Thursday, August 29, 2019

麺GARAGE 肉ヲ見ル (Men Garage Niku wo Miru in Sangenjaya, Tokyo)

麺GARAGE 肉ヲ見ル

More churrasco ramen?!?!

You bet. More churrasco ramen at a shop called Niku wo Miru. Literally, see the meat.

Choose ramen or tsukemen. Then watch (見る) as they slice roast pork, beef rump, beef butt, roast chicken, and Brazilian sausage on that bad boy.

Charcoal-grilled for a beautiful burn on the outside, with a juicy center.

No need for an explanation.

The soup is a rich tonkotsu gyokai. A great match with the toppings. Fair warning, you'll be done after this shop. Maybe you can get a drink at nearby craft beer bar Pigalle, but you might just want to head home for a nap. 

Thanks boss!

FYI, if you aren't a noodle lover, you can opt for plates of meat sans-carbs.

The homemade noodles are excellent, though.

Another solid spot in Sangenjaya. This area is set to become hipster central, as Sophia (or was it Temple) University will take up residence here soon. There are already craft tacos, incredible Indian, and plenty of ramen shops around.

A little Japanese underground knowledge for you. The number 29 can be read as niku, which is the same word for meat. So on the 29th of many months, meat-centric shops give you something special. Here, it's some charcoal roasted smoked chicken topping free of charge. Solid!

Monday, August 26, 2019

ふくみみ (Fukumimi in Fuchu, Tokyo)

中華そば ふくみみ

Are you obsessed with these old school ramen spots? Most rural neighborhoods have a handful of them. Affordable stuff for the locals.

At 650 yen, the price was right.

Fukumimi opened in 2003, but it feels like something out of the 50s. A gang of local high school students made the line deceptively long. For an extra 100 yen, they were all going with extra noodles. It's a trope at ramen shops in Japan; high schoolers love the big bowls.

A blend of bone broth and fish broth. Homemade noodles. Classic.

This shop is a major contender for a must-slurp bowl during the 2019 rugby world cup. The Tokyo stadium isn't central Tokyo at all. Fuchu lies a good 30 minutes west of the sights you know. Even though that is the case, I hope this rather inconvenient location means people check out less visited ramen shops, temples, and museums on Tokyo's west side. Enjoy the games!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

ハンディクラフトワークス (Handicraft Works in Yashio, Saitama)



We've got a meat situation here!

But first, we need to get here. Handicraft Works is about an hour out into Saitama, followed by a good 15 to 20 minute walk.

Churrasco takes center-stage here. Various tasty cuts are used as toppings for your ramen. This is really more of a "you want some noodles with that meat"?

Oh man, this one is good. Expect some Iberico pork, Japanese pork, beef, and sausage.

But am I in love with the noodles or the meat? Does it matter?

This is mazesoba, soupless ramen that could be considered the third form of Japanese ramen after tsukemen. Foodies have universally accepted that mazesoba can be whatever you want it to be. Top those noodles with flavor, and if it tastes good the fans will react.

I went with a friend, and we ordered the Wild Beef version as well as the Volcano version. Their menu changes slightly on a regular basis, so just check what is going on when you arrive. The Volcano was topped with some grilled pineapple and a spicy sauce.

The noodles, and I assure you that they exist somewhere under that pile of meat, are handmade in house.

Funashi, the famous Chiba mascot, approves of this one.

A splash of fruity vinegar makes for an excellent condiment.

Monday, August 19, 2019

ソラノイロ食堂 (Soranoiro Shokudo in Ikebukuro, Tokyo)


Soranoiro, the shop famous for their vegan fare, just went polar opposite.

All pork.

This new shop in Ikebukuro has a shokudo concept. Shokudo (食堂) are casual restaurants in Japan. Rice bowls, curry, and tonkatsu are all regular fare at your local shokudo. A local diner. A greasy spoon. If Japan had ever adopted rootbeer floats, you'd find them here.

Many shokudo have a cheap bowl of ramen on the menu. Soranoiro highlights theirs; it's a 100% pork soup. Unlike creamy tonkotsu ramen, the bowl here is clear and light, though the seabura backfat topping brings it well into intense pig territories.

Very no-frills. A couple pieces of chashu pork and a sprinkling of negi green onion.

It's down a back alley, so make sure you check your directions. Ikebukuro isn't a part of town you want to get lost in. The whole area has a very shady vibe. Recently, though, it has become a hotbed for cheap hotels and drug stores popular with overseas tourists, which has pushed out the rougher elements. Regardless, take care.

Official site here.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

麺屋ぬかじ (Menya Nukaji in Shibuya, Tokyo)


Good old Shibuya. This part of town is one of the most popular in town, and I'm often asked for recommendations. To be honest, I could only recommend Hayashi, a lunch-only spot on the south side of the station.

Until now.

Nukaji is a decent tsukemen spot, they serve craft beer, and they are smack in the middle of all the fun.

Go spicy, and go with the Minoh beer.

Standard tsukemen, smoky and deep in dried fish flavors. If you want a bit more, add in their sanma dashi soy sauce, a seasoning made with Pacific saury.

Minoh Beer from Osaka is instantly recognizable with their bold labeling. Their IPAs and stouts are my personal favorites, though I generally don't drink beer with ramen. One comes before the other, in whatever order you like.

Located near the place that got famous for the most horrible looking Chicago pizza on earth.

Monday, August 12, 2019

銀座 篝 (Kagari in Ginza, Tokyo)

銀座 篝 本店

Kagari is back!

I've been there many times in the past. I've filmed for TV shows there. I loved it.

Then it got the hype. Not just a few tourists in the know, but full-on blown up. Suddenly, the 20-minute wait turned into 40, turned into an hour or two. It was absurd. It was also all tourists. I'd put the blame on those who recommended this shop in writing in famous magazines, namely Ivan Orkin and myself, but the lines were 80% Chinese. While I think I understand where most Westerners get their food news from, I have no idea about Asia.

The original shop was only six seats. It made sense that this model wouldn't hold, and the shop eventually closed. Fast forward some months (years?) later, and the new shop holds more like 20. Progress.

The menu is similar but different. The creamy toripaitan soup is still there, along with a version topped with truffle oil. Personally, I really dislike this sort of thing. The intention is transparent; truffle oil gets you a Michelin star. Two of the three ramen shops with Michelin stars incorporate truffle oil, one of the worst ingredients known to man, into their soup. Any subtle flavor is lost, drowned by what I think tastes like dirt. But dirt sells. Dirt is high amongst ramen SEO terms.

Back on track, the normal toripaitan is still tasty. The old shop had a topping option of extra seasonal vegetables, which is gone now, but the standard bowl has a few more greens than the average bowl of ramen. Get it with an egg and top it with a bit of everything available on the countertop.

The line moves fast these days. Keep in mind that this shop is next door to Kazami, and I have noticed that many people who don't speak Japanese accidentally visit Kazami instead of Kagari, or Kagari instead of Kazami without realizing their mistake. Both shops are good, so it's a fun little lost-in-translation moment.