Monday, February 29, 2016

Best 50 Ramen Shops According to Tabelog

The most popular restaurant ranking site in Japan released an official Top 50 Ramen list in 2016. Here they are, with links to the ones I have visited. I have bolded shops that are in my book.
  1. 道 - Michi - Tokyo
  2. 和 dining 清乃 - Seino - Wakayama
  3. 一燈 - Itto - Tokyo
  4. 八雲 - Yakumo - Tokyo
  5. 饗 くろ喜 - Motenashi Kuroki - Tokyo
  6. 和海 - Nagomi - Hyogo
  7. こうかいぼう - Kokaibo - Tokyo
  8. 鶏喰 - Trick - Kanagawa(I went! Post coming soon)
  9. 中華そば屋 伊藤 - Ito - Tokyo
  10. 煮干鰮らーめん 圓 - En - Tokyo
  11. 麺処 晴 - Haru - Tokyo
  12. 麺屋 丈六 - Joroku - Osaka
  13. 金田家 - Kanadaya - Fukuoka
  14. 麺尊RAGE - Tokyo
  15. ラーメン家 みつ葉 - Mitsuba - Nara
  16. 麺屋 NOROMA - Nara
  17. 金色不如帰 - Hototogisu - Tokyo
  18. 田中商店 - Tanakashoten - Tokyo
  19. らぁ麺やまぐち - Yamaguchi - Tokyo
  20. しば田 - Shibata - Tokyo
  21. 大和 - Yamato - Tochigi
  22. イチカワ - Ichikawa - Ibaraki
  23. 中華そば よしかわ - Yoshikawa - Saitama
  24. ラーメン 巌哲 - Gantetsu - Tokyo
  25. 煮干しつけ麺 宮元 - Miyamoto - Tokyo
  26. 和心 武庫之荘店 - Nagomi Mukonosu - Hyogo
  27. むさし野 - Musashino - Chiba
  28. 蘭鋳 - Ranchu - Tokyo
  29. 多賀野 - Tagano - Tokyo
  30. うえまち - Uemachi - Osaka
  31. らぁ麺 すぎ本 - Sugimoto - Tokyo
  32. 伊吹 - Ibuki - Tokyo
  33. らーめん工房 龍 - Ryu - Fukuoka
  34. ようすけ - Yosuke - Tochigi
  35. 麺屋 極鶏 - Gokei - Kyoto
  36. 麺屋 彩未 - Saimi - Hokkaido
  37. らーめん鱗 西中島店 - Uroko Nishinakajima - Osaka
  38. 麺や而今 - Jikon - Osaka
  39. らーめん 弥七 - Yashichi - Osaka
  40. 麺処 きなり - Kinari - Tokyo
  41. 無法松 - Muhomatsu - Fukuoka
  42. とみ田 - Tomita - Chiba
  43. 豚星 - Butaboshi - Kanagawa
  44. 彩色ラーメン きんせい夢風 - Kinsemufu - Osaka
  45. らぁ麺屋 飯田商店 - Idashoten - Kanagawa
  46. 進化 - Shinka - Tokyo
  47. 燦燦斗 - Sansanto - Tokyo
  48. 南京ラーメン 黒門 - Kuromon - Fukuoka
  49. 四つ葉 - Yotsuba - Saitama
  50. Japanese Soba Noodles 蔦 - Tsuta - Tokyo
The original list can be found over at the Tabelog site.

I like this list. Personally, it gives me a solid selection of Osaka and Fukuoka shops to check out this year, as well as a few more in Tokyo that I haven't been to. Goals in life are good.

This list isn't a direct representation of Tabelog's user base. Tabelog operates on a 5 star system, and is purely based on user's ratings. Generally, anything with more than 4 stars is considered an amazing restaurant. In my dealings with food of all types, this is normally true. But, if you look at the flat out rankings, some shops that are in the general top 10 for ramen, such as Orenoramen Apare, aren't in this list of 50 at all. I'm not sure who curated this list, but I would love to know their reasons for leaving off the shop that I consider my favorite in Japan. And Tsuta, despite their Michelin star and high numerical score, looks to have been snidely added at the very bottom.

I was also really happy that this list re-ignited memories of some of my old favorites. In the search for ramen, we sometimes neglect some shops after visiting once. Number 28, Ranchu, is a perfect example . . . and it's only a 10 minute bicycle ride from my house.

43 / 50 is almost there. Wish me luck!

【Ramen with delicious meats】TOKYO EXTRA 18:東京 EXTRA.mp4_snapshot_00.20_[2016.02.27_19.19.44].jpg



Thursday, February 25, 2016

田なか Second (Tanaka Second in Akihabara)

志奈そば 田なか Second

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Shinasoba Tanaka in Otsuka is a great shop, and I was excited to hear they would open a second brand near Akihabara Station.

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The menu is totally different, focusing on lighter shio styles.  The top of the ticket machine, from left to right, is niboshi shio, anchovy mazesoba, kakesoba, and a shoyu that will come in the future.

I tried a couple bowls, starting with the anchovy mazesoba. Mix it up!

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The anchovy flavor was lighter than what you would expect, and the flat noodles are an uncommon choice for this style of soupless ramen. I'd recommend it if it wasn't for their other menu item.

The real winner here is the kakesoba, ramen with nothing but soup and noodles. Why not include a plethora of tasty toppings? This style of ramen let's the soup speak out for itself.

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And what a soup it is! Made with Japanese abalone and spiny lobster, the kakesoba is pure essence of the sea. I gotta see it again!

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Exploding with umami, and just a splash of the ocean. This is broth at the same level as some at Tokyo's high end kaiseki restaurants. Yes, iseebi, Japanese spiny lobster is very expensive. Yes, awabi, abalone, ain't cheap either. But this bowl is only 1000 yen. Limited to 30 a day.

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Show it again!

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I've grown to love natural umami flavors more and more. Take a sip, and feel the aftertaste as you exhale. It's hard to define umami; is it a meaty taste or just a mouth-feel. Regardless of how you describe the 6th taste sensation, it is pure joy.

Check out the video I made with #TokyoExtra.



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Map of 3 Chome-4-1 Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to 101-0021

東京都千代田区外神田3-4-1
Tokyo, Chioda-ku, Sotokanda 3-4-1
Closest station: Akihabara

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



Monday, February 22, 2016

大塚屋 (Otsukaya in Ichigaya)

大塚屋

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I wrote my goodbyes to Kururi in 2015, when I managed to make it for one of their last bowls ever. It was one of my favorite miso ramen spots in Japan. Simply amazing. It was ranked number one on some list somewhere, a list that inspired me to start Ramen Adventures.

Well, the space has been reopened as Otsukaya, serving a bowl that is related to Kururi, yet very different.

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Ramen or tsukemen are your choices. A placard outside describes their soup as ドロドロ系辛みそ; mega-thick spicy miso.

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I need a word stronger than mega. Colossal? Monumental? Insane?

This stuff is intense. The miso tastes like it was derived from Kururi's, and then rendered down with spice until you can stand a pair of chopsticks upright in it (which you should never do in Japan). The spice isn't too crazy, but I couldn't finish this one due to the thickness.

It's worth a visit if you are a big ramen nerd, but for others, you might want to think twice. What a shame.

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Map of 3 Chome-2 Ichigayatamachi, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 162-0843

東京都新宿区市谷田町3-2
Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Ichigaya Tamachi 3-2
Closest station: Ichigaya

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



Thursday, February 18, 2016

築一 (Tsukiichi in Ginza)

旨美麺 築一

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It's time for another episode of Ramen Do on #tokyoextra!



This time, we went to Tsukiichi for their scallop ramen.

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I have a confession to make, I really wanted to dislike this place. You see, there is an amazing ramen shop in Ginza called Kagari. Their shop is almost a secret, and if it wasn't for the massive line down a nondescript alleyway, you would have no idea. There are no signs, save for a tiny そば marker indicating noodles of some sort. Kagari is amazing, and I love watching people reactions as they pass the huge line, having no clue why people are there.

Well, Tsukiichi jumped on the chance and opened directly above Kagari. Then, they erected a giant "らーめん" banner above Kagari. I'm not sure if they are trying to ride the coattails of one of my favorite places in the country or not, but I didn't like it.

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I've been to Kagari a few times since Tsukiichi opened, and have never seen anyone in the place.

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The bowl was ok. How can you lose with grilled scallops and fresh yuzu peel? Nowhere near the level of that amazing shop on the 1st floor, though. Again, this one was for a TV shoot, and I probably wouldn't have gone unless Kagari was on a random holiday.

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Map of 4 Chome-4-1 Ginza, Chūō-ku, Tōkyō-to 104-0061

東京都中央区銀座4-4-1
Tokyo, Chuo-ku, Ginza 4-4-1
Closest station: Ginza

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

Monday, February 15, 2016

江武里 (Eburi in Asakusa)

麺屋 江武里

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I probably never would have come to this spot, out in Asakusa, if it was for it being part of #tokyoextra. What's #tokyoextra you ask? It's a goofy TV show I've been doing with AKB48 members lately. You should check it out, subscribe, and leave comments telling them to renew me for another 50 or so episodes!



Well, the theme this time was curry ramen.

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Eburi serves a whole range of bowls. Shoyu, thick gyokai tsukemen, random limited bowls, as well as the curry, which is only served from 1:00pm. It's the yellow line on the ticket machine, should you choose to follow your favorite AKB48 idol on her culinary exploits.

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Solid.

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The shop's dashi is mixed with a Japanese-style curry soup. Nothing too intense, just light spices and light umami flavors. This one was excellent with an onsen tamago, lightly poached egg, as a topping.

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Located very close to the touristy part of town.

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Map of 2 Chome-4-1 Kaminarimon, Taitō-ku, Tōkyō-to 111-0034

東京都台東区雷門2-4-1
Tokyo, Taito-ku, Kaminarimon 2-4-1
Closest station: Asakusa

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

Thursday, February 11, 2016

あらうま堂 (Araumatei in Osaka)

あらうま堂

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Some friends wanted to take me out to ramen in Osaka, but I insisted on the area's more famous dish. I wanted okonomiyaki.

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Delicious savory pancakes fried at your table. Topped with all manner of things (in this case a kind of starchy root and pig inards). Love the stuff!

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Wait, you thought I could get away with taking a ramen-break?

Turns out there is a ramen shop next door, managed by the same people, that will bring you a bowl after you finish your okonomiyaki. The ramen shop itself had a line of about 10 people outside, so this was a score.

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Araumatei's namesake bowl is a tonkotsu shoyu that was, fortunately, lighter than average. Shime ramen, ramen served after a meal, is best if it isn't motor-oil-thick. That's just my opinion, though. Nice chashu and a smooth umami aftertaste as well.

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The location inside popular Umeda Station makes this one super convenient.

Map of 3 Chome-1-1 Umeda, Kita-ku, Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu 530-0001, Japan

大阪府大阪市北区梅田3-1-1 アクティ大阪B1 1F
Osaka, Osaka-shi, Kita-ku, Umeda 3-1-1 (Inside the station building)
Closest station: Osaka

Open 11:00-11:00

Monday, February 8, 2016

チョコひつじ (Chocolate Lamb Ramen at MENSHO TOKYO)

MENSHO TOKYO

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It's only a few days until Valentines, and that means chocolate, chocolate, chocolate in Tokyo. For those who don't know what it is like in Japan, the girls buy chocolate for all the guys in their lives, from friends to colleagues to boyfriends. Something got a little lost in translation, and this holiday is all about marketing to the masses, as many holidays are. Regardless of how you feel about the day, it's a big deal to some.



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Ramen shops even get in on the fun. This year, at MENSHO TOKYO, they add dark chocolate to a spicy, peppery lamb soup. This is a limited bowl, only available until February 14th. Better act fast!

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The soup is inspired by Toyama Black, a style that uses black pepper and dark shoyu to give a noodle-staining color to the soup.

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Melt in some chocolate, and top with roasted Iberico pork for an intense dish.

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Surprisingly, this one was pretty good. The spices outweigh the chocolate, much the way Mexican mole does.

As always, noodles are way above average at any Mensho shop.

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Definitely not something I'd crush every day, but not something I wouldn't crush once in a while.

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Head to my original review of  MENSHO TOKYO for shop info.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Osaka Ramen Expo 2015

Osaka Ramen Expo 2015

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I seem to be visiting a lot of these expos lately, despite my general ambiguity to ramen events. It's cold out, this place is a 40 minute drive from central Osaka, and ramen served in a plastic bowl tends to add a lot of meh to an otherwise good bowl.

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But here I was. Actually, the organizers personally invited me when we met by chance at another ramen event, so I felt obliged.

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As usual, about 2/3 of the shops were from outside of Osaka; a chance to locals to try something from exotic Tokyo and beyond. The other shops were collaborations. Sign me up with the latter.

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The first collab I was into was betweem 縁乃助商店 and ラーメン小僧. Kozu, is an excellent shop serving mega-thick soup in Osaka. They share this love of noko soup with Ennosukeshoten. Both are run by young ramen masters. Blended with miso from Hokkaido, this one cut through the cold. A nice start.

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I was intrigued by the bowl at ラーメンこがね家, Koganeya, simply because they had won some TV competitions. I know, I know, this is a horrible way to judge a bowl. I feel like the only TV shows that aren't rigged are the ones that I personally appear on, and even those tend to make creative edits to achieve whatever the director thinks will make for good television.

Anyways, this one was lackluster.

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Insert your own caption.

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I inadvertently poured in a 神辛, god-level-spice amount of homemade chili oil in the collaboration bowl from Sapporo shop マルエス and local Strike-ken.

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But it wasn't as hot as I'd thought. Another decent miso bowl that was great on one of the first cold nights of the season.

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The event is long over, but keep an eye for some 2016 events in Osaka, there are many like this planned.

Official site here.



Banpaku Memorial Park
Closest station: Banpakukinenkoen