Thursday, September 28, 2017

坂本01 (Sakamoto 01 in Oji)



Some of Japan's best ramen shops are, alas, inconvenient as hell to get to. Newly opened Sakamoto 01 is just on the cusp; a bit far, but not too far.


Head north, then walk south.


These roads are the bloodlines of Tokyo. Packed with traffic going in and out, venturing to neighborhoods with not much more than hastily built five-story cement domiciles.


And the occasional amazing ramen shop. At only 500 yen, this one is an absolute steal. If you think price dictates quality, you are about to be proven wrong.


I splurged on the 900 yen bowl, which includes more than enough hand made wontons.


Fantastic bowl that was almost too big for me to eat (I had eaten another bowl previously). If you can see it, there is a light sprinkle of freshly ground sansho peppercorn on top. It gives the bowl of classic chukasoba a bit of bite, and adds a wonderful aroma.


That beautiful oil on top. Sakamoto-san, the shop's master, also adds a bit of beef fat into the mix.


Probably a spot that will be visited mostly by locals and ramen nerds, but maybe worth it if you are taking a visit to the mostly un-visited north of Tokyo.


Tokyo, Kita-ku, Oji 3-8-6
Closest station: Ojikamiya

Open 11:00-14:30, 17:00-21:00

Monday, September 25, 2017

黒須 (Kurosu in Jimbocho)



Jimbocho, for reasons I can't really figure out, is gaining more and more quality ramen shops in recent years. This part of town is almost all business, with the majority of the country's publishers maintaining a Jimbocho address. Hungry writers?


Bringing things full-circle, the building just across the alley from today's ramen is the home of Shueisha, the publisher of Weekly Playboy, a magazine I worked with for quite some time. Does anyone remember our weekly ramen corner, ラーメンアメリカ人?


Just look for the easy-to-recognize sign.


Kurosu is only open for a few hours at lunch.


Just three menu items. From top down they have shoyu ramen, niboshi ramen, and a tsukemen. As this was the first time, the ramen had to be shoyu.


Very quality Oyama chickens from Shimane (島根県) Prefecture go into the soup.


Although ramen has always had a strong pork element, these days shops are kicking their chicken game up very high. High quality yields great stock, great chicken oil, and great chicken chashu.


Kurosu's location is just off the main drag, so you might have to search a bit for it.


Tokyo, Chioda-ku, Kandajimbocho 3-1-19
Closest station: Jimbocho

Open 11:00-15:00
Closed Sundays

Thursday, September 21, 2017

麺屋 翔 月1限定 (Special Chicken Ramen at Menya Sho in Shinjuku)

麺屋 翔


I feel like I have written about Menya Sho before on this site. I've certainly been there many, many times. It is one of my go to spots for a clean bowl made with quality chicken. A stellar bowl on any of the other 29 days of the month.


What is that supposed to mean?

Well, once a month they do a limited, premium bowl with a specialty chicken. 媛っこ地鶏 - himeko jidori - is a local chicken from Ehime Prefecture. It is supposed to have an earthier, more hearty taste, though that might just be advertiser talk for a gamier chicken. Either way, it makes for an excellent bowl of ramen!


Go for the shoyu, the deep soy sauce matches well with that himeko. Princess?


You'll have to check the web for the exact day, but it is usually around the 28th of the month.

Official site here.


Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 7-22-34
Closest station: Shinjuku

Open 11:00-15:00, 18:00-23:00
Weekends 11:00-15:00, 17:00-21:00

Monday, September 18, 2017

トンコツ&キノコ (Tonkotsu and Mushroom in Kyobashi)

ソラノイロ トンコツ&キノコ


Soranoiro, one of Tokyo's favorite shops, has gone through a few iterations throughout the years. Apart from their steadfast main shop in Kojimachi, long-running stint at the Tokyo Ramen Street, and Nagoya shop, they had a short-lived mushroom-based shop (also in Kojimachi).


Well, their latest brings the mushrooms back.


They have a tonkotsu ramen on the menu, but the uniqueness I was here for was the kinoko no vege, a creamy mushroom soup with vegetable (and some meat) toppings.


Where to start. The soup is creamy and wonderful, brought to life by mixing the mushroom soup with a rich tare made from salt, dried shrimp, and more mushroom. It is topped with some aromatic oil. Yes, mushroom again. And some mushroom toppings.

Oh, and the noodles are made with shiitake mushroom powder.

It's a lot of mushroom.


Bonus! From 6:00pm until 9:00pm, Monday to Friday, you can get an hour of nomihodai for 980 yen. That's less than $10 for all you can drink. For another 980 yen you can get all you can eat gyoza. Wild!

Official site here.


Tokyo, Chuo-ku, Kyobashi 2-2-1
Closest station: Kyobashi

Open 11:00-15:30, 17:00-22:30
Weekends 11:00-20:00

Thursday, September 14, 2017

麺屋 悠 (Yu in Okubo)

麺屋 悠


It had been a while since I tried any new miso ramen spots, and with a semi-new spot (June, 2016) just a couple stations from my home, I had to check out Menya Yu.


A miso blend straight from Tokushima Prefecture. Made from soy beans, rice, and salt, this particular miso has a long history dating back to the Heian Period (roughly 1000 years ago). It is known for having a slight sweetness and deep flavor.


They were named one of the best new miso ramen shops in 2016, which is always a bonus.


Miso, among all the styles of ramen, is the one I am most critical of.


Yu delivers. It's a rough, flavorful bowl with a big, salty miso hit. Just a hint of negi onions to mellow it out.


They do a spicy miso as well, which was very spicy.


Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Hyakunincho 1-21-11
Closest station: Okubo

Open 11:30-14:00, 17:30-20:00
Monday and Saturday 11:30-14:30
Closed Sundays

Monday, September 11, 2017

らあめん花月嵐 (Ramen Kagetsu Arashi)



Well, it looks good, but who would eat this bowl?


Yes, that is me. I'm the literal poster-boy for the September, 2017 limited bowl at Ramen Kagetsu Arashi.

Let me explain, in YouTube format.

Kagetsu, apart from their regular menu, does a monthly special bowl. Each month is promoted by someone, usually a TV talent or another ramen shop's chef. Sometimes, though, they let a ramen nerd be the face. And now, I am that face!


You can find me on the ticket machine, on posters, and from what I heard, there is audio in the shops.


This is a cool opportunity for me. This time, I was only asked to come in an taste the already-decided bowl. If it sells well, which I am hoping it does, they may ask me back to work with them in the future. Many ramen nerds who have worked with Kagetsu got to create their own concept. How cool would that be!


But for this month (well, actually three months, as you can slurp it until the end of November) it is the return of Torisoba. The last time Kagetsu had a creamy chicken soup was in 2011.

And now for the elephant in the room. Two elephants actually. Yes, this is a chain shop. Kagetsu has 250 shops around Japan (the overseas ones don't take part in the limited bowls). But, they aren't a budget chain shop. You'll pay a normal price, and get a good bowl. The second issue is that egg. So many YouTube comments dismiss it.

I am on your side. I'm not a fan of any hard boiled egg. But it comes standard.

There is an ajitama, seasoned half-cooked egg, on the menu as an extra topping choice. Go for it.

The best way to find your nearest Kagetsu shop is on their website here:

Or just search for "Ramen Kagetsu Arashi" in your map of choice and you'll see one. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

山雄亭 (Sanyutei in Akabane)

赤羽 山雄亭


New ramen shops have been getting more and more kodawari with their shops. Every aspect, from the soup ingredients to the decor is pondered over in great detail. The greasy spoon image of the past isn't being erased in the ramen scene, but these new, fancy shops add to the landscape.


Sanyutei opened in January of 2017, and they take this trend to the max. The shop looks like a high-end sushi restaurant, with wood everywhere and subtle lighting. I didn't take any photos of the interior, so as not to disturb the harmony. But trust me, it's nice.


The only negative with these amazing bowls is the increase in price. The special here tops out at 1400 yen, about double what a bowl would cost you at many other shops in Japan. Personally, I'm fine forking out extra cash when it is worth it.

Sanyutei is worth it. If you disagree, the regular bowl is just 1000 yen. You just won't get all the extra toppings.


The basis of their soup is Satsumajidori, a specialty breed of chicken from Kagoshima Prefecture. Very high quality. One benefit of quality chickens in quality chicken oil. You can tell be the golden layer on top. Heaven.


Yeah, that is a lot of toppings. They pride themselves on all of these, prepping each one in different ways best suited for the individual ingredient.


Each piece is supreme. I especially liked the bamboo shoot here. It is highly seasoned, and much softer than other "standard" menma.


The shio ramen is amazing as well, but go for the shoyu on your first time.


Official site here.


Tokyo, Kita-ku, Akabanenishi 1-4-15
1 minute walk from Akabane Station

Open 11:00-15:00, 18:00-22:00
Sundays 11:00-17:00
Closed Mondays and some Tuesdays