Monday, July 15, 2019

銀座八五 (Ginza Hachigo in Ginza, Tokyo)

中華そば 銀座八五



The new kid on the block is Hachigo in Ginza. Just a short walk from the station. In case you didn't know, Ginza closes their main drag to cars on the weekend, letting pedestrians take to the famous street. You can stroll around as you like. You don't even need to buy any Mikimoto pearls or Fendi bags.



Yes, Ginza can be pricey. When Hachigo opened, they opened with a simple concept. The name is simple; hachi (eight) go (five). Once you see the menu you might understand. The ramen here is only 850 yen. Very high-quality ramen at a very good price.



They also have a 3000 yen seasonal bowl, though half a year after opening they still haven't been able to produce.



At this price point, you would expect something basic. Basic is as far from the result as possible.



Ramen hospitality. Hachigo makes a bowl without tare, the seasoning liquid that is usually a key ingredient in ramen. They opt for French salt instead. I've never known any other shops to make ramen like this; tare is the "secret" ingredient that makes high-end ramen shops stand out.

The stock is a meaty mix of chicken and duck, with accents from shellfish and ham.



Topped with a beautiful slice of chashu pork. All for 850 yen.



Expect lines. People line up, in the rain, an hour or so before they open. The hype may have died down since they opened in December of 2018, but you'll likely wait.



Thursday, July 11, 2019

せんだが家 (Sendaga-ya Mazesoba in Shinjuku, Tokyo)

せんだが家 まぜそば



I visited this newish mazesoba spot to film for YouTube. Three Minute Ramen!



Well, this idea of doing short, 3-minute videos on my YouTube channel was a failure. I blame the algorithm. Once I started doing shorter content, my views went from upwards of 50,000 views per video to around 5000 views per video. People in the know say that the YouTube algorithm, the function that suggests and automatically plays videos for users, now wants videos that are more than 10 minutes in length. So no more short videos.


Soupless mazesoba four ways. Aka, shiro, ki, and tsumi. 赤、白、黄、罪. Red, White, Yellow, and . . . sin?


Red must be spicy. In this case, it is similar to the Nagoya Taiwan style mazesoba.

White uses a homemade seasoning liquid, chashu, and raw egg. It's a mild choice.

Yellow is a curry thing.

Sin is garlic and fat. Jiro-style.


The shop has a chill vibe with tables, alcoholic drinks, and appetizers. Take your time.


The red is the one to get. A little spice, cubed chashu pork, and enough green onion to cover half the bowl. This is the style made famous by Hanabi in Nagoya and served all over the place these days. Soupless noodles are a trend, especially among overseas ramen lovers. I can see why; mix-em-up noodles are the ultimate junk food.


Add a little white rice at the end to sop up the extra sauce.


Crushed it!


Solid snack.


More drinks.


More snacks. This is a fun spot that just so happens to be a block from the reformed Olympic stadium. I tried to get tickets via the Japan-residents lottery but was denied. If anyone wants to take me to the opening ceremony, I'll treat you to a bowl and drinks here after!



Monday, July 8, 2019

ののくら (Nonokura in Kameari, Tokyo)

ののくら 手打式超多加水麺


Nonokura won the coveted silver rookie award in the 2019 TRY Magazine. Tokyo Ramen of the Year is considered one of the top curated ramen magazines in Japan. Their choices are solid, and the fact that half the magazine is devoted to rookie shops is a blessing for ramen hunters like me.



Out to Kameari. This is home of Kochira Katsushikaku Kameari Koenmae Hashutsujo (こちら葛飾区亀有公園前派出所), a famous manga about a policeman working at the nearby police box. This is also the home of Michi, one of Japan's highest ranked tsukemen shops.


Chukasoba. I love the simple menu. Give me the standard with an egg.


Looks like Michelin took notice of this new shop. Reading their writeup, it is nice to see that even the pros have a tough time coming up with interesting descriptions of ramen. Everything is rather standard. The interesting point is the homemade noodles with a high kansui level, meaning a more slippery slurp. Other than that, it's a chicken soup with dashi.


The noren curtain actually says it has super high kansui in the noodles.


You'll probably wait a short time, but that is standard at shops with such high regard.


Boom!


This one is very, very good. Yes, the noodles are a highlight. Slippery as all hell.

This style of ramen is popular these days, and the one the Michelin Guide prefers. Refined soy sauce, a few kinds of sous vide pork and chicken, high-quality menma, and a perfect egg. To quote the red book, worth a journey.

Nonokura uses a bit more meaty bones in the soup, as well as a blend of four kinds of dried fish. More meat means a richer taste.

Bonus fact. The shop is a combination of the master's daughter's name, Nonoka, and his name, Kurato. How cool is that!



Thursday, July 4, 2019

長田本庄軒 (Nagata Yakisoba in Tachikawa Station)

長田本庄軒



Is yakisoba ramen? Definitely not, though they both use the same kind of noodles. To make yakisoba, cook Chinese-style ramen noodles, then cool them down and put them in the fridge for later. When you are ready to go, fry the noodles with yakisoba sauce. Done!



Maybe my cooking lesson isn't so correct. Actually, people rarely make this dish at home. Yakisoba is often found at streetside yatai stalls during festivals. It helps to have a massive teppan to cook the stuff on. This kind of food is especially prevalent in the Kansai region. In this case, there is a well-known shop inside Tachikawa station. Perfect for the hungry dude on the go.



This particular shop hails from Kobe. Bokkake (ぼっかけ) is their original beef tendon stew, a perfect topping for a plate of fried noodles. This kind of cuisine is carby, fatty, and salty.



Perfect for a beer. I don't often drink Japanese draft beer these days, but this calls for an exception.

The egg topping was key. Keep in mind that yakisoba in shops is often very voluminous. A normal serving is 200g or more. Diet be damned!

Ok, so it isn't ramen, but this one was rad. It's also within the station, so you could hop off your train, crush a bowl (plate), and hop back on without exiting the ticket gates. Done deal.



Official site here.



Monday, July 1, 2019

えびそば えび助 (Ebisuke at Tachikawa Ramen Square)

えびそば えび助 TOKYO


I had a meeting in Tachikawa. I don't often return to the major hub of West Tokyo life, but when I do I usually check out the ramen square.



Tachikawa is a short ride on the Chuo Line from Shinjuku. Less than 30 minutes on a rapid train.


Walk up to the third floor of the nearby department store. I'm no stranger to this spot. Ten or so years ago, when Ramen Adventures was a new thing, I had a job at a horrible conversation school in the department store above Tachikawa Station. I say horrible because while students are charged about 7000 yen for a 40-minute lesson, the actual teachers only get 1500 yen. Exploiting foreigners in the teaching world is nothing new, though, so I can't really complain. And even though that salary was barely enough to make rent, it was enough for ramen.


Six shops await you at what is for some reason called the New York Ramen Square. The shops change every so often, featuring outlets of famous shops around the country. I'm not sure how this place survives; New York it is not. It feels like a ghost town every time I come. Maybe a post-apocalypse New York?


As the name suggests, Ebisuke deals in えぶ - shrimp. Homemade shrimp condiments are the first thing you'll see when you sit down. Well, that and the giant shrimp posters on the wall.


This poster reminds me of a Ford Mustang poster I had on my wall as a teenager. Details of the entire lineup. I kind of wish I had a shrimp poster to go along with it. Next to my Cindy Crawford and Bo Jackson posters of course.


Solid shrimp shoyu ramen. The soup is an 8-hour chicken broth, enhanced with 甘えび, a kind of Japanese sweet shrimp. I couldn't find a reference to this kind of shrimp on the poster, though amaebi could just be a catchall for many different shrimp.


Fried shrimp powder spice. It says it's meant for udon.

If the ramen square was packed with customers and had a bit more of a fun vibe, I would be back to try the other shops I have yet to slurp. But this place is eerily silent. A strange vibe, good ramen.


Ramen Square site here.


Thursday, June 27, 2019

丿貫 (Hechikan in Yokohama)

灰汁中華 丿貫福富町本店


There are quite a few niboshisoba (煮干そば) around these days. So many so that it may be time to further categorize the style. You have thinner styles, like Shibata, and thicker styles like Ibuki and Itto. You have the mega-thick style, often called cement ramen like Tsukihi. Then, for some reason, you have places that incorporate crab into their niboshisoba.


And for some reason, these crab-centric spots lean toward quail eggs over the standard chicken egg. Seriously, this is the third crab-niboshi-quail egg spot I've seen recently.


I had to try the rock crab ramen, made with crabs imported from Canada. Luckily, I went with a friend so we could try the standard niboshi as well. By the way, the menu clearly states that first-time customers should probably get the niboshisoba, as it is the shop's claim to fame. This niboshisoba is always made with a different blend of dried fish. On this day it was two kinds of anchovy (片口 and 潤目) and mackerel (鯵). Niboshi can really be any kind of dried seafood, though the anchovy reigns supreme.

Not everyone loves the niboshi styles as they tend to be a bit fishy and bitter. The crab was a more mellow slurp. Really enjoyable.


I didn't try the limited bowl, made with hokkigai, a kind of surf clam. Turns out, Hechikan is constantly doing different limited bowls. Scallop, tuna, and lobster are all recent limited gentei bowls. I always think if I wasn't so obsessed with searching out new spots I would just visit the same five ramen shops and try all of their limited bowls for the duration of my life in Japan.




Monday, June 24, 2019

馬子禄 牛肉面 (Majilu Beef Noodles in Jimbocho)

馬子禄 牛肉面



Story time!


Hand pulled noodles in a beef bone broth. Lanzhou beef noodle soup came into existence in China during the Tang Dynasty in the 7th century. In many parts of rural China, especially the remote northern reaches, this dish is the staple of daily dining. Shops are everywhere.


Noodles are pulled prior to being cooked. Many rookies to the noodle game think that this is somehow authentic to ramen. Yes, in China many noodles are hand-pulled, but in Japan, we use noodle machines to press the dough and give a more even, chewy texture. This hand-pulled method tends to be a bit uneven if the chef isn't a seasoned vet.


Light beef soup, a bit of beef topping, and some hot chili oil. Comfort food.


This shop in Jimbocho is a decent spot to try this dish out if you've never experienced the real deal.


Oh, yeah, story time. Back in 2016, I was invited to visit Qinghai Province in northwestern China. It was my first "influencer" trip abroad, and I was excited to basically get paid to travel and report on a place I would most likely never visit in my life. Most people probably won't, as the Chinese government is very strict about travel in the area. For 10 days we saw the sights and ate the food. The tour was meant to wow us, and a simple peasant food like noodles wasn't something you would serve to VIP foreign guests. Not a problem, as we had a bit of free time in the evenings. While the other travelers went in search of drugs and Instagramable photo spots, I went for noodles. Discovering shops was easy; there are beef noodle shops on every corner serving bowls for about a buck. No local could point me to their favorite shops though. I honestly got the same answer every time I asked for the best in town. All beef noodle is the same. I had fun trying anyway.

When the trip was over, and it was time to get paid for our work was when the problems started. The Australian company spearheading the entire campaign went dark. Most of the influencers on the trip were owed payment, and most didn't get it. Eventually, I had my USA-based attorney send a letter. They ignored that as well. Not much you can do to Australia from overseas. The money wasn't massive, a thousand bucks or so if I recall, so the other influencers just gave up. I gave up as well. I deleted the posts about the trip and the whole thing left a bitter taste in my mouth.

A few months later, I was hosting an Australian couple on a ramen tour. They mentioned that they work in the legal field. Not only that but they were focused on media law. Not only that but they were based in the same city as the company that owed me money. I casually mentioned my case, and they took it on. I'll spare you the details, but I eventually got paid.

Here is my post, back from the dead.


Official site here.