Monday, January 30, 2017

こてつ (Kotetsu in Shimokitazawa)

中華そば こてつ


Some friends of friends were in town, and they wanted a proper food crawl. Shimokitazawa is one of the best places in Tokyo for this kind of adventure.


Mojito bar, yakitori, craft beer, ramen, sushi and sake, nerdy coffee. Shimo can be a lot of fun.


Kotetsu was on my list after it was featured in a few of the annual Tokyo ramen magazines. A very normal bowl, in a normal shop. But normal means quality in my world.


My friend is Kaerhart, a musician from LA and NYC who is posed to kill it in the near future.

Looking forward to the album drop.


Go for the special. At just 850 yen, it's a steal!


Shimo has a few quality shops that I would rank equally. Salt, and nearby Basanova all come to mind. This part of town is getting more and more popular with travelers, and though some see this as a bad thing, others welcome the business opportunities. Regardless, anyone with more than a day or two in Tokyo should hang here for a little to see for themselves.


Map of 2 Chome-39-13 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tōkyō-to 155-0031

Tokyo, Setatgaya-ku, Kitazawa 2-39-13
Closest station: Shimokitazawa

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

Thursday, January 26, 2017

風見 (Kazami in Ginza)

銀座 風見


Ginza continues to surprise. First, there was Kagari, which has been completely discovered; if you don't mind a long line of mostly foreigners, it still serves an amazing bowl. Then there was Mugitooribu, whose inclusion on many best-of lists is well deserved.


The latest spot to hit is Kazami.


Kazami is located down a small alley, like many awesome hidden restaurants in Ginza, inside a sleek modern building with a sushi restaurant on the second floor.


The one to order is the 酒粕濃厚そば, sake kasu noko soba. Made with sake lees, a byproduct of nihonshu production. As yeast eats sugar and creates alcohol, an organic sediment builds up. Not something you would want in your drink (although a little can add interest flavors), it is generally discarded.


But it can be used. Here, it adds a deep flavor to the ramen. Similar in some ways to miso, but not as salty or pungent. A bit bitter, but not overly so. Something anyone should try if they have a chance.


As the flavor can be seen as funky to some, there are plenty of condiment options to tweak your soup. Vinegar, sansho pepper, dried red pepper, yuzusco sauce, ground pepper, yuzukosho, and fresh ginger. Don't overdo it.


This is one of my favorite new bowls of 2016. The ingredients are all top quality. A must-slurp in my opinion.


The side of seasonal vegetables was a nice touch.


Ohata-san knocked this anticipated shop out. Well done.



Map of 6 Chome-4-13 Ginza, Chūō-ku, Tōkyō-to 104-0061

Tokyo, Chuo-ku, Ginza 6-4-13
Closest station: Ginza

Open 11:30-15:30, 17:30-22:30

Monday, January 23, 2017

宮元 (Miyamoto in Kamata)

煮干しつけ麺 宮元


I've crushed Miyamoto in the past, but only at tsukemen events.


He is one of the most revered tsukemen chefs in Tokyo. And according to the curated Tabelog 50, one of the best in Japan.


The upper left, in this case, is 特製極濃煮干しつけ麺, tokuseigokukoniboshitsukemen. Breaking it down we get special, mega-thick, dried sardine tsukemen.


You won't be alone, please observe the rules of the line.


This. Bowl.


Yeah, this one is tops. I have trouble ranking the upper echelon of thick tsukemen shops because each one is just so amazing. From the image, to the smell, to the first bite, to the lasting umami aftertaste. As the name of the shop implies, Miyamoto is heavy with niboshi, dried fish, particularly sardines. The creaminess of the pork, the bitter, smoky punch of the fish, and a hint of yuzu citrus to mellow the whole thing out.


And the line, though strict rules apply, wasn't that bad.

Map of 7 Chome-8-1 Nishikamata, Ōta-ku, Tōkyō-to 144-0051

Tokyo, Ota-ku, Nishikamata 7-8-1
Closest station: Kamata

Open 11:00-15:00, 18:00-21:00
Closed Wednesdays

Thursday, January 19, 2017

豚野郎 (Butayaro in Nakano)



I've struggled to find an amazing tonkotsu ramen shop near my home. Sure, Shinjuku's Kabukicho red light district is full of cheap spots, but I'm not looking for cheap.


Enter Butayaro. About halfway between Nakano and Higashi-Nakano Stations, right next to the big home supply store (if you live in the neighborhood, you probably know it). It's really not far from civilization, but it feels like it in the strictly residential neighborhood.


Go for the set. I'll explain in a minute.


A bit more intense than expected, which is a great thing when searching for above average tonkotsu. I found it less smooth than those shops as well, which matches perfectly with the name; Yaro means dude, so this shop could be called dude pork.


Normally, with this style, you would order kaedama, an extra serving of noodles. Here, though, it's all about zosui. A side of flavored rice gets dumped in. Dude pork for sure.


The rice amplifies the flavor in ways that noodles can't. Like I said, go for the set.


Go Carps! Apparently, the owner loves Hiroshima, and has a small collection of his favorite baseball team goods.


It's Ramenate!

Map of 1 Chome-41-45 Nakano, Nakano-ku, Tōkyō-to 164-0001

Tokyo, Nakano-ku, Nakano 1-41-45
Closest staiton: Nakano

Open 11:30-15:30, 18:00-22:30
Weekends 11:30-16:00, 18:00-22:30
Closed Tuesdays

Monday, January 16, 2017

多賀野 (Takano in Nakanobu)



Takano is one of Tokyo's legendary shops. They've been around for over 20 years, still serving the same classic bowl, still using quality Japanese ingredients.


Nakanobu isn't on many people's radars, especially tourists, but it well could be. Takano is just off the famous Skip Road, a covered shopping street that stretches 330 meters. It's a cool, old-school side of Tokyo, not that far from the center.


And despite the English menu, Takano is a cool, old-school ramen shop.


The hours may have been longer in the past, but now it is strictly lunch.


Classic Tokyo style. Two kinds of Japanese chicken are used for the stock, and plenty of dried fish for that smoky punch that defines Tokyo ramen.


The tsukemen soup is made from pork and duck, a solid match with the whole grain noodles.


Noodles that are made in house, and are a big draw for fans of this style.


Ms. Takano-san is still here, serving bowl after bowl to the masses.


The entire menu is actually quite extensive, with the spicy sesame bowl looking like another winner.


You'll probably wait 20-30 minutes, but you'll have checked off one that is worthy of a visit or two.


Map of 2 Chome-15-10 Nakanobu, Shinagawa-ku, Tōkyō-to 142-0053

Tokyo, Shinagawa-ku, Nakanobu 2-15-10
Closest station: Ebaranakanobu

Open 11:30-14:30
Closed Wednesdays

Thursday, January 12, 2017

伊吹 (Ibuki in Itabashi)

中華ソバ 伊吹


I finally made it here, to one of Tokyo's top ramen spots.


Ibuki is at the top for a reason; they bring the niboshi game. Dried baby sardines in this concentration aren't for everyone, not by a long shot. Are they for you?


Start at a normal ramen spot, one that serves a light shoyu ramen. It will have a bit of the stuff. That faint, smoky aftertaste is probably from niboshi, or other dried fish. It adds a lot of umami, and a bit of bitterness. It is this bitter flavor that divides opinions.

If you like it, head somewhere with a bit more niboshi punch. Most tonkotsugyokai tsukemen shops have a lot of these bitter dried fish flavors. Still loving it? Then head to Ibuki.


The menu has a few options. Go with the 濃厚中華ソバ, thick chinese noodles. The old addage of going to the upper right won't work here. It is 800 yen, and right in the middle. There is a lighter soup version and well as a super thick version, but they aren't available every time. The menu also changes slightly at lunch time. Good luck.


A thing of beauty. If you haven't guessed, I am a niboshi addict. Some of the best flavors in the world in my opinion. Smoky, salty, and a bit pungent.


So, is Ibuki the worthy king of niboshi? They have a 98.50 rating over at the Ramen Database, and a 4.04 over at Tabelog (putting them not only at #4 countrywide for ramen, but in the top 500 of all restaurants in Japan).

I'd say yes, this is one of the best bowls you could possibly slurp.


Official blog here.


Map of 4 Chome-58-10 Maenochō, Itabashi-ku, Tōkyō-to 174-0063

Tokyo, Itabashi-ku, Maenocho 4-58-10
Closest station: Maenocho

Open 11:45-14:30, 18:30-20:30
Closed Mondays and some Sundays