Thursday, August 16, 2018

天下一品総本店 (Tenkaippin in Kyoto)

天下一品総本店


Well, I finally made it here, to Tenka Ippin. This was part of my hunt for great ramen in Kyoto, and I just had to pay a visit to this institution.


This is one of Japan's most famous chains of ramen shops.


The first restaurant was opened in 1981 in Kyoto by Tsutomu Kimura. Since then it has been rapid expansion, and there are over 240 shops nationwide.


They serve a few styles, but the thick こってり is the one that most people swear by.

Before I show the bowl, a quick story. Personally, I stay away from the chains. I have no problem with tasty food, but chain shops make their soup in a factory, ship it to the shops, and employ minimum wage students to serve it to you. It's organized and consistent, but lacks the emotion and personal story that I look for in ramen shops.

One time I was asked on a Japanese TV show about Tenka Ippin, and I said that I never went. The next day, my mailbox was full with anonymous hate mail from Japanese people who said I had no right to speak about ramen if I didn't worship the ground that their beloved Ten-Ichi was built upon.


Anyways, this one is Kyoto-style, meaning a thick chicken soup with thin, Kyushu-style noodles. Think of it as East meets West, replacing creamy pork for creamy bird.


It's actually, as the name こってり suggests, super thick.


Great with a little added spice.

This is their original shop, so I felt it was part of my journey to come here. Will I visit other shops? Probably not. But I'd have no problem eating this again.


Website here.



Monday, August 13, 2018

かたぐるま (Kataguruma in Kyoto)

あいつのラーメン かたぐるま


Kyoto ramen adventure!




Kata - 肩 - shoulder.
Kuruma - 車 - car.

The Japanese word kataguruma, or shoulder car, means piggyback. It's a fitting name for a shop opened by the disciple of another famous shop. In this case, it's Orenoramenappare (俺のラーメンあっぱれ屋), also in Kyoto. But the original is not convenient by modern standards. It will take about an hour on public transport to get there. Kataguruma is just a couple stops from Kyoto Station proper.


The menu is similar. Tonkotsu shoyu ramen, thick or insanely (濁) thick. There is also a limited-to-twenty tsukemen. Let's try that.


Homemade spice and pepper oils.


The soup is frothed up with a hand blender, aerating it and giving a bit more creaminess. The only sounds in the shop are slurps and the whizzing of this tool.


Peppered pork chashu, one of the shop's signature items.

This, the original shop, is one of the country's most famous bowls, having received many awards in the past. A must-slurp in my opinion, at either the original or the second branch.




Thursday, August 9, 2018

梅本商店 (Umemoto Shoten in Kyoto)

猪肉・鹿肉 梅本商店


I have no idea how I heard about this place. Maybe it was on TV. Maybe someone blogged about it. Maybe I just drove by it randomly. The only thing that I do remember is that I tried to come in May of 2017, during Japan's national Golden Week holiday. They were closed.


Well, I came back.


Taking the idea of a shack to another level. Can you believe that this is a restaurant?

I took care to inspect the place, and despite the clutter of boxes and magazines, it wasn't terribly dirty. It wasn't terribly clean either, but let's not dwell on that.


Umemoto's master is a hunter. Just up the road is the Soraku District (相楽郡). Mountains teeming with game. Boar and deer are common, and the local farmers would like nothing better than for hunters to thin the herds.


When I walked in, one table was occupied by four drunk old men. The other by the teenage daughter (granddaughter?) of the master. She sat working on homework. He barked at her to get up and make room for the customer. She wasn't happy about it. Everyone was staring at me.

Atmosphere on point; I love it.

Once the other customers realized that I could have a discussion with them in their own language, the fun started. They offered up some of their hot pot. Tough boar meat cooked way too long, simmering in a fantastic dashi broth. The master brought me a free glass of local sake.


Ramen here is only 450 yen, and covered in flash-fried boar slices and green onion. I'm not going to lie, it was a bit too much meat for me. Boar tends to be tough, with equally tough fat connected to every bite.


At one point I looked like I was giving up, and the alpha drunk male next to me gave me the stink eye.

"You'd better finish it all."

I powered through.


Would I come back?

You bet.




Monday, August 6, 2018

玄屋 (Genya in Kyoto)

玄屋


Kyoto ramen hunt!


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Genya is in a part of Kyoto, a few stops south of the main station, that most tourists would never visit.


Nice place, though.


I love these old covered shopping arcades.


Genya specializes in sake kasu (酒粕) ramen. Sake kasu is the leftover product of sake fermentation. It's sweet and funky and delicious. Kind of like a funked-up miso.


Matched with green onions and slivers of fried tofu, it has a Kyoto feel to it.


Not sure why, but Kyoto ramen shops are either super traditional, or pushing the envelope. Ramen hunters will always have something to try out here in the ancient capitol of Japan.




Thursday, August 2, 2018

らぁめん冠尾 (Kamuro in Ebisu)

らぁめん冠尾


Anyone on a hunt for creamy tori paitan soup should take note of Kamuro.


Open late, which is a good thing in this part of town. Three of my favorite bars are within walking distance. Hatos, Trench, and Martha. You've been warned and informed.


Creamy soup, clear soup, and spicy are the choices. A little spice is nice.


You can always add more of the shop's homemade chili oil.


The heat of the oil and the creaminess of the chicken soup make a great match. I wasn't drinking this evening, but this one would be perfect after a few too many at some (or all) of my bars.



Monday, July 30, 2018

麺昇 神の手 (Kaminote in Koenji)

麺昇 神の手


What the heck is that!


Kaminote opened in May, 2017 and was given the #2 rookie award in the original category. Original is an understatement.


Garlic shrimp ramen.

The restaurant is more of a teppanyaki spot than a ramen shop. Different dishes get fried up on the iron griddle. Yakisoba, okonomiyaki, and things like scallops with garlic. The menu is large, and there are drinks to go with it all.

As for ramen, choose from seven different types.


I had to try the オムラーメン, ramen topped with a Japanese-style omelet and roast beef.

Super interesting, this one gets a recommendation. Don't expect showa-era traditional food here, just something fun and new. The base is a tomato soup, in line with the whole omelet theme.

Yes, they have regular ramen as well.


Website here.



Thursday, July 26, 2018

Soranoiro Factory & Lab. in Asakusabashi

ソラノイロ Factory & Labo


Jiro-style from vegan friendly Soranoiro? What has the world come to?


The Soranoiro group gained fame for their excellent flagship shop's chukasoba as well as their veggiesoba, a bowl of vegetable-rich ramen that can be made with minimal or no meat.

Jiro-style is about as meat as you can get. Intense pork soup covered in rendered pork back fat.


ベジ郎, bejiro, takes the word for veggie and combines it with jiro. Fun! The concept here is unique. You get 400g of food. Customize that how you like; 200g noodles and 200g veggie is the normal choice. I'm trying to limit my carbohydrate intake, so 100g of noodles with 300g of vegetables sounds about perfect.


Plenty of ramen reading available.


But I brought my own! Ramen at Home. Did you buy your copy yet?


Met up with my friend Michael and his daughter for this one.

This bowl is great. I'm not a fan of Jiro in general, but a version with a variety of fresh vegetables really did me over. Usually Jiro is only bean sprouts and a few pieces of leaves. Bejiro has carrots, okra, and more than enough crisp cabbage.

You probably won't crush this one, but you'll definitely enjoy it.


Website here.