Thursday, March 29, 2018

花いちもんめ (Hanaichimonme in Hiroshima)



My non-Tokyo adventures take me to Hiroshima once or twice a year, and I always try to take advantage of the situation. Hiroshima ramen is most often associated with spicy tsukemen, and in recent years soupless tantanmen. So when someone told me about a duck soup spot in the red light district, I made a point to check it out.


Hanaichimonme opens at 9:00pm, and stays open until around 4:00am. This is in the heart of Hiroshima's red light district, rife with brothels, bars, and cheap eats. It's a must hit area (for the food!) if you are in town.


There is a bit of confusion upon entering the shop. It will most likely be packed, with no line outside. I waited for 10 minutes before someone informed me that the waiting area is actually upstairs. Head up, sit down, and peruse the menu.


志奈そば and 和風つけめん are the two to choose from. I quickly mailed my friend, the one who told me about the place, but he didn't see the message in time. The upper left, 志奈そば, would have to do.


Legit. This one is light and full of refreshing flavors. It's not the sous vide duck breast that Tokyo seems to love at the moment, but you can tell that a lot went into this one. That said, there are some side dishes of fried or stewed duck available if the sparse meat topping in this bowl isn't enough.


Beautiful, flat noodles.


On the back of the menu is their ウラ, or hidden options. The ramen gets a mini egg dish and the tsukemen gets a mini rice bowl. I was stuffed, and didn't want to waste any money on something I couldn't eat.


Hey, that guy!

By the way, my friend responded the next day and said that the tsukemen is the one to get. Guess I'll be back!


Hiroshima-ken, Hiroshima-shi, Chuo-ku, Nagarekawacho 4-3
20 minute walk from HIroshima Station

Open 9:00pm-4:00am
Closed Sundays

Monday, March 26, 2018

はし本 (Hashimoto in Nakano)



Hashimoto opened in 2017, and was quickly given the title of "mix" ramen of the year. Mix is a genre that is deals with ramen made from a thick pork soup (chicken or other meat is allowed) and a fishy 魚介 soup.


The photo on the wall shows that Hashimoto-san has earned the respect he deserves, having trained with Yamagishi-san of Taishoken fame.


In a recent interview, Hashimoto-san said that his soup is inspired by another famous shop, Hayashi. In the same magazine that dubbed Hashimoto the rookie of the year, Hayashi was given a #5 overall ranking, also in the mix category.


I often describe this style as pure gold soup. It's a bit creamy, but has more of a punch than straight tonkotsu ramen. The noodles are usually thick, and you'll be full (and probably sleepy) after a normal sized bowl.


Many shops in the mix category only open for a few hours a day, but Hashimoto is available longer. A great choice in Nakano.


Tokyo, Nakano-ku, Arai 1-25-4
10 minute walk from Nakano Station

Open 11:30-20:00
Weekends 11:00-17:00
Closed Wednesdays

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Mad Ronin in Seminyak, Bali

Mad Ronin


Ramen is global, there is no denying that. I hear about new shops in New York, California, and major European cities all the time. We associate the trend with the west, for the most part ignoring the wildfire of ramen growth that is Asia. Almost every Asian nation has embraced ramen in recent years, and Japanese chefs have found it easy to expand to locations serviced by short flights from Tokyo.


I first heard about a ramen shop in Bali via Instagram. The post was of a demolished building that would someday become a ramen shop. I followed them but kept my expectations low.

A year or so later, I was slurping at one of the coolest, most fun ramen shops in the world. A true gem.


The signature ramen here is the tonkotsu. Go for the classic on your first slurp.

Other choices (which I didn't try) are a Laksa soup ramen, a chicken shoyu, and a vegetarian bowl. I should also note that the ramen here is "Hawt A.F."


Everything about this bowl is on point (except the odd choice of two naruto fish cakes). The soup is creamy, the noodles firm, and the umami level high.


The spicy bowl wasn't SE Asia hot, instead having a nice balance of heat with the creamy soup. A great one after drinking.


Drinking you say?

This is where Mad Ronin gets weird and rad.


This is Shah Dillon, the owner of the joint. Apart from his love for ramen, he is a huge cocktail nerd. Like most cocktail nerds, he had an interest in the speakeasy culture from America's prohibition era. A speakeasy is essentially a secret bar. No signs. Questionable legality.

If you walk to the back of the shop, you'll see a stairwell.


This is 40 Thieves, one of Bali's unknown speakeasy bars.


Maybe not so unknown. On a popular night, this is the spot to be. Locals and expats (99% Australians) make up the clientele.


NYC style. If you like your whiskey mixed with craft bitters, you'll find a few cocktails for your taste. They also had a few bottles of Japanese craft gin, which is currently a thing.

Shah spoke of opening up more shops like this; hidden bars in the back of restaurants. I wish him the best of luck.


Located in Seminyak, not Kuta, which is a good thing I've been told.


Jl. Petitenget No.7, Kerobokan Kelod, Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia

Open 6:00pm-2:00am
Closed Mondays

Monday, March 19, 2018

龍の子 (Ryunoko in Harajuku)



Looking for tantanmen in touristy Harajuku?


Look no further than Ryunoko, which means the dragon's child.


Ryunoko does a dozen or so noodle dishes at lunch, but the tantanmen is their most popular.


It's your standard style with a mix of spicy and numbing Chinese herbs and spices to balance everything out.


You can't beat the location, right between a Starbucks and the famous Takeshita Dori, the street that runs from Harajuku Station to Omotesando. This street used to be filled with girls (and some boys) playing dress-up in gothic lolita fashion, but those days have dwindled for the most part. Now you'll find a lot of tourist using the street to make their way to the other end, where Japanese street fashion boutiques offer limited edition apparel with overseas resale appeal.

Anyways, I don't hang out in Harajuku much.


東京都渋谷区神宮前1-8-5 メナー神宮前B1
Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 1-8-5
10 minute walk from Harajuku Station

Open 11:30-15:00, 17:00-21:30
Closed Sundays

Thursday, March 15, 2018

玉 (Gyoku in Kawasaki)

つけめん 玉


First things first, check out the video!

This is tonkotsu gyokai ramen at a high level.


Tonkotsu refers to the thick pork soup used, and gyokai is all about the fish. In this case, they use niboshi (dried sardines) and urumeboshi (dried herring). Both give a lot of deep, smoky flavors to this tsukemen.


Like I said in the video, for people staying at On The Marks Kawasaki, this is a must-hit. For the rest of you, I would give this one a solid recommendation. Tonkotsu Gyokai is one of those flavors that some people aren't in to, but the rest go crazy. Satiate your insanity with this one for sure.


Something random I liked about this was that they didn't fill the bowl with raw onions, rather they have them chopped in jars on the counter for you to add yourself. I personally am not a huge fan, so I could avoid them for once.


Official site here.


Kanagawa-ken, Kawasaki-shi, Kawasaki-ku, Oiwakecho 6-12
30 minute walk from Kawasaki Station

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

Monday, March 12, 2018

宣久 (Thank You in Rokakoen)

秋刀鮪だし 宣久


秋刀 = Sanma; Pacific Saury
鮪 = Maguro; Tuna
だし = Dashi; broth


So, this shop is making a broth out of two kinds of rarely used fish. That should be interesting enough, but for me the reason to come here is a bit deeper. This is the shop that formerly housed Ivan Ramen, one of the most important shops in the global history of ramen. When Ivan moved his operation to New York, he decided to pass this one off to his staff, who kept some things and changed up the rest.


The noodles are very reminiscent of Ivan's, who was one of the first people in Japan to use whole grain wheat in his noodles. The soup, however, is a completely new concept.

Fish is underutilized in ramen, apart from niboshi, which is everywhere. Things like sanma and maguro usually only make it into a limited bowl; sanma is one of the signals that autumn has arrived. Both fish are hearty and full of oils that give the soup a deep, oceany flavor.


The second floor is still a noodle room, and the noodles at Thank You are amazing.


Another nod to the past is the roast tomato, a signature topping of Ivan's ramen.


This is Matsumoto-san. And this is his ramen. I remember him working hard under Ivan, and this new shop really shows that he mastered the craft.


Thanks for the tomatoes!


Tokyo, Setagaya-ku, Minamikarasuyama 3-24-7
5 minute walk from Rokakoen Station

Open 11:30-14:30, 18:00-21:00
Closed Wednesdays

Thursday, March 8, 2018

たんたん亭 (Tantantei in Hamadayama)



Tantantei labels itself as shinasoba, which is the old way of saying chukasoba. In this case, shina is a phonetic way of saying china, and chuka is the proper way to say China. The former is considered by some to be a taboo word, racist in a way, but it is hard for me to understand the intricacies of the situation. If I have offended anyone, my apologies.


This is old-school style ramen, if something from the middle of last century can be considered old-school. Is there a difference between shinasoba and chukasoba? One thing that stands out is the constant use of wontons in shinasoba.

Tantantei is very, very famous for their wontons.


I was inspired to visit because of a post on Instagram by Go Ramen, Keizo Shimamoto. His ramen in NYC is always doing interesting things, and some time ago he had a shinasoba popup. The 亭 in the name is an homage to this particular shop. Super cool.


Many shops with wontons do a mix bowl, meaning a few pork wontons and a few shrimp wontons. I always go for the mix. Another thing to note is that if you aren't feeling up for slurping noodles, you can go for wonton soup (ワンタンスープ) for a bowl of just wontons. Low carb diet on point.


These wontons are legit, and I imagine Go Ramen serves up something great as well.


Go Ramen is now Go Ramen! Go Life! Follow his exploits over on his site:


Tokyo, Suginami-ku, Hamadayama 3-31-4
1 minute walk from Hamadayama Station

Open 11:00-20:30