Monday, June 18, 2018

のじじR (Nojiji R in Sumida-ku)

煮干中華そば のじじR

Video game nerds, I need your help. Does the word nojiji or nojijiR mean anything?

I ask because I stumbled on to this spot one day, and immediately noticed the 8-bit font. On top of that, the ramen is graded from easy to hard, and there are options for 1UPS.

The shop itself is stark white, devoid of any video game memorabilia or collectibles. Just the ramen.

Niboshi ramen. When it comes to a difficulty level, niboshi ramen is the style that is best suited for a challenge. Niboshi, dried baby sardines, are bitter, funky, and amazing.

Nojiji R is conveniently located near the Tokyo Sky Tree, so for a tourist who happens to be in the area, this could be a good choice to try this unique style.

Personally, I love the stuff, but I've noticed that more and more foreigners are simply not fans. Niboshi ramen overseas, even in other Asian countries, has for the most part been a failure.


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Chaco Bar in Sydney, Australia

Chaco Bar

Sydney is no stranger to Japanese food, and Chaco Bar, in the Darlinghurst area, fills the yakitori gap nicely. Or so I've heard. Lucky for the ramen nerds, this yakitori spot serves up a limited number of ramen bowls for lunch Wednesday through Saturday.

In true Japanese fashion, they offer limited bowls alongside their standard shoyu, shio, scallop, and spicy version.

The Fat Soy is named so because of the addition of seabura, pork back fat. I rarely see this stuff outside of Japan, which is a shame. Silky-smooth globs of fat are never a bad thing.

Of course, you can get the bowl with less, or even no fat if you like, but who would do that?

Thick chashu, solid egg. This bowl is pretty much what you'll get at a decent shop in Tokyo.

The interior tavern vibe is a bonus.


Website here.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Rising Sun Workshop in Sydney, Australia

Rising Sun Workshop

Well hello, Australia!

And hello to one of the most off-the-wall, random bowls I've had in my life. Breakfast ramen in a motorcycle repair shop.

Rising Sun Workshop (RSW) is a a community bike repair shop and cafe.

Growing up in America, there was always someone, or someone who knew someone, with access to tools. When I made the move to Japan, I quickly learned that your average Joe doesn't have basic tools, and would have no idea what to do with them anyways. There is an entire business model built around this, with dealers charging insane prices for the most basic of services. A lot of this revolves around the two year shakken (mandatory inspection) life cycle. Bring in your vehicle, pay a few thousand dollars, and get it back fully maintained.

Doing the repairs and shakken yourself costs around $300.

What I'm getting at is that I am in love with this place. As a motorcycle rider, I would be here on a regular basis, learning more about what makes my ride work. Maybe I'd finally buy that Honda Cub project bike I've been dreaming of.

And the attached cafe, serving Australia-level coffee drinks is a nice bonus.

Oh, and they serve ramen.

The first visit here was to try their breakfast ramen, served from eight in the morning until noon. A light bone broth is mixed with butter (surprisingly, it tasted like buttered toast), and topped with bacon and egg. It lacked any big soy or salt impact, letting the bacon stand out. As you eat, flavors mix and the whole thing turns into an unconventional umami bomb (thank you tomato).

I was sold. As the morning ramen is the only ramen served before noon, I planned to make a trek back here to try their lunchtime bowl.

A quick trip out to Melbourne, and I was back in Sydney, ready for the next bowl.

Lunch has three bowls; shoyu, shio, and vegetarian miso. Gotta go shoyu.

Bannockburn chickens, organic pork bones, shiitake, and smoked hocks go into the soup, while a standard shoyu tare provides the seasoning. For a group of guys with no training in the ramen world, to create a bowl like this is a great feat. It's completely their own, with some very intense toppings. The slab of Berkshire pork chashu is massive and tender, and the "pickeld shits" are intense. Shiitake mushroom pickled in vinegar, soy, and ginger.

Please, someone, make something like this in Tokyo.

Hey, I made a YouTube video about this one.

Website here.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

しま彰 (Shimasho in Wakayama)

中華そば しま彰


I had a very, very small inkling to check out Tama, the cat. The short story is that in order to save a dying train line, the terminal station promoted a local stray cat to stationmaster. They put a funny hat on him and tourists flocked. They redesigned the train after this feline, and now the train nerds had something to go for. Like I said, my interest was there, but not enough to warrant a trip.

Well, someone recommended Shimasho, a ramen shop along said train line. Shimasho is slightly lighter than the other shops in Wakayama I visited, but not by much. On a scale of one to Seino, I'd give this one a seven on the viscosity scale. Roadtrip worthy, but don't plan an entire vacation around it (save that for Seino).

Oh, and Tama the cat? It was his day off when I went.


This was part of a trip I took to Wakayama to check out the ramen taxi.

The entire writeup is here:

Huge thanks to My Secret Wakayama for the opportunity.


Wakayama-ken, Kinokawa-shi, Kishigawachonagahara 102
8 minute walk from Kanrojimae

Open 11:00-13:20, 18:00-soup runs out
Closed Tuesdays

Monday, June 4, 2018

うらしま (Urashima in Wakayama)



Wakayama is a vast prefecture, with Wakayama city being just a tiny part. And like any place with a famous ramen style, the gems are often a distance from your hotel.

In the case of Urashima, hop on a local train headed east. Around 30 minutes later, and 15 minute walk along a major roadway, you'll be slurping one of the area's best. Just make sure you come during their short lunch service.

The style is heavy Wakayama tonkotsu shoyu. It is a on the gritty side, something you should come to expect from any bowl in this part of Japan. Open since 1976.


This was part of a trip I took to Wakayama to check out the ramen taxi.

The entire writeup is here:

Huge thanks to My Secret Wakayama for the opportunity.


Wakayama-ken, Kinokawa, Keya 20-7
20 minute walk from Uchita Station

Open 11:00-13:30
Closed Sundays

Thursday, May 31, 2018

グリーンコーナー (Green Corner in Wakayama)



I had already crushed two bowls of delicious Wakayama ramen, but I figured I would ask my taxi driver, an expert in local noodles, if there was a third spot that was both light and small. He knew just the place.

Green Corner is a diner-looking kind of spot, with some random dishes like curry and fried pork cutlets on the menu. Best of all, everything was cheap. And nothing was cheaper than the mini ramen; it cost 206 yen for a bowl. Topped with some green seaweed, green onions, and a bit of tempura bits. Crushed it!


It makes sense that a shop called Green Corner would have some tasty green ice cream. See you later Ramen Taxi!


No, I don't recommend Green Corner as a top ramen shop in Japan, but it was a decent local spot, and I'm glad I went.

This was part of a trip I took to Wakayama to check out the ramen taxi.

The entire writeup is here:

Huge thanks to My Secret Wakayama for the opportunity.


1 Chome-1-1 Funazuchō, Wakayama-shi, Wakayama-ken 640-8255
20 minutes from Wakayama-Shi Station

Open 11:00-22:30

Monday, May 28, 2018

丸三 (Marusan in Wakayama)

中華そば 丸三


I asked my Wakayama Ramen Taxi driver to take me to his favorite shop. Marusan is a local spot a short drive out of town. Typical tonkotsu shoyu style, but in this case a little bit lighter than other shops.

Many shops in Wakayama have a 丸, maru, in the name. One of the original Wakayama ramen shops was called Marutaka, and shops since then have paid homage. The original dates back to the 1940s.

I enjoyed this shop, but unless you drive or take the Ramen Taxi, it is a trek.


This was part of a trip I took to Wakayama to check out the ramen taxi.

The entire writeup is here:

Huge thanks to My Secret Wakayama for the opportunity.


Wakayama-ken, Wakayama-sho, Shioya 6-2-88
30 minute walk from Kimidera Station

Open 11:00-21:00
Closed Sundays

Thursday, May 17, 2018

山為食堂 (Yamatame Shokudo in Wakayama)



Wakayama is known for this style. Heavy pork tonkotsu soup with equally heavy, often local, shoyu seasoning. This particular shop, Yamatame Shokudo, is picture perfect, and a great way to start a local ramen tour. This shop has been open since 1953.

The most famous shop in Wakayama is Ideshoten, a must-hit for anyone on a ramen mission in the area. Keep in mind, though, that there are dozens of other quality shops around.

If you need a guide (and you probably do), check out the Wakayama Ramen Taxi. They will have you sorted in no time!


This was part of a trip I took to Wakayama to check out the ramen taxi.

The entire writeup is here:

Huge thanks to My Secret Wakayama for the opportunity.


Wakayama-ken, Wakayama-shi, Fukumachi 12
10 minute walk from Wakayama-shi Station

Open 11:00-17:00
Closed Sundays

Monday, May 14, 2018

ねいろ屋 (Neiroya in Ogikubo)



I'd visited Neiroya in Ogikubo years ago, and felt it was time for a return. They had closed, but opened just across the small walking street they have always been on.


And, yes, they still serve shaved ice.


Always start with ramen. Actually, I have heard that かき氷オタク, shaved ice nerds, will eat a shaved ice, then ramen, then another shaved ice. Yes, shaved ice has some fans who search out good shops all over the country.


I went with the lemon ramen, a limited item, this time. Neiroya is constantly making limited bowls with a theme of local products. Lemons only really grow in one part of Japan, The Seto Inland Sea, and the limited space means that most of them are from small, organic farmers. Other citrus fruits thrive in Japan, but not lemons.

The regular bowls are shoyu using products from the Seto Sea, and a shio using free range chicken and pork.


The shaved ice menu is always seasonal, and this time grapes were in season. I had to look up these particular fruits, as I'd never heard of ピオーネ or スチューべン before.

Pione are a kind of grape used for rose wine, and Steuben are a dark variety that ripen shortly after Concord grapes.


Really refreshing.


By the way, you'll have to order ramen if you want to try the shaved ice for lunch, but from 3:00pm, you can get just shaved ice.


You should really eat ramen, though.


Tokyo, Suginami-ku, Amanuma 3-6-24
8 minute walk from Ogikubo Station

Open 11:30-14:00, 15:00-20:00
Weekends 11:00-16:00