Thursday, January 28, 2016

ぶらり (Burari in Nippori)

麺・酒処 ぶらり


Burari is in the old part of northern Tokyo, just outside of Nippori Station, down a dark alley. The kind of place you would never know about, save for their recent mention in the 2016 Michelin Guide. Burari was given a nod in the Bib Gourmand section of the guide, a section devoted to cheap, yet high quality eats.


Is this Michelin quality ramen? Sure, why not.


Burari is a chicken ramen place, with simplicity being the key. The yellow row on the ticket machine is creamy soup, the green is clear soup.


We tried one of each, and they were both quite nice. Very simple, without much of a deep impact. The kind of ramen that would exist down a little street in a less popular part of town. A place with happy regulars, and the occasional happy random customer.


Official site here.

Map of 5 Chome-52-5 Higashinippori, Arakawa-ku, Tōkyō-to 116-0014

Tokyo, Arakawa-ku, Higashi Nippori 5-52-5
Closest station: Nippori

Open 11:30-15:00, 17:00-23:30
Saturday 11:30-22:00
Closed Mondays

Monday, January 25, 2016

麺や食堂 (Menyashokudo in Atsugi)



One of the best shio ramen shops in Japan is out in Atsugi. Honmarutei is a shop so good that I couldn't really recommend anything else in the area. But, if they are closed, Menyashokudo is a nearby choice.


The shop is done up in 昭和レトロ style; Showa retro. Old signage, retro candy, cute festival masks. Definitely a fun place.


And while the soup looks simple, it is rather deep.


Their menu claims that their kodawari lies in three parts; noodles, soup, and heart. The soup was a highlight. Taking about 10 hours to make, it's rich and deep. The noodles are homemade with Hokkaido flour. And the heart? Just looking around at the families slurping away in this retro shop made it clear that, yes, that is as important as the taste.

The menu has many bowls, but the simple kakesoba let's you savor just the noodles and soup.


Official site here.

Map of 9-6 Saiwaichō, Atsugi-shi, Kanagawa-ken 243-0012

Kanagawa-ken, Atsugi-shi, Saiwaicho 9-6
Closest station: Hon-Atsugi

Open 11:00-15:00, 18:00-23:00
Weekends 11:00-23:00

Thursday, January 21, 2016

飯田商店 (Ida Shoten in Yugawara)

らぁ麺屋 飯田商店


Here it is. This is one of Kanto's most celebrated ramen shops. Some of Ida Shoten's accolades:

Yes, the line here is long. On a warm Saturday in November, I waited over two hours. Be prepared.

I should also note that this shop, though technically in Kanagawa Prefecture, is very far from Tokyo. The fastest trip by train involves riding the Shinkansen bullet train, and takes about an hour and a half.


The menu is simple. Top row is shoyu, followed by shio, with tsukemen just under that. What to eat, what to eat? One of each sounds good.


This shoyu is on another level. Master Ida-san trained at famed Shinasobaya, and it shows. A deep shoyu sits underneath that golden layer of aromatic chicken oil. On many levels, this could be considered a perfect bowl of ramen; every detail is accounted for. Thick-cut menma along side thick-cut chashu. The special version also came with slow-cooked chicken slices and shrimp wontons.

Despite the distance from central Tokyo, this one is a must-hit for ramen lovers.


The shio is up there as well. Notice how he uses slightly different toppings? While the robust shoyu has thick cut menma bamboo shoots, the lighter shio uses a thinner, more delicate one. Also, the bowls are different shapes, meant to affect the aroma and slurpability. This is where my fellow ramen nerds and I geek out.


Oh, they were having a limited bowl of duck shoyu, so we tried that as well. I've had a few bowls of duck shoyu recently, and when done right, it's fantastic. This might have been a reason for the huge line that day.


The tsukemen is a different beast all together. If it looks complicated, well, it is. So complex, in fact, that you need a nine step instruction manual to do it right.

  1. Sprinkle some salt on the noodles.
  2. Eat the noodles a la carte. The noodles are sitting in a light konbu dashi that deserves to be tasted alone.
  3. Taste just the soup. Rich, isn't it?
  4. Eat the tsukemen like a normal person normally would.
  5. These toppings are amazing!
  6. Now dip the noodles in the shoyu soup, then sprinkle with salt.
  7. Eat it! Finish it!
  8. Pour the remaining soups together and drink it down.
  9. Tell a friend! 行くべ!

But, to be honest, I didn't like this one at all!

The konbu dashi that the noodles sit in was so rich that it became slimy. The word slimy sounds bad in English, while the Japanese onomatopoeia for the word ネバネバ, neba neba, is used to describe many tasty foods. I'm not a huge fan, an aspect I blame on being raised in a Western household where slippery, slimy foods were never on the menu. I'll eat the stuff, but I'm not going out of my way for the likes of natto, okra, or grated yam (tororo).

I've been told by EVERY other ramen nerd that this tsukemen is one of the best in Japan. That overabundance of konbu means and overabundance of umami. Even though I don't recommend it, I kind of recommend it.


You could easily make a day out in Yugawara. There are plenty of onsen, natural hot springs, in the area. Dopponoyu, Japan's largest foot bath, isn't far from Ida Shoten. And in nearby Atami is one of my favorite art museums in Japan, the MOA. Sounds like a perfect day to me!

Map of 2 Chome-12-14 Doi, Yugawara-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa-ken 259-0303

Kanagawa-ken, Ashigarashimagun, Yagawaramachi, Doi 2-12-14
Closest station: Yugawara

Open 11:00-15:00
Closed Mondays

Monday, January 18, 2016

鳳凛 (Horin in Fukuoka)

らーめん屋 鳳凛 春吉店


I love a good bowl in Fukuoka. Rich tonkotsu soup, thin, firm (katame) noodles, and just a touch of toppings. But I'm not afraid to admit that my palate is unaccustomed to this style. I've had some very good bowls before, and a lot of decent bowls. In the realm of decent, all these Hakata-style bowls are a blur.


Horin is strictly decent. I had a busy day of work the next morning, and this was the closest shop with a high rating near the hotel. I wanted to visit the famed yatai of the area, portable food carts serving ramen and drinks, but those are more of a late night thing.


Horin was just what I needed before bed.


I know this review isn't of much use, but like I said, it's a sea of decentness.

I would love some recommendations for shops in Fukuoka. I'm usually a bit busy with work when I am in town, but can make the trek for an exceptional bowl.


Official site here.


Map of 3 Chome-21-15 Haruyoshi, Chūō-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka-ken 810-0003

Fukuoka-ken, Fukuoka-shin, Chuo-ku, Haruyoshi 3-21-15
Closest station: Tenjin

Open 11:30-5:00am
Weekends until 6:00am

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Cafe the 6BT in Roppongi

Cafe the 6BT


More vegan ramen in Tokyo. As I've said before, there are only two good spots, Soranoiro and Oka. As you can read, 6BT is not on that list.


But maybe I just had the wrong one. The spicy tantanmen was topped with fake meat (some kind of gluten), and the soup was heavy on the soy milk. Both of those things are things I avoid.

The menu has half a dozen ramen varieties. So, like I said, maybe I just picked the wrong one.


But the rest of the menu at 6BT, along with the funky cafe vibe, make for a good time. Grab one of their jar salads (a trend I've been told), and match it with an antioxidant fruit smoothie. Feel better about yourself because some of the menu is organic. You can even buy natural detox juice kits if you feel bad about what you put into your body the week before.


I put about 12 bowls of meaty ramen into my body the week before, and I feel just fine.

This was for a TV shoot. Check it out here:


Official site here.

Map of 9 Chome-6-26 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tōkyō-to 107-0052

Tokyo, Minato-ku, Akasaka 9-6-26
Closest station: Nogizaka

Open 11:30-24:00
Sundays until 22:00

Monday, January 11, 2016

すずらん (Suzuran in Ebisu)

中華そば すずらん


Wow, it's been many, many years since I went to Suzuran. This is something I need to remedy. Suzuran is one of those shops that never ceases to amaze.


Their menu is deep, with a list of limited bowls that I can't even read. What the heck is 藍貝? Some kind of mussel? Ah, and there's the never-used Chinese character for crab, 蟹. And the last one is razor clam.

So, yeah, their ever-changing limited menu on this day includes four kinds of amazing seasonal seafood dishes.


But we were focusing on pork. By we, I mean AKB48 member Rena Nozawa and myself, filming with #tokyoextra. The shop's shabushabu ramen is topped with, you guessed it, shabu shabu. By the way, the Chinese characters for this dish are 涮肉麺.


The soup is light and aromatic, with plenty of yuzu to keep it fresh. The noodles? Top of the line homemade. Every time I come here I forget how amazing they are. I have a few foodie friends who are high up in the game, and they swear by this shop, making a trek here every time they visit Tokyo.

But how to you make it even better? Get a side of the shop's kakuni, stewed pork. Kakuni is rich and succulent, and Suzuran's melts in your mouth.


The lineup isn't horrible on a weekday, but expect a short wait.


Check out out #tokyoextra video:


Map of 1 Chome-7-12 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 150-0013

Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Ebisu 1-7-12
Closest station: Ebisu

Open 11:30-15:30, 18:00-23:00
Closed Sundays

Thursday, January 7, 2016

四代目 ねかし (Yondaime Nukashi in Ikebukuro)

四代目 ねかし 魚介とんこつ肉そば


Wasabi is an amazing ingredient. Most people don't know this, but the spicy notes of the root are completely neutralized by fat. Put it on a lean piece of nigiri sushi, and you'll feel the burn. Put it on some fatty wagyu steak, and it's like eating a pungent forest.


Nukashi takes advantage of this property of wasabi by covering your bowl in lightly grilled fatty pork pieces. This, added to the fact that the tonkotsu gyokai soup is already quite heavy, and you're left with an interesting bowl indeed.


My advice, and this goes for any bowl of ramen at any shop, is to eat about half of it without any spice. Then, flavor away to your heart's content. At Nukashi, that means wasabi, wasabi, wasabi.


Fun shop. This was actually for a TV shoot. I'm not thrilled when my TV shoots take me to shops that I haven't sampled before. You are pretty much required to love the ramen when the cameras are rolling. For me, personally, I will never endorse a place with bad ramen, but work is work. I pretty much knew that that roasted pork would be good, if anything else, but in the end the entire bowl was solid. Sign of relief. Check out the video!


And in total Ikebukuro fashion, they were filming some sort of gangster movie outside the shop in a separate shooting. Crazy Ikebukuro.


Map of 1 Chome-34-3 Nishiikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tōkyō-to 171-0021

Tokyo, Toshima-ku, Nishi Ikebukuro 1-34-3
Closest station: Ikebukuro

Open 11:00-2:00am
Friday and Saturday until 4:00am
Sunday until midnight