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