Monday, January 29, 2018

一燈 (Itto in Shin-Koiwa)

麺屋 一燈


Of course, I have been to Itto before. They are considered one of the best tsukemen shops in Japan, commanding a near perfect 97.94 ranking on the infamous Ramen Database. How does that rank overall? Best in the country, actually!


Why did I brave the long lines this time?


Mr. Ramen Culture, a fellow ramen nerd who came out to Japan to work at Japan's #1 ramen shop.


And this limited bowl of niboshi-heavy ramen. To be honest, though this was a rad bowl, their original tsukemen is always the way to go at Itto. This particular one was made with specialty Japanese chickens from Nagoya. The soup was so thick that they hit it with some soup wari at the end, something usually reserved for tsukemen.

Soup wari (スープ割り) is essentially a light broth added to thick soup to make it drinkable. Many shops add in extras. This bowl added shredded chicken, salt-cured konbu seaweed, and rice. Now that I think about it, this might not really be a soup wari situation, but an entirely 2nd meal.


A random aside. Some years ago I hosted the Ramen Shaman at my home through the Couch Surfing website. At that time, I introduced him to another Couch Surfing friend and they created a Tokyo Dodgeball club. Years later, Mr. Ramen Culture joined a game of dodgeball and met a nice local girl. Six years or so after all of this, and she became the new Mrs. Ramen Culture. How cool is that!

Congrats to all!

(photo stolen without permission from The Ramen Culture blog).


Official site here.

Tokyo, Katsushika-ku, Higashishinkoiwa 1-4-17
Closest station: Shinkoiwa

Open 11:00-15:00, 18:00-22:00

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Tombo in Kichijoji



Those in the know are no stranger to Saikoro, the ramen shop in Nakano. One of Tokyo's most famous shops, they have nurtured a few chefs on their journey to opening ramen shops of their own.


Naoki-san had been working at Saikoro for who knows how long, and it was great to visit his new restaurant a day before they opened for service.

Tombo means dragonfly, for your information.


I love seeing a shiny new shop.


The menu will be no surprise to any fans of Saikoro; shoyu or shio based niboshi ramen, with some tsukemen options as well. Deep flavors in a simple bowl.


If you are a fan of this style, Tombo is a must hit. The location is a short walk from Kichijoji Station, along a road that is surprisingly lacking in ramen (in about a 500 meter radius at least).


Some touches, like a little fried onion in the soup, remind me of where this came from, while the pork, cut thick and fatty, are new. Overall a fantastic bowl.


I checked their Instagram page, and it looks like you can expect random limited bowls like miso or katsuo shoyu to be making appearances on a regular basis.


Best of luck!


Tokyo, Mushashino-shi, Kichijoji Nancho 4-16-12
Closest station: Kichijoji

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

Monday, January 22, 2018

Noodle Stand Tokyo in Harajuku

Noodle Stand Tokyo


Last year I wrote about (and made a YouTube video for) a shop up near Akabane Station on the north side of Tokyo. The shop was called noodle kitchen ミライゑ, and Miraie closed soon after my video trended. Their soupless noodles topped with stewed beef tendon looked as good as it tasted, but it was now gone.


The details about the sudden closure are unimportant, as they have now reopened in a much better part of town. Harajuku is about as central as it gets.


The menu is almost identical. The stewed beef mazesoba is still here, as is their kuroshio niboshi, an MSG-free bowl of Tokyo-style soy sauce ramen.


There is an interesting angle here, focusing on using ingredients that are considered ethical. This can be a bit misleading, as the definition of ethical food is undefined, and the connotations are all over the place. I'm sure a vegetarian wouldn't put beef in the ethical category, and salt production around the globe uses a lot of illegal work practices. When I asked them about it, the shop master said that most items are sourced from within Japan, or from companies that operate with ethics in mind.


As I've tried the mazesoba many times (this shop is a regular at ramen festivals and events), it was time for the shoyu.


Very clean. Both the soy sauce and the niboshi (dried sardines) are sourced from nearby Chiba prefecture, home to some of Japan's highest quality products.


Go for it with or without the seabura pork back fat, it's up to you. Both are great. And you can choose soy sauce or salt. As always, I prefer a good bowl of shoyu ramen at most shops.


Tell the staff I sent you, they are a really chill group.


Official site here.


東京都渋谷区神宮前1-21-15 ナポレ原宿B1F
Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Jungumae 1-21-15
Closest station: Harajuku

Open 11:00-15:00, 17:00-21:00
Weekends 11:00-21:00
Closed Tuesdays

Thursday, January 18, 2018

かしわぎ (Kashiwagi in Nakai)



Ramen shops come and go, and sometimes a popular shop disappears for no apparent reason. I never made it to 麺処 今川 (Imagawa), but I had heard good things. They closed a while back.


Well, their spiritual successor recently opened, and much closer to where I live. Good news.


The other good news is the price. 680 yen is a steal these days, especially for a high caliber bowl like this one.


The shop has space for larger groups, though you should always eat at a spirited pace and give up your seat for the next customer. Ramen etiquette 101. I was doing a food tour this day, and this is something I tell all of my customers. Some people don't like it, being pressured to stop talking, eat, and get out, but this is the way it is in Japan.

If you want to hang out at a ramen shop for 45 minutes, there are plenty of popular chain shops that will let you do this.


Kashiwagi uses a pork and shellfish soup, picking umami-rich clams to give this bowl a nice balance. It is very simple, but each aspect is high quality. I'm not sure why the price is so low.


The egg is legit.

Though the shio ramen is what most people want to try, the shoyu uses a blend of three different soy sauces for an aroma and flavor synergy. Love the dark color.


Keep in mind that the hours have expanded since their opening in June, 2017.


Tokyo, Nakano-ku, Higashi-Nakano 1-36-7
Closest station: Higashi-Nakano

Open 11:30-15:00, 18:00-21:00
Sundays and Mondays 11:30-15:00
Closed Tuesdays

Monday, January 15, 2018

東京ラーメンショー (2017 Tokyo Ramen Show)

東京ラーメンショー 2017

I'm not going to report on the event, as it is long over, but I will say that this is probably my last time trying so many bowls at one time. Famous last words, but I felt that after number six or seven my taste buds were shot.

I was with a friend, a super ramen nerd, who was trying to reach 1000 bowls in the year. You can do this by attending these sort of ramen festivals, which are now almost weekly around Japan. Other ramen nerds have begun to dislike this sort of binge eating, as it appears to be more about numbers than actually enjoying the food. I am of two minds, though wasting food is always an issue.

I was really happy to see the other Tokyo festival, the Grand Tsukemen Fest, dropping their price down to 500 yen and serving half size portions of noodles. Everyone should follow suit.

The Tokyo Ramen Show's website can be seen here.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

大つけ麺博 (2017 Grand Tsukemen Fest)

大つけ麺博 2017

The Grand Tsukemen Fest did something great this year. They dropped the price of bowls to 500 yen, and they halved the portions. This meant that I could roll in with a couple of friends each week (the event lasted 5 weeks, with different shops each time) and easily try all nine bowls.

Not only was this great, but I think this was the best ramen event in terms of taste that I have ever been to. Usually, eating ramen outdoors in a plastic bowl means a very substandard bowl, but the Grand Tsukemen Fest delivered this time.

Every year in October. Mark your calendars. For 2018, I am going to try and get some overseas shops to participate.

Monday, January 8, 2018

長浜らーめん (Nagahama Ramen in Setagaya)



Not sure how this one ended up on my list of spots to try.


At 600 yen, though, it's a steal.


A stinky, stinky steal. I could smell this shop a block away. A typical smell for a typical bowl of tonkotsu ramen.


Oh wait, I remember why I wanted to come!


Despite the odd smattering of famous people's signatures, I remember my friend Ladybeard had been here for a video shoot.

Yes, I have interesting friends in Japan. Ladybeard has since left the Ladybaby group and gone on to form Deadlift Lolita, the first weight training idol group of its kind. But you probably already knew that.


Tokyo, Setagaya-ku, Kamikitazawa 4-30-8
Closest station: Hachimanyama

Open 11:00-5:00am
Closed Wednesdays

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Best Ramen in Japan 2017

The Best Ramen in Japan
2017 Edition

This was a fun year for travelling outside of Tokyo in search of great bowls. Much of my search was actually revisiting my favorite shops in as many prefectures as I could, and documenting it for a YouTube project that I am working on called Ramen Riders. But there were still many chances to try new, stellar bowls. Here are the eight bowls from Japan (and abroad) that made a big impact on me in 2017.

NOROMA in Nara


Nara Prefecture's #1 ranked shop. Creamy chicken soup that is simple, with a very deep, lingering aftertaste.

麺や青雲志 (Seiunshi in Mie)


I was on a cross-country ramen trip when I noticed that I had a shop nearby that someone had recommended. It turned out to be one of the best bowls of the year. Only open for a few hours at lunch, and they almost always sell out. Three or four different styles, and the two I tried were a testament to this one.

和海 (Nagomi in Hyogo)


Hyogo Prefecture's #1 ranked shop. Chicken and primo dried fish make this one a solid pick for a recommendation.

ロックンビリースーパーワン (Rocking Billy Super One in Amagasaki,Hyogo)


The legend from Tokyo moved out to Amagasaki a few years back. Golden chicken oil, premium ingredients, and an atmosphere that needs to be seen. Perfect ramen in silence that is worth the trek.

Slurp Ramen Joint in Copenhagen, Denmark


My friend's shop in Copenhagen is a huge success. I'm sure a lot has changed in the year since I tried this one, but they seem to be killing it out there. Homemade noodles with a mix of Japanese and Bornholme wheat, choice pork, and a secret tare base inspired by one of Tokyo's most famous spots.

凪 (Nagi in Taipei)


Nagi's Hakata-style ramen in a collaboration with a New York BBQ spot? I was intrigued. Smoked brisket oil in ramen is a combo that more people should taste.

ラーメン無法松 (Muhomatsu in Kokura, Fukuoka)


Famous, and super out of the way. Solid tonkotsu ramen in the land of tonkotsu ramen. The soup is lighter than most pork bone soups.

浅月 (Satsuki in Okayama)


The definition of old school. Open since 1948, if you are every in Okayama seek this one out.

Please keep in mind that my annual lists are not a best-of, but just a personal reflection on what I wrote about throughout the year. More of my top bowl lists can be found:


Monday, January 1, 2018

Best Ramen in Tokyo 2017

The Best Ramen in Tokyo
2017 Edition

In 2017, my pace picked up significantly. Though I ate around the same number of bowls in total as in 2016, I really hit the new shops with gusto. Here are 13 that were particularly great (with another 10 at the bottom for good measure). Keep in mind that this list is not a best-of list, but the bowls that I personally tried for the first time this year and loved.

楓 (Kaede in Ogikubo)


Kaede is an offshoot of the famous miso ramen shop Hanamichi. This one is just as good, if not better for the touch of ginger sauce on top.

MENSHO in Gokokuji


One of the latest (he keeps opening new shops!) from the MENSHO group. Farm-to-table is the concept, and this one is as close to a fine-dining bowl as you'll get for under $50.

季織亭 (Kioritei in Yoyogi-Uehara)


麺屋福丸 (Fukumaru in Sasazuka)


The ramen critics didn't like this one as much as me, but I think their kamopaitan, creamy soup made with 100% duck bones, is to die for. A unique taste you won't find anywhere else.

鶏喰~TRICK~ (TRICK in Yokohama)


The king of chicken. Beautiful. Judge this one by the photo.

らーめん 改 (Kai in Kuramae)


There was a trend over the last few years to use more shellfish in ramen broth. Kai uses plenty of clams for an overload of ocean umami. Noodles made on site.

鳴龍 (Nakiryu in Otsuka)


The Michelin people handed Nakiryu a star most likely for their shoyu ramen. Personally, I think their tantanmen is the way to go. Very mild, with hints of oyster in the soup.

麺魚 (Mengyo in Kinshicho)


Tai soup blended with creamy chicken soup, topped with smoked chashu and an egg injected with snapper dashi. Next level.

つけ麺 道 (Michi in Kameari)


I finally made it to one of the most famous tonkotsu gyokai tsukemen shops in Japan. It lives up to the hype. Arrive an hour before opening if you want to save time in the long run.

みつヰ (Mitsui in Asakusa)


Clean, simple Kitakata-style ramen. Mukacho (no chemical seasoning) for people who really think that is important. The Michelin guide does, as this is one of the newcomers to their bib gourmand list.

博多一瑞亭 (Hakata Issuitei in Shinjuku)


Solid Hakata ramen in the middle of Shinjuku. If you want to check this style off your list, go here instead of the chain shops that all the tourists line up for.

北大塚ラーメン (Kitaotsuka in Otsuka)


Look at the photo above. It it looks like something you want, you should go here. Old school shop.

さくら井 (Sakurai in Mitaka)


My pick for off-the-beaten-path ramen. Mitaka isn't too far, but most people wouldn't go there, or walk 15 minutes into a residential neighborhood for ramen. You should, though.

I didn't want to make this list too massive, so here are some honorable mentions:

カシムラ (Kashimura in Shinbashi) - Interesting use of arai (left over fish bones) from the nearby Tsukiji market.
べんてん (Benten in Narimasu) - A Tokyo classic makes their triumphant return. Huge line!
山雄亭 (Sanyutei in Akabane) - Meticulously crafted toppings, with a price to match.
misato in Okubo - Mounds of seabura backfat to die for.
さんじ (Sanji in Ueno) - Niboshi, crab, and a whole lot of quail eggs.
桑嶋 (Kuwajima in Shimokitazawa) - A solid bowl in one of my favorite parts of town.
八咫烏 (Yatagarasu in Kudanshita) - Near-perfect bowl of shoyu ramen.
タンタンタイガー (Tantan Tiger in Asakusa) - Be careful, you get to choose your own levels of spice!
篠はら (Shinohara in Ikebukuro) - Deep shoyu that deserves a few more trips.
KaneKitchen Noodles in Higashi-Nagasaki - Fun spot with a lot of great options.