Monday, April 24, 2017

三歩一 (Sanpoichi in Takadanobaba)

鶏そば 三歩一 


I don't visit Takadanobaba that often, despite it being one of Tokyo's more famous ramen battle zones.


Well, I got a TV gig, and the topic was Takadanobaba ramen ranking. They gave me a list of 60 shops to comment on. No I didn't hit all of them, but made it a point to seek out a few top contenders I had yet to slurp.


Sanpoichi is as light as light chicken ramen can get. A clear broth with hints of umami. Very refined. Noodles made in house really stand out. Firm and wheaty.


The homemade rayu hot oil was a nice addition, but be careful, it can overpower the subtle umami of this one.


Crushed it! These are the perfect bowls for cold days. To me, it feels like mom's chicken soup kicked up with something extra.

I enjoyed this one, but it didn't make the TV show's Top 7, which were the only ones to make it on air. They said they interviewed 1000 people to make the list.

For your info, here it is. Do you agree?

  1. やまぐち - Yamaguchi
  2. 渡なべ - Watanabe
  3. 焼麺 劔 - Tsurugi
  4. 蔭山 - Kageyama
  5. 俺の空 - Orenosora
  6. 表裏 - Hyori
  7. 鷹流 - Takaryu


Apparently this famous person came for a bowl at Sanpoichi as well.


Map of 2 Chome-14-9 Takadanobaba, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyō-to 169-0075

Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Takadanobaba 2-14-9
Closest station: Takadanobaba

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

Thursday, April 20, 2017

タンタンタイガー (Tantan Tiger in Asakusa)



Anytime I hear of a new soupless tantanmen spot, I get excited. I love that hit of spice and sansho, Chinese numbing pepper. The more the better!


I learned a lesson today. More isn't always better. When the master asked the levels of spice, I went normal. As for the numbing pepper, I went 大. I went big.

It wasn't until my third or fourth bite that I actually read the info sheet (more of a warning sheet). For the 辛さ, the spiciness, the middle is the shop's standard, and recommended for normal people. I can attest, it was just right. But the 痺れ, numbing level, has a different suggestions. For first timers, go 小, go small. If you like bitter, go normal. If you are a bit crazy, go big.


So yeah, this one was way over-spiced, a folly that was completely my fault. I powered through, but didn't enjoy it as much as I should have. Those pre-shock bites, the first, second, and third, were great.


Tantan Tiger has a selection of side veggies; avocado, tomato, and cilantro among others.


A lovely onsen tamago helped the heat a bit.


I was with the staff of MOTO NAVI magazine, and as they were featuring me in their magazine, I had to save face and finish the entire bowl. The good thing about sansho is that it doesn't linger.

So yeah, I recommend this one, but go medium or less on the spice.


Map of 2 Chome-2-1 Torigoe, Taitō-ku, Tōkyō-to 111-0054

Tokyo, Taito-ku, Toritoge 2-2-1
Closest station: Kuramae

Open 11:00-15:00, 17:00-22:00
Closed Saturday

Monday, April 17, 2017

勝本 (Katsumoto in Jimbocho)

神田 勝本


Jimbocho has never been lacking in terms of ramen, so when a new shop comes in, they had better bring their A game.


I found out about this shop from one of the annual Toky ramen magazines. Katsumoto was giving a fairly high ranking in the field of rookie shops for the category of tsukemen with a clear soup. Yes, that is very specific. You should take these rankings with a grain of salt, as the field can be quite sparse. Although many ramen shops open and close in Tokyo every year, the number in each category can be small.


I'm not a huge fan of lighter tsukemen, but the bowl here has something special.


Two kinds of noodles. Thick, and thin.


All in all, having two kinds of noodles was a gimmick to me, and it meant that, though I liked one more, I also liked one less. The thinner of the lot paled next to the thick, chewy noodles in the back.


Map of 1 Chome-2-4 Sarugakuchō, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to 101-0064

Tokyo, Chioda-ku, Sarugicho 1-2-4
Closest station: Jimbocho

Open 11:00-17:00
Closed Sundays

Thursday, April 13, 2017

佐市 (Saichi in Hatagaya)

麺や 佐市


Oyster ramen! And not just some random bowl with an oyster topping. This new shop cooks their soup with the shellfish, pulling out the maximum umami that these little guys hold.


You might as well get a side of oyster snacks while you wait.


Very interesting bowl. Personally, I love it, but could see some people not being into this oyster ramen.


The soup is liquid oyster gold. Almost like drinking concentrated extract. I'd like to hear the opinion of one of my oyster nerd friends. The soup is free of chemical seasoning, something I always like to see. Almost all ramen shops in Japan rely on a pinch of Ajinomoto, pure MSG, for that extra bit of umami. Here, that strong oyster flavor comes packed with plenty of natural MSG. Nothing more needed.


Although this shop has failed to become very popular, I think it is at least worth a try.


Map of 2 Chome-6-7 Hatagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 151-0072

Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Hatagaya 2-6-7
Closest station: Hatagaya

Hours aren't official yet, but it looks like 11:30am until midnight.

Monday, April 10, 2017

篠はら (Shinohara in Ikebukuro)

麺処 篠はら


I met up with famous Ramen YouTuber SusuruTV for a collaboration video. You can view it here:

Well, the dude is, at heart, a ramen nerd, and we immediately went to crush another bowl.


Shinohara comes from the Honda group, a group that has been churning out a lot of Tokyo talent. New school refined is a good way to describe their styles. Choice ingredients, and lots of them. Chicken, beef, pork, and fish heads all go into the soup. The tare seasoning uses craft soy sauce from Ohitachi (お常陸), out of Ibaraki Prefecture.

Rich, but not overly salty, with a complex umami aftertaste. My kind of bowl.


The entire menu looks great. Top row is the shoyu, which I had. Probably your best bet for the first time. Below that is a lighter dashi bowl. And in orange a bowl made with tai fish.  Add to that a constant rotation of limited bowls and rice bowls, and you've got a place I wouldn't mind coming back to.


I had to rush off to a TV shoot for another two bowls, so I'm thankful that the noodles at Shinohara were on the lighter, easy-to-slurp side.

Official site here.


Map of 3 Chome-1-4 Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tōkyō-to 170-0014

Tokyo, Toshima-ku, Ikubukuro 3-1-4
Closest station: Ikebukuro

Open 11:30-14:30, 18:00-21:00
Closed Wednesdays

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Limited Bonito Ramen at the Fermentation Future Forum



Well, this was random.


That's Namae-san, the chef over at L'Effervescence. If you've never heard of this restaurant, I'll give you a teaser. Number 12 in Asia. Two Michelin stars. Tabelog Gold status. In other words, fine dining.

I've been to L'Effervescence for lunch before, and it was a delight. But even their cheapest option is quite pricey, and out of the price range of anyone looking for a casual slurp.

So when Namae-san did a quick pop-up at a fermentation festival in Tokyo, I was first in line.


Katsuo, blocks of skipjack tuna smocked dry into flavorful umami rocks. Shave them down; a little goes a long way. Different levels were used for different purposes, and some of the best were shaved fresh onto the top of the ramen.


The soup is hit with homemade sour cream, another level of fermentation umami.

All in all, an interesting one-off bowl. I'd probably never go for this again, but I was happy to try ramen from such an accomplished chef.


Official festival site here.
L'Effervescence site here.


Map of 5 Chome-53-70 Jingūmae, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 150-0001

This was at the farmer's market at UNU in Omotesando, which is open weekends from 10am-4pm.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Slurp Ramen Joint in Copenhagen, Denmark



Travel to the other side of the planet for a bowl? Sure!

I met Philipp back in 2015, when he was in Japan for work at renowned Ryugin, a high-end Japanese restaurant that is consistently named top five in Asia. Sure, the kid had done stints at Noma and Relæ, but like many chefs, he was a huge ramen fan.


Fast forward to the present, and he's opened his own place in Copenhagen. A real, Japan-inspired shop on the other side of the planet.


Timing was of the essence, and I really only had the first week of January free from my Tokyo obligations. And though the shop was slated to open on January 4th, I arrived to this; construction. The interior was in the final stages, but it was still a mess. Top-of-the-line kitchen appliances remained hidden from view beneath plastic and cardboard.


Well, over the course of my stay, the plastic and cardboard dissipated, and though the shop's official opening was pushed back to February 9th, I got to try the bowl.


I should note that Philipp spent a bit of time in Japan working at some of Tokyo's top ramen shops. One of those was my local favorite (and apparently the favorite of Noma chef René Redzepi), Hototogisu. The bowl at Slurp is heavily inspired by this.


Shio ramen heaven. Prized local pork meets imported Japanese ocean products. I should know, I smuggled in two duffel bags of dried shrimp and scallops. I say smuggled, but for the sake of conversation, let's say that I brought in exactly 20kg, the amount you are legally allowed to carry across borders into Denmark.


You're hit with these flavors on the first sip. Ocean umami, amplified by the glutamate acids in kombu seaweed. The basis of amazing bowls like this. And while the base is legit, Slurp goes the extra step. The paste on top is made from cep mushrooms. Often compared with Italian Porcini, this secret ingredient adds another layer of umami.

The noodles, made in-house, blend Japanese with local organic Borneholm flour. They also add a pinch of freshly ground rye to give the noodles a heartier flavor.


With the Japanese flavors come some of that Danish design. The bowls are handcrafted works of art. The shop is clean and angular, with the wood from the rafters matching the wood on the original stools.


Since opening, the shop is a hit. Their menu is minimal, with four kinds of ramen and four starters, one of which is a monthly special. A nice blend of Japanese style quick-slurp and Western-style relax.

I only had a chance to have the shio, so I'll be back for the rest someday. Copenhagen is an amazing city, and I would love to visit the region in the warmer months of the year.

Official site here.



For hours, please check their site.