Thursday, February 28, 2019

SHIBIRE NOODLE 蝋燭屋 (Rosokuya in Ginza)


One of the recent trends in ramen is spicy. Not just some hot chili powder, but full on Sichuan ma-ra style heat and numbing spices.

Shibire in Ginza brings the spice.

As with most of these shops, you can choose your level of heat. High is a bad idea for your first time. After all, you really have no idea what the master is thinking. Go normal. If the ramen is good, but the spice isn't high enough, just come back. Simple!

The mabo ramen, topped with a fiery mabodofu, kicked my ass. Normal levels of heat were fine, but the amount of sansho was intense. Numbing spices that play an intricate role in this spicy dish. The numbing aspect of this pepper-like spice counteracts the heat, letting you take in massive amounts. Some people say it is healthy to consume large amounts of the stuff.

Additional sansho oil is out on the counter, and the ticket machine has a special button for choosing extra high levels of spice. Madness!

Blame this guy if you can't hang.

Located right in the middle of Ginza, so expect a bit of a line. Nothing crazy, but you will probably wait a bit.

Monday, February 25, 2019

MENSHO San Francisco (in Shinujuku)

MENSHO San Francisco (in Tokyo)

From Tokyo to San Francisco and back to Tokyo.

MENSHO San Francisco recently opened in the MyLord department store in Shinjuku Station.

This is an homage to their San Francisco shop. The base is toripaitan. Creamy chicken soup was a big hit at their first overseas shop. Taking things a step further, Shono-san added matcha green tea powder to the bowl. The result was a hit; the bitter, umami-rich green tea blended perfectly with the milky soup. Trendy, yes, but a great bowl.

They also offer a spicy version and a limited wagyu-topped bowl. More on that in the video.

MENSHO continues to crush it.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

函館麺や 一文字 (Ichimonji in Hakodate, Hokkaido)

函館麺や 一文字 函館本店

I was hanging out at the Hakodate Starbucks, located in the beautiful downtown area, working on my next book, when the staff started chatting me up. Our conversation turned to ramen, and they said their favorite was just east of the town center in the Yunokawa onsen district.

Well, I just so happened to be meeting some friends for a night of hot springs and sushi and booze in Yunokawa. Done deal.

And they have gyoza!

Super solid bowl. Just a basic shio ramen, but when you hit a simple bowl with hearty toppings and a great, umami-rich broth, you have a winner.

I went with the torigara, a light chicken-based ramen. Two levels of tonkotsu ramen are also available. こってり系 thick style and a super thick style fortified with pork back fat.

Great chashu, be sure to get a bit extra.

Even though this was my second dinner of the night . . .

Crushed it!

Monday, February 18, 2019

海老麺総本家 地元家 (Jimotoya in Hakodate, Hokkaido)

海老麺総本家 地元家

Hokkaido is known for having three main ramen styles. Sapporo for miso, Asahikawa for shoyu, and Hakodate for shio. I was always confused when it came to Hakodate because by my account there were only a handful of shops serving shio ramen. Not enough to garner that much attention. And then Seiryuken, the best shio ramen spot in town, a shop that changed my mind, closed.

Time to search for more!

Jimotoya does shrimp ramen. Like most Hokkaido shops, variety is key. Shrimp shio, shrimp miso, shrimp shoyu, and shrimp curry ramen are all there.

Shio all the way.

I filmed a short video at all the shops I visited in Hokkaido this time, but the footage is quite boring. Not sure if I will edit them together. FYI, if you enjoy my videos, Patreon is a great way to show your support:

Jimotoya was decent. Probably my favorite slurp in Hakodate now that Seiryuken is closed. The location, however, isn't so convenient.

I recently discovered that there is a much better ferry connecting Honshu with Hokkaido, one that bypasses the southern Hakodate area. This means I probably won't be visiting Hakodate by motorcycle in the future. My search for miso ramen takes precedence over my search for shio ramen. Bu the search will go on.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

夢玄 (Mugen in Hokkaido)


Ran into this random spot on a recent ramen road trip across Hokkaido. Mugen is outside of Sapporo in some nondescript town with a very straight road and not much else. I won't lie, the flat plains of central Hokkaido are a wasteland. Head to the mountains or head to the sea.

Mugen's menu is large. Shoyu, shio, and miso are the norm at countryside ramen shops up north, and Mugen has those. Their recommended slurp is the spicy miso.

当店1番人気 = This shop's most popular. Look for this mark everywhere you go.

They also have a 麻辣野菜味噌ラーメン. Numbing spice style with extra vegetables.

And a limited one. Numbing spices with extra cabbage. Isn't cabbage a vegetable?

The spicy miso was excellent. Perfect motorcycle dude food.

But another one of Hokkaido's ramen customs had me leaving quickly. Smoking. Smoking is allowed in almost every restaurant in Hokkaido these days. Dude next to me lit up some unfiltered cigs and I was out.

To the next destination!

Monday, February 11, 2019

ニューホームラン (New Home Run in Asahikawa, Hokkaido)


Over the years, I've hit up most of the best ramen spots in Asahikawa. Now that the dozen or so famous shops are down, I need to venture further and further from the city center.

Hokkaido is vast, and those without their own mode of transportation are going to have a tough time. My motorcycle brought me out to New Home Run.

As opposed to old home run. Actually, this shop used to be called Home Run. As you can see from their former menu, still proudly on display, they served a full array of shokudo-style meals. Ramen, udon, curry, and rice dishes. Don't forget the ice cream.

As the grandma in the kitchen aged, the menu shrunk. Now New Home Run is all about the ramen.

Rich Hokkaido miso. Good stuff, and I'm sure the locals just love it.

I crushed the noodles but left a bit of the moyashi bean sprouts and soup in the bowl. As I was working on completely finishing it, someone started smoking next to me, quickly ending my enjoyment. When I got up to pay, the grandma looked at my un-crushed bowl and asked if it was ok. Did I find it to  my liking?

I hope she didn't take offense. I usually get the noodles out of the way, then relax with the soup for a spell, but cigarette smoke doesn't match with my noodles.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

生姜ラーメン みづの (Mizuno in Asahikawa, Hokkaido)

生姜ラーメン みづの

Ramen road trip!

I took my motorcycle up to Hokkaido for a few weeks, something I try and do every summer. While Tokyo is hot and humid, Hokkaido drops a few degrees and gets rid of that pesky humidity. 

These trips are almost always based around my other job, and I happened to be needed in Asahikawa. Not a problem. Asahikawa has some of the best ramen in Japan, and there are a few shops I still wanted to try.

Mizuno is very un-Asahikawa. The local ramen is known for blending tonkotsu and shoyu. This ginger ramen is old school and feels like it should be in some back alley chukasoba joint in Yokohama.

A very good slurp.

This is Hokkaido, and that means you can usually get miso, shio, and shoyu all at the same place. Go for that ginger-spiked shoyu though, that's the one.

The rich and the famous love it.

To be honest, I loved it, but Asahikawa has a few must-hit shops before you venture to the north side of town for this one.

Monday, February 4, 2019

らーめん 人間ばんざい (Ningen Banzi in Nakano)

らーめん 人間ばんざい

Cycling around Tokyo, I ran into this shop with a very long name.

究極のにぼし味噌らーめん 人間ばんざい, Kyukokunoniboshimisoramen Ningenbanzi.

Extreme dried sardine miso ramen human banzai. Or something along those lines.

Thick niboshi is most often flavored with heavy soy sauce blends, but Ningen Banzai uses miso. 

Kind of like a reinvention of Hokkaido.

When he was 18 years old, the master decided to pursue ramen. He spent about 10 years of trial and error to come up with this recipe. The end result is a blend of red and white miso with flavorful niboshi. Miso nerds should give it a try!