Thursday, November 21, 2019

自家製麺うろた (Urota Homamade Noodles in Fukushima)


Yup, it's ramen.

I'll admit it, I came here for this one in particular. Most customers are going with one the shop's standard bowls, but the artistic nature of this colorful bowl couldn't be passed up. Jackson Pollock on a plate.

Each paint is made from natural ingredients. Green spinach, yellow kabocha pumpkin, black squid ink. Though the individual flavors get lost in the mix, I appreciate the effort.

The base of this one was a sesame-heavy tantanmen with miso and milk. They served it with a side of Death hot sauce, which basically ruined the entire bowl. At least I got a good two thirds down before that happened.

ペイントクレイジーミルク味噌ラーメン on the menu if you are curious. There are honestly about 20 other menu items, like a shio ramen made with five kinds of shellfish, an oyster sauce soupless ramen, and a karasumi shoyu ramen. A return is in order.

I enjoyed this one. Not a gimmick at all.

Official Twitter here.

Monday, November 18, 2019

さんわ (Sanwa in Ehime)

さんわ 伯方島本店

Forgive the iPhone SE photos. I was traveling light this time.

From Onomichi in Hiroshima Prefecture to Imabari in Ehime Prefecture there is something magical. The Shimanami Kaido is a dedicated cycling route. It crosses seven bridges, six islands, and enough scenery to warrant a nice camera.

Which I didn't bring.

The cycling route is around 60 kilometers in length. Personally, I found it very easy, though each bridge is preceded by a 1.5 kilometer, 7% grade incline. If this is tough for you, you'll have a challenge ahead. That shouldn't dissuade you, though. The bicycles are only about 1000 yen a day to rent, and you can drop them off at the end for a one-way adventure.

A Ramen Adventure! I'm loving the custom cycling jersey. In the center is my friend Mr. T, who runs a fishcake factory on Oshima, the island in the background. Dave is on the right. My college roommate and a great friend. Two other dudes didn't want to wear their jersey on the second day, so they don't get to be in the shot.

At around kilometer 45, you can make a detour to visit the area's most famous ramen shop. Sanwa is a no-brainer for me.

Local shio ramen.

Family-run for decades, they make a bowl that parallels the local Seto Inland Sea. Dried sakuraebi shrimp, slivers of local fishcake, and a light salt-based broth.

If you are doing the cycling route, keep in mind that this is a detour towards the later part of the cycling trip. People will be tired and possibly cranky. Forcing them to add ten kilometers is a tough sell. There's also a slight 75-meter elevation gain along the detour. Despite the constant views, it was a struggle.

If you do this route, I would suggest staying on Oshima at my friend's ryokan. It's here:

You could even take a ferry from near the ramen shop to Oshima, thus skipping the hill leading up to the bridge.

Official site here.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Ramen and Kakigori at Florilège in Tokyo


Florilège is a French / Japanese restaurant with two Michelin stars, a healthy spot on the World's 50 Best, and a solid waiting list for reservations. I think it is one of the best spots in Tokyo for a gourmet lunch, which will cost you somewhere around 15,000 yen if you go for a wine pairing. Sure, that is out of the budget for many people, but maybe for a special occasion. The food is quite nice.

Being such a famous shop, chef Kawate-san is often out of town doing collaborations with other stars of the gastronomy world. Instead of leaving the restaurant vacant for those days, the staff take over and do their own thing. One of those things is ramen and kakigori.

This time the ramen was simple dashi, homemade noodles, and a little escargot butter to make it fancy. A very nice bowl.

And then the kakigori. Kakigori is Japanese shaved ice. If you follow my IG, you know I like the stuff. If you shy away from sweets, but love fruit and tea flavors, you can find heaven in kakigori. Clouds of ice topped with fresh seasonal fruits.

Mugwort and Hassaku citrus. Rhubarb and sakura, a slightly salty flavoring. Red sake lees and white miso. Everyone's favorite strawberry. White cacao with butterbur.

With a friend, we tried the red sake kasu and miso, the sakura rhubarb, and the white cacao. What would you go for?

Official site here. Keep an eye on their Instagram account to see if they will do ramen again.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Le Sel Organic Ramen in Kyoto

Le Sel オーガニック

Recently opened Le Sel in Kyoto brings a choice of different bowls served as part of a small course. You'll get a couple Kyoto-style snacks, a rice dish, ramen, and a sweet. Check the video!

Conveniently located just down the road from Kiyomizudera Temple.

Everything here is top-notch. The shoyu ramen is made with five or six types of dried fish. The tori paitan made with 100% organic chicken. Some big chicken flavors going on here. At the time I went, the vegan option was a vegetable potage blended with soy milk.

High on my recommended list for Kyoto, it is a no brainer to tell tourists to hit this one on their Kyoto vacation. One tourist (though they are hopefully a local) that agrees is whoever gives Bib Gourmand award from Michelin. Le Sel was awarded a Bib Gourmand shortly after they opened.

Monday, October 28, 2019

スパイスらぁめん 釈迦 (Spice Ramen Shaka in Ikebukuro, Tokyo)

スパイスらぁめん 釈迦

Indian spice meets ramen at Shaka.

And like most shops in Tokyo that serve Indian curry dishes, the variety here is deep.

The shop is part of the MENSHO group. In line with everything Shono-san puts out, this one is unique. For me, I really wanted to try the インド式ミールスつけ麺, Indian Meals Tsukemen. I won't lie, this looked like a good one for the gram.

Noodles with a few curry dipping options on the side, as well as various chutney pickles.

In MENSHO fashion, the noodles are homemade and fantastic. Thick, flat things in the case of Shaka. Bits of whole-grain add some substance.

The curries may or may not change over time. This time the tsukemen came with a Northern Indian butter chicken and a Southern Indian pork curry. Along with this, a Sri Lankan coconut soup. Mango pickles, carrot salad, and a curried potato mix are a great bonus.

Countertop chutney if you want more flavor. Though the curries weren't so spicy, the chutney was.

If you prefer just one of these flavors, the shop offers some ramen choices using similar curries.

The Northern Indian is on the mild side, while the Southern Indian 天空 (heaven) is very spicy.

It wasn't anything you need to worry about heat-wise. Japanese spicy is low on the world spice scale.

Cool shop. As with all Shono shops, I can't recommend it enough.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

大盛軒 (Taiseiken in Nakano, Tokyo)


My Japanese isn't terrible, but when I saw this shop on a map, I thought 大盛軒 was 大勝軒. The latter is famous Taishoken. The former nothing of the sort.

Located just outside the never-used east side exit of Higashi-Nakano Station, just by the cop box.

This is a teppan (鉄板) style, meaning you get something on a hot iron plate. How could this possibly tie in with ramen?

Boom! A simple bowl of shoyu ramen with a side of fried pork. Mix in a raw egg and some fried garlic chips, stir it up with the cabbage and slightly spicy sauce, and go to town. This is one serious meal. I love that the noodles are simple, while the topping situation is out of control.

The shop is old school, and the menu is quite large. Expect a rotating menu of sizzling dishes with different kinds of meats and seasonings. At the time, a ginger fry was what many customers were working on.

Official site here.

Monday, October 21, 2019

麺匠ぼんてん (Mensho Bonten in Sendai)


I've been very slowly pursueing shops on my Fukushima list. Bonten was the next one up.

Kitatkata style, meaning you should always get it with extra chashu. I've never been disappointed with a few extra slices. Kitakata style is generally a lighter shoyu with a niboshi kick and some chewy, flat noodles.

The soup here is made with カエシ, a kind of shoyu tare seasoning. Kaeshi is much more simple than other tare sauces. Vegetarians can rest assured that it only contains soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. Vegetarians, though, probably shouldn't be eating ramen like this.

The chef here worked all over Japan, with Saitama, Osaka, and Asahikawa in Hokkaido all on his ramen resume. It's no surprise that this was one of the pioneers of chemical seasoning free (無化調) in the area. Chemical seasoning free always sounds off to me. MSG-free is another way to say this, but I also feel that MSG isn't a bad thing. Anyways, this is a good bowl.

Hand massaging the noodles before cooking gives them a bit more bite. It's a popular technique in Kitakata.

They even have their own cute character. Tsubasa Ootori has a short katana and a chicken backpack. Makes sense to me!

Official Twitter here.