Thursday, October 29, 2015

秀ちゃんラーメン (Hide-chan in Akasaka)



When a business meeting in Akasaka ended up at famed Hide-chan, I realized I had never actually written about this shop. I've been to the branch in Hong Kong, and made it to their collaboration with fashion brand Mastermind, but never to the normal shop in Tokyo.


Hide-chan is Hakata through and through. The shop stinks, the bowls are overflowing onto the dish below, and customers are screaming for kaedama every few minutes.


This might be one of the best places to try this style. Ippudo is great, but is a little more refined. Hakatatenjin is great, but a little rougher. My favorite, Tanakashoten, is just too damn far away.


Hide-chan is just right.


Of all the styles of ramen in Japan, I feel like I know very little about Hakata-style. What flavors to look for and appreciate, what kodawari to savor. To me, as long as the odor of boiling pork bones isn't too strong, and the flavor isn't weak, tonkotsu ramen is a winner.


Website here.


Map of 2 Chome-17-58 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tōkyō-to 107-0052

Tokyo, Minato-ku, Akasaka 2-17-58
Closest station: Akasaka

Open 11:30-23:00
Thursday and Friday until 1:00am
Closed weekends and holidays

Monday, October 26, 2015

高田馬場ラーメン女子大作戦♡ (Takadanobaba Girls Ramen Week)



My first day back in Japan, and I was able to catch the tail-end of the Takadanobaba Girl's Ramen Week. Five lovely ladies collaborated with five awesome shops to make their own creations. Ramen is historically a male-oriented food, but in recent years the ladies have made it hip to slurp.


My timing was bad, and only two shops were open when I went for a late lunch.


First up was Yurimori-san's collaboration with Garasha. I've never been to this toripaitan shop, so I was curious to see what was going on.


The shop's soup was blended with egg whites to make a thick and fluffy base. Topped with some veggies, and served with a side of curry paste. I'll be honest . .  it was unique. Also, I should note, this was the most popular bowl of the event.


Apologies to anyone who wants to go, this event is long over by the time this post goes up. Keep up to date on ramen happenings over at the Ramen Adventure Facebook page.


Next up was a collaboration between Menya So and a girl named Russian Sato (ロシアン佐藤).


It was a slightly spicy mazesoba with the shop's excellent noodles. On the side was a tomato-dill sauce. It was also . . . unique.


Tokyo is full of fun little ramen collaborations and events. Be sure to check out the next Ramen Girl's Club event. If you can read Japanese, Satoko Morimoto's blog (she's the president) can be found here.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Umami in Phoenix, Arizona



Ramen in Phoenix, Arizona? What's that all about?

Why eat ramen, when you can be eating some nouveax tacos in an old church reformed into a Mexican restaurant?


Or a more traditional chile rellenos at the local spot?


Or the best breakfast burrito in the state? Seriously, Arizona's take on Mexican food added two inches to my waist.


But one can not survive on Mexican food alone. Well, maybe that's not true, but I had made it a mission to check out Umami when I had the chance.

Umami's story is interesting. They actually won a contest for six months of free rent, right next to ASU, and chef Jared Lupin quickly garnered status when they were named one of the best ramen shops in the country. Soon after, a kitchen fire shut them down for repairs. On a side note, one of my best friends in Japan moved back to his Arizona home a few years ago. Missing a taste of Japan, he started slurping at Umami. Random talks led to my name coming up, and Jared has been a follower of Ramen Adventures for some time. Awesome.


Umami features a do-it-yourself approach to the ramen. Choose your tare flavor, then load up on toppings. I was told that a miso paitan was the master's special.


I need to express my concern with the elephant in the room; the above professional photo, stolen from the shop's website, is not very appetizing. I showed this same photo to some ramen friends here in Tokyo, and they thought I was crazy for wanting to come here.

My own photo is lacking in the looks department as well.


My opinion would have to be based heavily on the taste.


In this sense, probably the only real important factor when it comes to a simple bowl of ramen, Umami excels. Just enough kick from the miso on impact. Just enough smooth, creamy aftertaste from the soup. And the umami was there to finish it off. Very satisfying.

My friend loaded his up with all kinds of toppings, but I just went with an egg. Feel free to go minimal or over the top, it's that kind of place.


Apart from the ramen, Umami sports a bar serving up all kinds of sake, shochu, and cocktails. I tried a few one-cups from Kikusui, the global supplier of nihonshu to most of America.


I find that most American ramen shops cater to the local crowd. Umami is right next to Arizona State University, so you can expect a lively, voracious crowd. They have a sumo bowl (4x ramen, max spice, loaded with meats) that only six out of 58 people have been able to finish. They have their regulars; college kids who want their ramen they way they like is. They have plenty of room, even a private area for events.


I wish I could say I'd be back soon, but Arizona is quite a trek from Japan. See you again someday!


Umami official site here.


Map of Orchid House at the Brickyard, 21 E 6th St, Tempe, AZ 85281, USA

21 East 6th Street Tempe, Arizona 85251
Nearest station: Are there trains in Arizona?

Open Monday - Saturday 11am - 9pm
Closed Sunday

Monday, October 19, 2015

Ramen Crush ATL Pop-Up in Atlanta

Ramen Crush ATL


One cool thing about travel by air is that you can often stop off a few times along your route, see a new place, and continue on for the same price as a single destination ticket. So instead of just Tokyo to New York and back, I did New York, Atlanta, Arizona, and Los Angeles.

Why Atlanta? Well, I have a foodie friend living there who wanted to show me around town. Southern barbecue, a Braves game, the MLK memorial, and the world's biggest aquarium.

Oh, and ramen.


Did I mention the world's biggest aquarium?


But this is Ramen Adventures, so I'd better talk about the noodles.

I'm intrigued by the concept of pop-up ramen shops. They don't really exist on the same level in Japan in the way they do in America. The hype around pop-ups is staggering. Huge lines, lottery systems, and upscale venues with craft cocktails seem to be the norm. So when I read that Atlanta had a bit of a ramen pop-up scene (well, two competing shops on Thursday nights), I decided to check it out.


Ramen Crush is held at Ration & Dram, a craft cocktail bar built inside an old industrial warehouse. The place normally serves up fancy bar bites and flights of local beers.

And . . . here comes the ramen.


There were three of us, so we tried one of each bowl. I feel sorry for the guy who got the vegetarian miso. It was a huge mess. Pumpkin and corn.


The tonkotsu was a bit weak, though the toppings were good. I'd like some of that roast pork and menma as a side dish, matched with some good sake.


For what it's worth, I think I liked the shio the best. There were some noticeable umami flavors coming through, enhanced even more by the kimchi and roasted spam. I know it doesn't sound great on paper, but it worked . . . sort of.


Good cocktails though.


Map of 130 Arizona Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30307, USA

Ration & Dram site here.
Ramen Crush Facebook here.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

IVAN Ramen in New York

IVAN Ramen


Before I dish out my praises for Ivan Ramen in New York, a little criticism.
  1. The lighting in the garden is too dim to get a great photo of the ramen.
  2. The breakfast ramen, a mazesoba made with cheddar cheese and bacon, is only available for breakfast. I visited for dinner.
  3. A friend of a friend who joined us was disappointed when she met me; she thought she was going to meet David Chang.
Now that that is out of the way . . .


Ivan Orkin opened a few years back to much fanfare. There was a lot of hype about ramen at the time, and who better to blow up on the scene than a native New Yorker. A local boy who had kicked serious ass in Japan as the first white guy to really make an impact. The dude had worked in fine dining, then opened his small ramenya in Tokyo, and now he was ready to return.

Ramen had become cool, people had shown their interest, everything was just right.


The shop is seriously funky. Designer Claude Carril took a pop art approach to the shop, blending Japanese imagery with bold colors and a touch of Americana. Love it.


The menu is large, with eleven starters and seven different bowls. We sampled our way through a few things, with the Chinese greens and pork meatballs being some of my favorites.


But if you'd have to choose just one appetizer, go with the roast pork musubi. Bite-size bits of umami madness. The pork is juicy and meaty, the tomato acidic and fruity, and the salted plum sour. Kind of an amazing creation by Orkin.


If you are into cocktails, Ivan Ramen has plenty. I went with a chili-salt rimmed cucumber deal, while my friends tried some sansho flavored beer from Kagua.


And then the ramen.


I, of course, have eaten at Ivan Ramen in Tokyo many times. His ramen is simple, with hints of katsuo in the aftertaste. I had forgotten that katsuo, the basis of most Japanese cooking and what gives many bowls of ramen their intense umami flavors, is a rather rare ingredient outside of Japan. My friend asked what the amazing, smoky, fishy flavor was. For them, slurping at Ivan Ramen was an educational experience. Very cool.

This is where the shio and shoyu ramen shines; in their simplistic refined flavor.


I'm not happy with the photos in this post (see criticism point number one). Not only do they not do the food justice, but I forgot to take a decent shot of everyone's favorite bowl, the triple pork triple garlic mazemen. It's the junkiest bowl, a polar opposite to the shio. Ivan has always been on point with noodles, and though he now has them made for him at Sun Noodle, they are still a custom deal, brimming with whole grain.


Official site here.


Map of 25 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002, USA

25 Clinton Street New York, NY 10002
Closest station: Essex St

Open Monday-Wednesday :
Lunch 12-3:30pm
Dinner 5:30-11pm

Lunch 12-3:30pm
Dinner 5:30-midnight

Brunch 12-4pm
Dinner: 5:30-Midnight

Brunch 12-4pm
Dinner 5:30-11pm