Hakodate is synonymous with a few foods. The bustling asaichi (morning fish market) means seafood, especially squid and uni, are great here. The Hakodate-only chain of Lucky Pierrot burger shops are quite popular. As for ramen, Hakodate is all shio. All salt.
Actually, I don't understand Hakodate's claim to shio fame. Sure, there are a handful of shops, but how can a handful of clear, salt ramen bowls entice an entire nation to call Hakodate the salt ramen capitol of Japan. On a recent ramen quiz show, I was told that over 70% of Japanese people surveyed knew this about Hakodate.
Is this the same phenomenon that occurs in my hometown of San Francisco? A place where authentic clam chowder is served at all the finest tourist traps in the city? More research is needed!
My research took me here, to the most popular mom-and-pop ramen shop in Hakodate. Seiryuken (lit. star dragon house) opens for a long lunch service, and runs out of soup on a regular basis. I've worked in the area about five or six times, and had been greeted with a urikire, sold out, five or six times.
This time, I showed up 30 minutes before they opened.
The hype was strong. The hype is well deserved.
Good shio ramen takes a basic chicken broth and hits it with an umami overload. The first sip is mom's chicken soup, with an aftertaste of refined Japanese flavors. It goes from intense to subtle in a heartbeat, a rhythm broken up only by the sparse toppings.
I'm sold. Hakodate equals shio.
Seiryuken boasts a huge menu of noodle and rice dishes, from katsudon to kareraisu to zangi. Pork bowl to curry to fried chicken. The shio is a must, but if you go with a group you could probably split a few more dishes.
Official site here.
Hokkaido, Hakodate-shi, Wakamatsucho 7-3
Closest station: Hakodate
Closed Sunday and Monday