Monday, November 19, 2018

らぁめん りきどう (Rikido in Gifu)

らぁめん りきどう

It isn't often that a ramen shop, far from Tokyo, really blows me away. To be honest, I think Tokyo people are spoiled for choices, and thought there are excellent shops in major cities around Japan, the metropolis city has it made.

Then I have a bowl like this and that theory goes out the window.

The train from Nagoya up to Takayama is beautiful. It follows a river most of the way, and you really feel like you have left the city.

Gifu city isn't on anyone's radar. There are some temples, sure. There is a ruined castle, yes. But with Takayama to the north, and everywhere else to the south, it just isn't a popular destination.

But some ramen nerds had told me about this spot, and I just so happened to be working in Gifu city proper on this day. Rikido is a bit of a walk from the city center, maybe 20 or 30 minutes on foot.

The yellow buttons on the ticket machine are all for tsukemen. Why so many choices? Well, this is a noodle nerd's destination, and each row is a different style.

Thin, thick, flat, and super wide. My choice is clear.

High in kansui, the alkaline water that gives ramen its particular slippery texture. Too much of the stuff, and the noodles can taste soapy. Too little and they lose texture. These were on point.

Th soup is full of thick cut chashu, thick cut menma, and more punch that you would expect from a lighter broth. Most of the popular tsukemen spots do a tonkotsu gyokai creamy-style soup. This one is wafu, Japanese broth to the core.

Eating these can be tough, but you'll figure it out.

They had another bowl with two kinds of noodles, but I really wanted to try these ultra-wide ones. I'll be back, assuming I'm in the area again.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

中野のラーメン女子博 (Ramen Girl's Fest in Nakano)


These events seem to be a dime a dozen these days, but they are still fun none-the-less. The Ramen Girl's Fest pops up all over Japan, so when it had a debut in Nakano, just a few minutes from my home, I was in.

When people ask me which one was the best at these outdoor events, I never want to give an answer. If the weather is nice, and you want some ramen with friends, just go and enjoy. You'll get better ramen at the brick and mortar shop, but you might make some new friends at an event.

Spicy tom yum style.

Excellent mazesoba. Pro tip, the mazesoba at these events is usually quality.

Limited edition stickers are a thing at events these days.

People ask me how they can know about upcoming events. The event page over at the ramen database has a list, though it is in 日本語. Check it here:

Keep an eye on the Ramen Girls website for upcoming events. It looks like this festival will be in both Osaka and Kumamoto in 2018. Website here.

Monday, November 12, 2018

もっこす (Mokkosu in Kobe)


Quick! I made a video!

Mokkosu is one of Kobe's most famous shops. Some 40 years ago, the founder studied at Kyoto's Daiichi Asahi, and brought that classic chukasoba vibe down to Kobe.

Shoyu ramen, thin noodles, copious thinly-sliced chashu.

And plenty of condiments for the top.

Open late, and since Kobe is the home of Japan's biggest criminal syndicate, you'll probably run into a few low level gangsters here. Definitely recommended.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

新生軒 (Shinseiken in Himeji)


Himeji is known for their pure white castle. It could possible be the most famous castle in the country.

Well, I work here about once a year, so I've seen it, been in it, and experienced everything it has to offer.

Gyoza and ramen, on the other hand . . .

Wow, talk about a simple bowl.

The gyoza were mega garlicky, just like they should be.

This clear chicken broth had almost no impact. Flavors from the green onion and wakame seaweed were intense, as well as a little hint of ginger. If you aren't in the mood for noodles, they make a version with only wontons as well.

Monday, November 5, 2018

なかとら食堂 (Nakatora in Gifu)


Lunch at Yanagiya. What a treat. You can read about this shop here. By the way, I post non-ramen over on my Instagram.

I was with some serious foodies, and we had plans for snow-aged beef that night. With time to kill, we hit up a local shokudo; a casual dining restaurant.

The menu is all over the place. Fried fish, pork cutlets, cheese-stuffed fishcakes, and of course, ramen. Everything on offer is less than 500 yen.

At a few hundred yen, this one is pure cost-performance comfort.

I can't throw heaps of praise at it, but this smoky, local's shop was a perfect spot to spend an hour relaxing.

They even let us park our motorcycles out front.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Le Midi in Takayama, Gifu

飛騨高山中華そば専門店 M aka Le Midi

Getting here was quite the adventure. I was out on the road with Igor, chef/owner of Karma Ramen in Austria. The end of March presents a problem for motorcycle touring; the snow hasn't always been cleared from Japan's lesser traveled mountain passes.

As you can see, this was the end of the line. Or was it?

We heard something in the distance. Hiking over the thick snow (an attempt at motorcycle riding was met with utter failure) we found our savior. As you can see, the snow season was over, all we had to do was wait.

He even skipped clearing the entire road to make a motorcycle-size route just for us. Love it.

Next stop, Takayama.

The plan was to check out a famous soba shop just outside of town, but they were closed for the day. Luckily, Takayama is a major tourist hub, and there are dining options galore.

Why not? Local Hida beef is quite well known in Japan, so a mazesoba topped with premium A5 beef made sense. It was pricey, something like 3000 or 4000 yen. In the end, it was a bit of a gimmick.

We also tried a bowl made with local wild boar. It wasn't that great.

Pickled peppers were a good topping, adding some needed flavor and cutting the funkiness of the bowl.

Takayama is has seen the greatest growth in tourism in the entire country, up something like 600% in recent years. Unfortunately, this means that shops end up catering to single-visit travelers. Might as well throw some local beef on that bowl.

This shop is located on the main tourist drag, where every restaurant flaunts their beef options. My suggestion is to snack on street food along the street as you make your way to the temples. Skip any sort of sit down spot. That could be good advice for anywhere in Japan where tourists outnumber locals.

Website here.