Thursday, August 17, 2017

玉ぐすく (Tamagusuku in Nagoya)

麺屋 玉ぐすく

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Some ramen shops have a style that you'll never forget. One common theme is music. Ramen chefs tend to enjoy kicking back, and you'll find plenty of rock-and-roll ramen dudes out there. Some, though, prefer something a bit different.

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In this case, I seem to have stumbled onto an Okinawan punk-themed ramen shop, in a rougher part of Nagoya.

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The Okinawa part is apparent by the menu. Sokisoba as the number one menu item. But, unlike other Okinawan restaurants, this spot serves up more "standard" bowls; shio and shoyu make up the number two and three respectively. Gotta go for the soki though.

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It wouldn't be Okinawa without their most famous condiment. Ko-re-gu-su is a mix of potent Okinawa alcohol called Awamori and red chili peppers. It is mega spicy, and a little goes a long way. It also gets you a little drunk.

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Back to the punk. A constant stream of punk live plays on the shop's TV and speakers.

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Autographs adorn the wall. Huck Finn? Anyone?

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Sorry, I know nothing of the local Japanese punk scene.

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But I can definitely get down to it while slurping some homemade noodles.

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My intention wasn't to pig out, but pig out I did. Sokisoba with a side of fried rice. Good stuff. Sokisoba is often a simple dish; a clear broth, some noodles, very few toppings, and a side of stewed pork, called soki. This is how I like it, and any time I've had a bowl with too much going on, it was disappointing.

Simple and refreshing with an intense piece of meat. Rock on.

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As I was just in town for a night, I couldn't resist another bowl. The shop serves a taco rice mazesoba, an easy choice for me. Taco rice is an Okinawan dish of, you guessed it, rice topped with taco meat, lettuce, and tomato.

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In this case, cheese and a bit of spice as well. Mix it up and go to town.

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愛知県名古屋市千種区今池1-6-8
Aichi-ken, Nagoya-shi, Chikusa, Imaike 1-6-8
Closest station: Imaike

Open 11:30-14:00, 18:00-24:00
Closed Sundays and some Mondays

Monday, August 14, 2017

東大 (Todai in Tokushima)

ラーメン東大大道本店

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When in Tokushima, eat Tokushima ramen!

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Ramen Todai is well known as the most successful Tokushima-style ramen shop in Japan. Not saying the best, by any sense, but with more than a dozen shops, they have certainly succeeded in business.

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I hit up the honten, the main shop, before retiring to my (secret) campground for the night.

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Creamy pork soup? Check.
Thin noodles? Check.
Stir-fry topping? Check.

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And the raw egg that makes Tokushima-style so unique.

The ramen here didn't really strike a nerve with me. While other shops (Inotani being the most famous) command long lines with plenty of ramen nerds making a special journey, Todai is more of a late night, drunken eats kind of place. I was on my motorcycle, so I hadn't had a drop, but I could tell that the heavy soup and kick of garlic would help any theoretical hangover.

By the way, my secret camping spot in Tokushima is along the Komatsukaigan, if you are ever in the area.

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Official site here.

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徳島県徳島市大道1-36
Tokushima-ken, Tokushima-shi, Omichi 1-36
Closest station: Tokushima

Open 11:00-4:00am

Thursday, August 10, 2017

NOROMA in Nara

麺屋 NOROMA

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The debate rages on about which ramen is the best in Nara Prefecture. Some people opt for Mitsuba, with their mega-creamy soup and long lines. The rest say NOROMA. Presonally, I can't decide.

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I spent the day touring around the mountains of Nara, something few people do. Most, especially tourists, take an express train from either Osaka or Kyoto, hit the famous Nara temples, and head home. They don't realize that this is an entire prefecture.

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On the road, I met local Naran Momo on her Yamaha R3, a sexy little 321cc sports bike. When the conversation shifted to ramen, she actually said that Tenri and Saika were her favorites. Two shops I've never heard of. The hunt continues.

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I arrived well early to NOROMA. It was my first time, and I was sure they would have a bigger line. Nope. When they opened at 6:30pm, there were only three people behind me in line.

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Torisoba. Creamy chicken soup.

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This bowl is indeed awesome. The medium-thick toripaitan, creamy chicken soup, is set apart by the intense chicken flavor. Simple, yes, but a very, very comforting bowl.

Noodles come from Mineya Noodles Factory (ミネヤ製麺製) a famous noodle maker that services the greater Kansai area.

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奈良県奈良市南京終町3-1531
Nara-ken, Nara-shi, Minamikyobatecho 3-1531
Closest station: Kyobate

Open 11:30-15:00, 18:30-21:00
Mondays 18:30-21:00
Closed Wednesdays

Monday, August 7, 2017

麺や青雲志 (Seiunshi in Mie)

麺や青雲志

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This was it. I was embarking on a huge YouTube project, something I had wanted to do ever since I took control of my own videos. Ramen Riders is a concept where I will visit all 47 prefectures by motorcycle, slurp the best ramen, ride the best roads, and make a rad video about it. The big kick-off was going to be Golden Week, 2017, a week-long holiday when I could spend about 10 days out and about.

First stop, Mie Prefecture.

And I already had a spot picked out to be featured as the best ramen in Mie. That spot is up in Yokkaichi. Hachinoashiha is amazing.

Then, after shooting all the footage I need, I found myself at Seiunshi.

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And damn, if this one wasn't one of the best bowls I've had in the entire country.

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They are only open four days a week, and only open for a few hours for lunch.

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And as such, they were sold out of everything but their limited edition bowl. Guess I'll try that one!

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焼鯵正油らぁ麺. Fried mackerel ramen.

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Check this place out. What a trip!

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So deep and intense. The smoky flavors were enhanced by the frying, reducing the soup into a flavor bomb of ocean umami and dark soy kick.

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Of course, at a shop like this, the noodles are made by hand (well, machine). For this one, flat noodles with a higher kansui content than normal to give them a slippery texture.

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Thumbs up all around.

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Then the master asked me if I was that crazy foreigner who eats all the ramen? Would I sign a plaque for him?

My pleasure.

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We got to talking, and as I was one of the last customers of the day, he checked his pots. Actually, he could scrounge together one more bowl of his famous カキ正油らぁ麺, shoyu ramen made with local Mie oysters. It just wouldn't have much in the way of toppings.

Fine by me. Although technically my third bowl of the day (and it was before 2:00pm), this one really hit the spot. I honestly can't say which I liked more. The deep, smoky mackerel or the lighter, umami-rich oyster.

Come early. Eat both.

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What an amazing place. Definitely in my Top 10 countryside shops.

If you are wondering, the videos should be out soon. I've been distracted with other creative work, and YouTube took a side to those.

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三重県松阪市嬉野権現前町405-14
Mie-ken, Matsusaka-shi, Gongenmaecho, Doesanyoneeverreadthis 405-14
Closest station: Gongenmae

Open 11:00-13:45
Closed: Monday, Tuesday, Friday

Thursday, August 3, 2017

KaneKitchen Noodles in Higashi-Nagasaki

KaneKitchen Noodles

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My praise for KaneKitchen begins with a warning.

Maybe don't go for the 全部入り (all the toppings, plus extra) if you've already had two bowls of ramen that day.

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I'd been wanting to come here for quite some time, as I've met the master on a few occasions at events and festivals. The bowl is also featured heavily on all the popular social media sites, and the fact that I am late to the game is inexcusable. They opened late 2016, by the way.

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The menu is deep, with a row of shoyu, a row of shio, a row of niboshi, and space for up to four limited bowls. And tsukemen. Don't forget the tsukemen.

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I was in a shio mood, and was lucky to be with two other dudes who wanted to try the rest. Actually, this was a meeting for a possible TV gig. Fingers crossed!

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The shio ramen did not disappoint. The aforementioned warning is simply because of the amount of toppings. Three slices of slow-cooked chicken chashu, three slices of pork, and an egg. Plus I think they put extra menma as well. No complaint, as the premium hosomenma is by far the some of the best stuff around.

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It's a simple broth, made with four kinds of salt and shellfish.

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The shoyu ramen is made from somewhere around seven different soy sauces. The main ones are from Shiga, Gunma, and Saitama, if you are keeping track, with bits of others thrown in for balance.

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Both soups were excellent. The area, Highashi-Nagasaki (no relation to the Nagasaki in Kyushu) is a mystery to me. Actually, I almost moved here around seven years ago, only to have the local gangsters cause problems last minute (my things were literally in the moving van when they showed up). But that is a story for another time and place.

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And though the ramen was amazing, I never heard from the TV producers again. But that's how we roll here in Tokyo. I might not be touring the countryside with camera's behind me, but I'll keep crushing bowls.

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東京都豊島区南長崎5-26-15
Tokyo, Toshima-ku, Minami-Nagasaki 5-26-15
Closest station: Higashi-Nagasaki

Open 11:30-15:00, 18:00-21:00
Sundays 11:00-15:00
Closed Mondays