Thursday, December 14, 2017

ラーメン無法松 (Muhomatsu in Kokura, Fukuoka)



Another one off my 2016 行きたい list! Muhomatsu is in Kokura, a city in the north of Kyushu. An industrial city that few tourists really need to visit.


Negikara, standard, and a limited bowl with thick cut pork are the three to try. I went with the standard, called fittingly muhomatsu ramen.


Even though the shop was relatively empty when I came, I have heard that they often run out of soup early on in the day. Please keep that in mind.


The soup is more of a clear tonkotsu broth. Made with three kinds of pork, it is full of flavor, but a bit easier to crush than a thicker, stinkier bowl that you usually find in the area. It's also topped with both pork belly and shoulder, for both fatty and lean cuts of chashu.


The freshly sliced stalks of spring onion and a little spicy sauce balance the whole thing out.


I didn't want to waste any of this unique soup.


Kaedama, of course. I usually avoid the extra serving of noodles, as there is probably another shop in the area to go to, but I couldn't see anything worth hitting up.


FYI, here is that list, the Top 50 from Tabelog.

I can easily get to the one in Chiba, but the other two in Kyushu are proving difficult. Countryside locations, odd hours, and the need to rent a car. Maybe in 2018!


Fukuoka-ken, Kitakyushu, Kokurakitaku, Kantake 2-10-24
Closest station: Kokura

Open 11:00-22:00
Closed Wednesdays

Monday, December 11, 2017

アオリの神隠し (Aorinokamikakushi in Osaka)



Bear with me here.

This is Seungri, a member of Korean mega k-pop group Big Bang. I know of this band, as I live in Asia and do not live under a rock. Ask me to name one of their songs? Can't do it. Ask me to name one of their members? Couldn't do it until 3 minutes ago, when I started research for this ramen review.

Seungri is the youngest member of the group, at 26 years old. In December of 2016, he opened a ramen shop in Seoul, and in the following year, 14 other shops from the chain around Asia.

Yes, that is 15 shops in less than a year.


Aori-chan is the shop's official mascot. A quick internet search revealed nothing about who, what, or why. I guess it is for marketing. It is strange, actually, that Seungri's face isn't all over this spot. All of the customers were female fans who were probably fans of Big Bang.


The shop takes (steals?) the Ichiran idea of isolation booths for solo eating.


Lighter tonoktsu ramen, supposedly easier for the ladies, is on order. For 980 yen you get the standard bowl with an egg.


Extra toppings exist, but stick with the basic on your first time.




This one was super meh. I don't want to jump to conclusions, but the whole thing seems like a weird gimmick to prey on fans. I've heard that if you count their worldwide fans, Big Bang is the most popular group in the world. I'm sure Bieber Burgers, no matter how bad, would bring in some decent business. Gaga wraps? Migo burritos?


So there you have it. It makes me sad to see manufactured chain ramen shops expanding around the globe. But when I talk to friends who have tried to open overseas, the money and time alone is enough to destroy a sole proprietor. You need investors, and I am sure people are lining up to represent some famous k-pop star and make a quick buck.


Right next door to a brothel!

Official site here.


Osaka, Osaka-shi, Chuo-ku, Nishishinsaibashi 2-6-6
Closest station: Namba

Open 11:00-22:30

Thursday, December 7, 2017

みつか坊主 本店 (Mitsuka Bose in Osaka)

みつか坊主 本店


Osaka is such a strange, fun city. You never really know what you are going to get. This time around, it was excellent miso ramen with local craft beers.


My first time to this part of town. Hotarugaike Station is way up on the north side of Osaka. It might even be in Hyogo Prefecture. Regardless, the Osaka train system is legit, and you can be here in no time.


Are you lying? It's miso! In a pudding! Yeah, they have their own free paper. The cover of this one is advertising a miso pudding that the shop sells. Miso and soy sauce are sometimes used in desserts.


Draft beer from Minoh, Osaka's most famous craft beer maker. Let's go for the pint.


That pint is massive! Or is her head small? Regardless, this is a spot to come, drink, and take your slurping a bit slower.


The ramen menu has a few choices. It was my first time, but some regulars told me that it is always changing. This time, it was between the white, red, or spicy miso.


The white was pretty good. Not as refined as the miso I usually recommend, but this bowl matched perfectly with the IPA I was drinking. The whole thing had a kind of  . . . Osaka vibe.

They use a white miso from nearby Kyoto as a base. Added to this are misos from Nagano (made with rice) and northern Japan (heavy on the salt). It's all about balance!

For your reference, the red miso uses a base of Aichi Prefecture miso that has been aged about three years, and the spicy bowl utilizes a Korean spicy miso.


The shop usually has a limited bowl or two. Today's came in the form of a tantanmen. Maybe pair this one with a weizen.


As beer is served in copious amounts, you can expect some side snacks. These homemade pickles!


BTW, FYI, the local specialty of the area is kasuudon, a kind of udon noodle dish with stewed beef stomach topping. Osaka, you crazy!


Official site here.


Osaka, Toyonaka-shi, Hotarugaike Nakamichi 2-5-13
Closest station: Hotarugaike

Open 7:00pm-1:00am

Monday, December 4, 2017

Vege China in Shinjuku



Fancy department store Chinese noodles?


Most upscale department stores in Japan have a restaurant floor up high. The food ranges from upper-end casual to lower-end gourmet, and I am sure there are some gems out there. To be honest, I don't spend much time shopping at the likes of Isetan, Matsuyama, and Mitsukoshi. On the off chance I find some fashion I am in to, the price is never something I would spend. Six hundred dollars for that fashion t-shirt, I just can't do it.


The reason I was up in Shinjuku Isetan this day, though, was for a popup kakigori shop. Kakigori is Japanese shaved ice, and I've been trying to figure out why people are so obsessed with it.


This one was topped with mango, an earl grey spumante (the popup was from a famous tea supplier), and fresh passion fruit. Did we really need the gold leaf? I guess that's why this cost over $20. Scratch what I said about blowing large amounts of cash.


Kakigori alone doesn't really fill you up, so I headed to the neighboring Chinese restaurant for a bowl of their seasonal cold noodles. Cold tantanmen is a thing in Tokyo, and most Chinese restaurants come up with their own seasonal version. It usually consists of a lot of toppings.


VEGE CHINA uses plenty of fresh veggies in all of their dishes, and the tantanmen follows suit. All in all it was decent. Nothing outrageous, just a quick post-shaved ice snack to get the day started.

If anyone knows any amazing tantanmen that is hiding at a Chinese restaurant, please let me know so I can try it.


Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-13-1
Closest station: Shinjukusanchome

Open 11:00-22:00

Thursday, November 30, 2017

アートマサシヤ (Art Masashiya in Shibuya)



This one comes as a recommendation from a sushi shop that was a recommendation from a ramen shop. Funny how these things work.


Located just up the hill from Shibuya Station, the location is prime.


It seems like there has been a shop here for some time. Before being a ramen shop, this was an old school Japanese kisaten, or coffee shop. Think coffee and cigarettes.


This ramen shop's mantra has to do with minerals. For a healthy diet, we should be consuming quality food that is high in minerals. While many chain shops and convenience stores stock food low in minerals, Art Masashiya prides themselves on a mineral-rich bowl of ramen.


旨口 - a balanced soup
濃口 - a bolder soup

Your choice.


All natural ingredients, including some deep shoyu from Shodoshima, one of Japan's most famous (and remote) soy sauce producing regions.

The fried egg triangle makes this photo instantly recognizable to this shop.

And keep in mind this is a lunch only spot.


Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Nanpeidaicho 2-8
Closest station: Shibuya

Open 11:30-15:00
Closed Wednesdays

Monday, November 27, 2017

箸とレンゲ (Hashi to Renge in Asakusa)



Another new shop from Shono-san, the master behind seven shops (as of 2017). Like all of his ventures, each one is a different concept. But first, we have to look at the location.


Right under the tracks of the Chuo Line in Asagaya, just west of Shinjuku. There is a new construction trend around Tokyo to build stylish mini-malls under the tracks next to minor stations, and fill the shops with good restaurants and stores.


You mostly find bistros and western cuisine, so it is nice to see a great ramen shop at this one.


Being a Mensho Group shop, noodles are very important. This automatic stone grinder helps make some of the fresh ground flour that is mixed into the noodles. Wheat, like coffee, has a much more vivid aroma when it is freshly ground.


Shono-san has been pushing the farm-to-bowl concept at all of his new shops. I got some backlash when I made a YouTube video (see it here) and referred to the this buzzword. Sure, it has become a bit pretentious in America, but out here in Japan it just means that he travels around the country meeting with producers and sourcing some quality stuff. According to the number of dislikes on that video, 24 people would rather save a buck and eat genetically engineered, mass-produced ingredients.


But I digress. The ramen here needs to be addressed.

It is wonderful. The shop's signature dish is the ぶどう山椒の麻婆麺, a semi-spicy soup flavored with Japanese green sansho, one of my favorite ingredients. Fried burdock root and eggplant round out the toppings. The soup is a pleasant chicken, dashi, and kale broth.


Crushed this one without a problem. The sansho comes from a local producer in Wakayama Prefecture. カンジャ山椒園 to be exact. They also have some jars of the stuff you can purchase. Amazing. A bit bitter, a bit piquant.


I should note that the shop also has a yuzu shio ramen, a ginger shoyu ramen, and a tomato ramen.

Look who it is, Shono-san himself. And it's Luca from Casa Luca, straight from Italy! Thanks for joining me on my tour that day!


Official site here.


Tokyo, Suginami-ku, Asagaya Minami 2-42
Closest station: Asagaya

Open 11:00-11:00