Monday, February 27, 2017

一作 (Ichiku in Saga)



Work was in Nagasaki, but the hotel for the night was up in Saga.


See you Nagasaki! Kiss my . . .


I made a rule a few years ago. Never be critical about ramen when I'm with my non-ramen friends or coworkers. Slurp anything, smile, and keep your opinion to yourself. I've found that most people in Japan are quick to compliment food. I blame the constant flow of food shows; no one ever says anything apart from oooooooishi!


So when my coworkers wanted to go to one of the only shops in this sleepy town, I tagged along without a comment.


I slurped, nodded my head when the Japanese staff I work with exclaimed their oishis, and kept the negativity to myself.


Not bad, but nothing to go crazy about. At 600 yen it's not a waste of money.

Sorry Saga. I come here once every two years or so, and always stay by the station. Maybe I need to search a bit more, but the area has nothing of interest to me. Cool bar? Cafe? Restaurant? I'll keep up the search.


There is a famous song (subtitled version here) about how lame Saga is. If you mention Saga as "S. A. G. A. Saga" you will get a laugh from your Japanese friends. It's like when you call Saitama Prefecture dasaitama, literally uncool ball. Sure you'll offend someone sooner or later, but it's fun to talk trash about the sticks.


Will Saga ever be cool? Well, I found a local drink made from musdskippers from the Ariake Sea. It's a start!


Map of 1 Chome-5-4 Tōjin, Saga-shi, Saga-ken 840-0813

Saga-ken, Saga-shi, Tojin 1-5-4
Closest station: Saga

Open 11:00-22:00
Friday and Saturday 11:00-24:00
Sunday 11:00-20:00

Thursday, February 23, 2017

火の国 文龍 総本店 (Kinokuni Bunryu in Kumamoto)

火の国 文龍 総本店


You'll need a car to get to many good ramen shops outside of Tokyo. Sorry, that's just the truth of the matter. Maybe you could figure out the train, then hop a bus or two, then walk if you want to make it to Bunryu, one of Kumamoto's most famous shops.


The upper left of the ticket machine is tonkotsu black. There's a red option somewhere to the right, but I wasn't going to tempt fate with an unknown spicy bowl.


The upper left choice is also labeled as こってり - thick. A handwritten sign above says that it is actually 超こってり - super thick. Perfect.

My friend got the thinner あっさり version.


By the way, thick in this case means a healthy mound of seabura back fat on top. My kind of thick!

My kind of ramen.

Kumamoto ramen is rough with full flavors. Lots of pork and lots of garlic. Think of it as your standard Kyushu tonkotsu ramen plus.


Be careful with the minced shoyu garlic, a staple of Kumamoto ramen shops. A little goes a long way, and you will stink for the rest of the day.


Really love Kumamoto, not just for their ramen, but as a travel destination in general.


And some of the happiest people in Japan.


Case in point.


Map of 4 Chome-2-47 Toshima, Higashi-ku, Kumamoto-shi, Kumamoto-ken 861-8041

Kumamoto-ken, Kumamoto-shi, Higashi-ku, Toshima 4-2-37
Closest station: Drive!

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

Monday, February 20, 2017

金田家 (Kanadaya in Fukuoka)

麺処 金田家


My 2016 bucket list of ramen, a list you can find here, is sadly undoable by the end of the year. I blame Fukuoka. The prefecture's top ranked spots are all in remote locations, with odd hours, and none of them match their days off. So on a recent road trip, I picked one shop, Kanadaya, the highest ranked shop, to check off the list.


Actually, they exist overseas in London. Hey, I recognize that car!


I had very high hopes for this one. It was 2016 that would change my mind about tonkotsu ramen in Kyushu. I'd never, in the eight or so years of Ramen Adventures, had a stellar bowl. Plenty of great ones. Eights and even nines, but never a ten.

I had my first ten at Genki Ippai. I had my second at Kanadaya.


This was pork perfection. The soup is buttery and smooth, without any funk. Chashu sliced so thin that it would dissolve if it wasn't lovingly placed on the sides of the bowl. Just a touch of the standard green onion and kikurage mushroom.


The egg was next level.

I'm sorry to say that this shop isn't so convenient. About an hour from any major city, and that is if you take the bullet train. Even longer if you take a wallet-friendly local. But if you want the best, you have to work for it in Kyushu.

Actually, they have a couple branch shops in Koba (here), Hiroshima (here), and central Hakata (here). I love the vibe of the main shop, in the middle of nowhere.


Map of 1 Chome-4-3 Ōhashi, Yukuhashi-shi, Fukuoka-ken 824-0003

Fukuoka-ken, Yukuhashi-shi, Ohashi 1-4-3
Closest station: Yukuhashi

Open 11:00-15:00. 17:00-20:00
Closed Thursdays

Thursday, February 16, 2017

三丁目そば (Sanchome Soba in Okinawa)



I'm sure I've complained about travel in the past. Well, I'll do it again.

My weekend gig sends me all over the country. This is a great opportunity to slurp. I took advantage last year, when they sent me to Okinawa in November, to slurp Yanbaru, Stripe, and Kishimoto. Head down early on a Wednesday, spend three days cruising around slurping noodles, and then head back.


But this time, I had an engagement during the week, so I was only in Naha, the main Okinawa city, for a night. I asked my fellow Awamori drinkers at a food stand near the hotel if there was a good shop, and they said the only one open was Sanchome. This was my only choice for Okinawa's sokisoba.


Just past Chocolate Milk Street.


Wow, I forgot how cheap eats are the further south you go. Only 450 yen for the standard bowl.


I went with the 700 yen version, which included a few more toppings.


Meh is my review. I've had some great food on Okinawa, so I'm not pulling any punches. Sokisoba is always done with a very light soup, which was almost flavorless in this case. The toppings, the trifecta of Okinawa, weren't the best. Fish cake, pork belly, and rib meat were present, but nowhere near as hearty as hoped.


See you next year. My 2017 goals include taking full advantage of my working situation. If I get sent to Okinawa, I'll block off a few days for noodles. Okinawa requires time and transportation. While Naha is packed, the best noodles are on the other side of the island.


Map of 3 Chome-26-1 Kumoji, Naha-shi, Okinawa-ken 900-0015

Okinawa, Naha-shi, Kumoji 3-26-1
Closest station: The airport?

Monday, February 13, 2017

豚星。(Butaboshi in Hiyoshi )



Butaboshi is very highly ranked. 98.41 on the Ramendb, which is impressive.


When I arrived, I instantly understood. The Ramendb is heavily weighted by Jiro lovers, and Butaboshi is Jiro-style.


The only thing thicker than the noodles is the soup. Scratch that, the chunks of pork are thicker still.


I'm not a fan of this style, and I felt bad for leaving what looked like half the bowl when I left. But, as I know from experience, the human body is not meant to overeat ramen of this caliber.


Try it for yourself, but only if you are a fan. The location is out of the way.


Another warning, you will stink after this one. Garlic and rendered pork fat. But some people love that sort of thing.


Map of 4 Chome-5-20 Kizuki, Nakahara-ku, Kawasaki-shi, Kanagawa-ken 211-0025

Kanagawa-ken, Kawasaki-shi, Nakahara-ku, Otsuki 4-5-20
Closest station: Hiyoshi

Open 11:00-23:00
Closed Sundays

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Nachosoba at ajito ism in Oimachi

ajito ism


One of my favorite shops in Tokyo is ajito ism. Their regular menu includes their famous pizza mazesoba, a soupless pizza-themed noodle dish.

Well, the master loves his off-the-wall creations. In fact, he has around 50 of them. Any day here and you will see one on the board. Today's special.


Today's special was nachosoba. A sauce made from Japanese miso and Mexican spices, topped with all manner of Mexican themed toppings. Corn chips, ground chorizo, nacho cheese. The master is either a genius, or insane.


I come here on random Wednesdays, as the shop is near a school I teach English at occasionally.


I'm always looking forward to the next thing. Like I said, he had a folder with around 50 of his creations.


Miura-san, the shop's chef, used to work at cafes. He honed a cooking style of tasty comfort food, and then brought that over to his ramen. Many people have laughed, even called some of his things the complete opposite of ramen. But he doesn't care. Customers vote with their yen, and the shop is usually packed.


The only thing outnumbering the customers are the collectible figures displayed in glass cases on the wall. Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and of course,


Breaking Bad. I haven't seen if he has a meth-blue lunch special, but I wouldn't be surprised.


Map of 1 Chome-37-4 Ōi, Shinagawa-ku, Tōkyō-to 140-0014

Tokyo, Shinagawa-ku, Oimachi 1-37-4
Closest station: Oimachi

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