Thursday, January 31, 2019

鯛らーめん 麺屋 ま石 (Maishi in Ginza)

鯛らーめん 麺屋 ま石

You all know about Kagari in Ginza. The toripaitan shop became one of Tokyo's most popular shops in the matter of a few years. Lines went from 30 minutes to over two hours. It was insane. Then they closed and moved a few blocks away. It makes sense for someone to take over the old spot.

Maishi took on the challenge. Located in a nondescript alley a stone's throw from the flagship Apple Store, the shop would be very hard to find if it weren't for a line. While Kagari had that line thing locked down, Maishi hasn't really found the same success. When I went, I walked right in.

That's a pretty bowl!

The base bowl is a tai ramen for 1000 yen. A few shops in Tokyo have started using seabream for the light ocean taste.

Other choices are that tai ramen topped with 桜海老, 帆立, or 牡蠣. Tiny pink shrimp, scallops, or oysters.

Everyone comes for the 雲丹. Sea urchin is big on the food porn scene and topping your ramen with three different kinds is a quick way to get a lot of interest.

A decent bowl that is certainly photogenic. Personally, though, I prefer my uni on rice.

I think the problem here is that their base bowl is quite nice, but most people will opt for the 2500 yen ($23 USD) uni one. It is too much to pay for ramen, and no one will want to return. Uni on ramen is often a 限定 (limited) offering at other shops and only served on special occasions.

Just my two cents.

Monday, January 28, 2019

中華蕎麦うゑず (Uwezu in Yamanashi Prefecture)


Most ramen heads know about Tomita. So much so that in 2018 the documentary Ramen Heads debuted in arthouse cinemas around the world. I saw it the second week it was out in a theater with about a dozen people. Luckily, the reception on streaming services has been much better, and Tomita has become a household ramen name.

Uewza is part of the Tomita family. Located about an hour outside of Tokyo by car, it is a nice stop on the way to Nagano. If you aren't driving, this one probably isn't for you.

Or maybe it is. This is everything about tonkotsu gyokai that makes it oh so wonderful.

Handmade noodles, wheaty and cut thick. A combination of low temperature cooked and grilled chashu.

Soup to die for.

It looks badass, more of a pork sauce than a soup, but then you taste faint yuzu flavors and notice the balance of salty and umami. This is really amazing stuff.

The wait wasn't too bad. Just don't expect it to be empty. Even though this is in the middle of the sparsely populated countryside, said countryside's residents all have cars, and driving long distances is no problem.

The handmade noodles really are tops. While the ticket machine looks massive, the options are mostly based on how many grams of noodles you want. Small is 180 grams all the way up to the XL at 420 grams. To put it in perspective, the average ramen in soup is less than 150 grams.

Slurp up!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

龍朋 (Ryuho in Kagurazaka)


Old school hiyashichuka. Hiyashi (冷やし) means cool (as in temperature, not social status), and many shops do a cool noodle dish in the summer in Japan.

This wasn't just any summer. Japan saw record temperatures in 2018. The day I cycled over to Ryuho, located in the trendy Kagurazaka neighborhood, temperatures were close to 40 degrees Celcius. By the time I arrived (it takes me about 15 minutes at a fast pace) I was suffering.

Cold ramen to the rescue. This is the style that started it all in Japan. Cold ramen noodles served with a vinegary sauce. Topped with cold chashu and julienned cucumber. Thick strips of scrambled egg pancake are just sweet enough to make a dish that hits all five tastes.

High-end Chinese restaurants in Tokyo will often top this with fancy toppings, but Ryuho keeps it simple.

Amazing. I'm being humble, but I was actually suffering a little exhaustion. I hadn't hydrated enough in the morning, and a 15-minute cycle adventure in the sun was a very bad idea.

On a non-ramen note, please consider that Japan between July and September has been unbearable in recent years. 

These old school chuka spots often serve half servings of fried rice. Go for it!

Tokyo Time Out has a nice list of cold ramen shops. Check it here.

Monday, January 21, 2019

中華蕎麦 にし乃 (Nishino in Hongo)

中華蕎麦 にし乃

The new shops of 2018 have been downright impressive. Hit after hit. Nishino is a hit.

The master at Nishino trained at one of my favorite hidden gems, Koike out on the west side of Tokyo. I say hidden gem, but both of these shops are mentioned in all the ramen ranking lists, so people definitely know.

Chukasoba is on the menu, but the one to order is the 山椒そば. Sanshosoba takes their normal bowl and tops it with an aromatic sansho oil. What is sansho?

The fruit of the Japanese prickly ash, commonly mistaken as Chinese numbing pepper. It is slightly numbing with a lovely floral aroma and bitterness. 

The base flavors are a blend of white soy sauce with a light dashi broth. What can I say besides this is an amazing bowl.

Just make sure you like sansho.

Open since February 2018.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

金竜 (Kinryu in Matsudo)


Kinryu is a schlep from central Tokyo, but sometimes a schlep is needed.

It was pouring rain when I arrived at Goko Station on the locals-only Shinkeisei Line. And I made sure to go on a non-Thursday. I had been in the area many times on Thursdays in the past for some reason. Kinryu's day off.

Ramen and gyoza. You can also get a side of menma to snack on with your beer.

This is some serious miso ramen.

Kinryu is ranked very, very highly amongst the ramen elite. It comes in at number one for many of them, and I can understand why. With so many shops copying the Sapporo style, a bowl like this is a breath of fresh air.

Kinryu's base uses miso from Sendai. It has a deep, funky flavor that matches with their original seven spice blend. This isn't spicy ramen but it has a little kick. The six-hour soup is topped with crunchy bean sprouts and a lot of mitsuba, a kind of Japanese leafy green.

The gyoza was pretty damn tasty as well.

Monday, January 14, 2019

金色不如帰 (Hototogisu in Shinjuku)


Hototogisu is back and better than ever!

Well, the new photo policy put a damper on a proper video, but it is important to respect the shops you visit.

Hototogisu spent over 11 years in Hatagaya and was one of the ramen scene's gems. Critics loved it. I loved it. Michelin loved it. Michelin loved it so much, in fact, that they anointed this small shop with a coveted star in 2018. Hototogisu is the third shop to be given a Michelin star, behind Tsuta and Nakiryu

What makes ramen of this caliber? Insane detail in the soup, exquisite homemade noodles, and unique toppings.

And for those who think all it takes is some truffle oil to grab Michelin's attention, there is some white truffle oil added as an accent to the shio ramen along with porcini mushroom and Inca berries. The Inca berries are a new twist for the new location.

The soup is a three-part deal. There's is the standard bone broth, in this case, made with mostly chicken. There's the wadashi, Japanese dashi broth made with dried fish and konbu kelp. And there's the clam broth made with clams from Mie Prefecture.

The clams are what put this one over the top. It is such a nice balance of umami and aromas. A real treat.

Lines are now, as expected, quite insane. My advice is to arrive an hour before they open and start waiting.

They have also opened branches in Toronto and Singapore. Someone let me know how they are!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Clam & Bonito RAIK in Honancho


A new ramen shop in my part of town? It's produced by RAIK, one of my favorite spots? Something about clams and fish? I'm there.

Clam and Bonito RAIK makes their ramen daily with whatever fresh fish and shells they manage to grab at the market. This means the flavors will be drastically different each time you go but tied in neatly with a theme. The posted sign shows that it was crab, oyster, sea bream, and littleneck clams.

All umami-rich fruits of the sea.

They also stock an all-clam version for when the fresh fish runs out.

1000 yen for the special, which seems normal these days.

Another norm is the explanation cards found at the counter. Homemade shellfish paste for the win.

A beautiful, high-end bowl.

Seafood, especially shells, has been a trend for the last few years, and it is nice to see that new shops can still knock it out with their creations.

This is a pescetarian-friendly bowl if you ask for it without the pork and chicken topping.