya it is!


Otaru is a seaside town about an hour out of Sapporo. It looks like a quaint little place, with restored old-timey buildings and some killer sushi. A sleepy little fisherman's town?


Not this weekend. Hundreds of cosplay enthusiasts and anime car (called itasha in Japanese) owners were having a convention of sorts.


Back to the ramen. The miso, served with a healthy topping of sizzling garlic pork, was pretty good. It won't be winning any awards, but for random, middle-of-nowhere ramen it hit the spot.


And the gyoza was on point.


渡海 (tokai) means crossing the sea. Fitting, as seafaring Koreans, Chinese, or Russians may just show up at any moment, sailing their Evangelion themed sailboats and Miyazaki branded jet skis.


Map of 3 Chome-7-14 Inaho, Otaru-shi, Hokkaidō 047-0032

Hokkaido, Otaru-shi, Inaho 3-7-14
Closest station: Otaru

Open 11:00-23:00
Closed Tuesdays

Thursday, September 24, 2015

彩未 (Saimi in Sapporo, Hokkaido)

麺屋 彩未


I've been making it a mission to eat at the highest ranked ramen shops in the country. Saimi is by far the highest ranked miso ramen. Just outside the heart of Sapporo, this is one of those shops that always has a line, and always runs out of soup.


With shops like Yukikaze and Okami Soup having shown me that Sapporo miso is something worthwhile, I was ready to be blown away.


Like most Hokkaido shops, they have miso, shio, and shoyu on the menu. One bowl of miso please.


Right off the bat, these were the best yellow, curly noodles I've ever had. Springy and full of bite.


The soup was definitely good, but I can't agree with the rest of the country in giving this the coveted number one. The master's roots are at Sumire, and the Sumire/Junren style is my least favorite way of doing miso ramen. The impact is minimal, though I think that is the point. Instead of a salty miso hit, you get a smooth, subtle flavor.


If you are in Sapporo, put this on your short list and decide for yourself.

Map of 5 Chome-3-12 Misono 10 Jō, Toyohira-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaidō 062-0010

Hokkaido, Sapporo-shi, Toyohira-ku, Misono 10jo, 5-3-12
Closest station: Misono

Open 11:00-15:15, 17:00-19:30
Closed Mondays

Monday, September 21, 2015

山手ラーメン (Yamate Ramen in Shibuya)



Summer means rain in Tokyo, and I spent the entire rainy day binge watching the latest season of True Detective. What should have been an eight hour marathon turned into a sixteen hour crawl, mostly due to the fact that I kept falling asleep. So when the last episode finished, most ramen shops were closed.


Well, Yamate Ramen fit the bill. The location is a bit strange, on a busy street (Yamate Dori), just far enough away from Shibuya Station to make it officially out of the way. It is also near a branch of Todai University, so I guess that is why it stays open until 3am.


The menu is all over the place, with choices like katsuo shoyu ramen and tomato ramen looking quite tasty. But the other customers in the shop made it a point to convince me to go with the midori ramen; green ramen. The color comes from ユーグレナ, an enzyme-rich algae-like superfood. Healthy!


This one is a winner. The soup base is a creamy tonkotsu with a nice refreshing aftertaste. Heavy, but without the after-effects of eating most heavy soups. I had no problem hopping on my bicycle and riding the five kilometers home.


Good luck with the ticket machine! Put in your money, type in the number of what you want, and then hit the red button at the bottom.


Map of 2 Chome-21-7 Tomigaya, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 151-0063

Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Tomigaya 2-21-7
Closest station: Komabatodaimae

Open 11:00-3:00am
Sunday 11:00-1:00am

Thursday, September 17, 2015

さよなら、くるり (Goodbye, Kururi)



As of September 1st, 2015, Kururi is closed. I braved the line on their last day, a line of 40 people that took about two hours, to slurp it one last time.


Kururi, for me, is a very important shop. When I started this site, back in the end of 2008, the only resource I had was a ranking list of shops from some TV show I managed to find with an internet search. Kururi was that list's number one. And for me, it was the first time I had something that truly blew me away.


The infamous black sign. Kururi had no way of inviting you in. Just a small shop with a blackened wood exterior, next to a tire shop, with a long line.


My ramen guidebook, 最強アメリカ・ラーメン男 東京 極ウマ50店を食べる, is now officially outdated.

My original, and very old, write up of Kururi is here.

Monday, September 14, 2015

支那そばや (Shinasobaya in Tsurugamine)

支那そばや 鶴ヶ峰店


I'd only ever had the chance to slurp at the Shinasobaya branch at the Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum. Shinasobaya is, at least among hardened ramen lovers, considered one of the most important shops in the story of Japanese ramen.


Sano-san, Shinasobaya's founder, is credited as transforming ramen from a simple dish of Chinese origin into gourmet Japanese cuisine. Of course, this journey meant having disciples who not only work at his shop, but carry on his legacy at shops of their own.


The Shinasobaya in Tsurugamine is one of those shops. I can't imagine the hardships that the master endured (Sano-san was well known for being a harsh perfectionist with both his staff and customers). But it was that hard work, that struggle, that eventually led to this, the perfect bowl.


And, yes, this is the perfect bowl. In the way that Michalangelo's David is the perfect representation of the male form. There's nothing crazy going on. No nouveau toppings, just your standard nori seaweed, menma, and a few sliced green onions.


The chashu is tender, the farm-raised egg cooked and flavored correctly, and the noodles matched perfectly. The wontons are an added bonus.


One of those bowls that really makes you love your ramen adventure.


Expect a bit of a line, and remember they are only open until the soup runs out.


Map of 1 Chome-29-8 Tsurugaminehonchō, Asahi-ku, Yokohama-shi, Kanagawa-ken 241-0021

Kanagawa-ken, Yokohama-shi, Asahi-ku, Tsurugaminehoncho 1-29-8
Closest station: Tsurugamine

Open 11:00-15:00 (or when the soup runs out)
Closed Mondays

Thursday, September 10, 2015

ごとう (Goto in Komagome)



Goto moved from Ikebukuro recently, and I decided to check out the new basement shop in Komagome. Known for their homemade noodles and ties to Taishoken, this one is definitely on many people's lists of favorite shops in Tokyo.


The 特製もりそば - tokusei morisoba - is served tsukemen style. Probably the one to get.


Though, for me, I wasn't feeling this one. I'm not a big fan of Taishoken style, of which I am in the small minority. The bowl at Goto is much more porky, but it still has a lightness that I don't really go for in my tsukemen bowls.


The noodles were great, but in an old-school sort of way.


Komagome has a lot of great shops these days. Rock on, Komagome!


Map of 1 Chome-39-5 Komagome, Toshima-ku, Tōkyō-to 170-0003

Tokyo, Toshima-ku, Komagome 1-39-5
Closest station: Komagome

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

Monday, September 7, 2015

麺処 きなり (Kinari in Komagome)

麺処 きなり


The master at newly-opened Kinari asked that I not reveal his previous place of employment. But I'll give a hint; it's one of the ramen shops in my best-of list.


With rent being cheap (relatively cheaper) on the north side of Tokyo, it was easy (relatively easier) for this small, eight-seat counter restaurant to open.


I had high hopes going in, and was greeted with this fantastic bowl. It's a simple, niboshi-rich ramen with a surprisingly deep umami aftertaste. Sure, this style is the default trend for shops these days, but there was something unique about the flavors in the bowl at Kinari.

Definitely one to check out if you are into niboshi or live anywhere near Komagome Station on the northern side of the Yamanote Line (the Tokyo loop line).


Oh, that egg!


Map of 1 Chome-1-15 Nishigahara, Kita-ku, Tōkyō-to 114-0024

Tokyo, Kita-ku, Nishigahara 1-1-15
Closest station: Komagome

Open 11:30-14:30, 17:30-22:00
Saturdays 11:30-14:30, 17:30-20:00
Closed Sundays

Thursday, September 3, 2015

巌哲 (Gantetsu in Waseda)

ラーメン 巌哲


Maguro ramen is uncommon. Usually, heartier, smokier dried fish are used to make the soup. The flavors just match better. And when you pair maguro tuna with a light shio broth, you'd better know what you are doing.


The Chinese characters in Gantetsu (巌哲) translates to rocky philosophy. This was fitting, as I was meeting with my friend A from Philoramen. I'll keep his name anonymous, as he is a philosophy researcher whose character may come into question if his ramen obsession was found out by the academic world.


The shop filled with wonderful aromas as chef Yasuyuki Hiramatsu quickly sauteed some raw tuna chunks.

The soup uses local chickens from Shiga Prefecture to give just enough character to match the tuna, all topped with high quality versions of your usual toppings.


Another solid shio ramen in Tokyo. Umami-rich, and the half-cooked bits of fresh tuna could stand on their own, they were that good.


The limited hiyashi bowl was outstanding. Those raw, red sliced of maguro were unbelievably rich. We later found out that it was cold smoked, giving those slices a deep, rich flavor.


Smoking meats needs to be a bigger thing in Tokyo, though I'm not sure if the thousands of neighbors we all live near would be too happy about it.


On the ticket machine, the upper left is actually shoyu, so if you want the shio go to the one below.


Map of 1 Chome-10-4 Nishiwaseda, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 169-0051

Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Nishiwaseda 1-10-4
Closest station: Waseda

Open 11:30-15:00, 18:00-21:00
Thursday 11:30-15:00
Sunday 11:30-16:00
Closed Mondays