Monday, September 30, 2019

中華そば一力 (Ichiriki in Yoga, Tokyo)


For many people, this is the perfect bowl.

Ichiriki started in 1977 in Fukui Prefecture. It was simple yatai style and made simple bowls of shoyu ramen for locals.

The menu is deeper than just shoyu ramen, with veggie-rich tanmen as well as rice dishes. Grab a side of curry rice and another side of fried rice. Why not?

As a rule, I'll always grab a side of fried rice if available.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

天理スタミナラーメン (Tenri Stamina Ramen in Nara)

天理スタミナラーメン 近鉄奈良駅前店

Mention Tenri Stamina (天理スタミナラーメン), and any local from Nara will know what you are talking about. Refer to it as Tensuta (天スタ), an amalgamation of the name, and you'll sound like a pro.

I wanted to visit the honten, the original shop, but it is a good 40 minutes from Nara Station. The shop garnered fame over the past decades and now has many branches in the area. The one closest to the station would have to do.

This is stamina-style. Stamina is thrown around in Japanese to mean something that is hearty, something that gives you energy. Garlic and nira, or garlic chives, are prevalent. Meat is also a common denominator in the world of stamina.

I love it. Rough and intense. There is a bit of spice, and you can add much more heat if you like.

Cabbage and carrots round this one out. Despite looking like a meaty miso mess, this bowl here is surprisingly veggie.

Garlicky gyoza are a must.

Of course, energy-giving stamina ramen also has the opposite effect, giving customers a serious food coma. We rolled into the empty second-floor dining area to find one asleep on the tatami, napping off his bowl of noodles. It is definitely NOT an employee taking a mid-shift snooze, so if anyone from the Tensuta corporation reads this, don't fire this poor guy because of my comments.

Official site here.

Monday, September 23, 2019

キラメキノトリ (Kirameki no Tori in Kyoto)


Walking back to my hotel, I saw a colorful ramen shop, something I shouldn't skip. I also shouldn't say hotel. I stayed at the wonderful First Cabin, a chain that is a cross between traditional business hotel and capsule. No, I'm not sponsored by them, but when prices for hotels in Kyoto are over $100 these days, the $30 bed here was something special.

Back to the random ramen shop I walked into.

Turns out they are part of a chicken-centric group of shops around the Kyoto area, with one in Osaka and one in Fukuoka for good measure. The mazesoba and Taiwan mazesoba all looked good, but I had to go with the signature tori paitan.

Solid. Noodles are made in their own noodle factory with 100% Hokkaido wheat for the ramen, and 100% Nagano wheat for the mazesoba.

If you notice the comically sized bowls on the counter, those are for the largest size of the mazesoba. Something like 5x the normal size. Literally the ギガ size. Maybe someday.

If you want to see the whole lineup of their bowls, check their site here.

Official site here.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

名前のないラーメン屋 (No Name Ramen Shop in Kyoto)


Kyoto is, of course, full of traditional dining, impossible-to-reserve kaiseki, and Michelin stars for days. But every time I go, I fail to plan and end up just checking ramen shops off my ever-growing list.

Located in a basement along the Takase River, No Name looks like it could be among the former restaurants. Stylish is an understatement, with an actual garden within the restaurant, and a long cement counter with views, albeit just a sliver of a view, of the river.

Go for motsu (intestines), chashu, or wagyu beef.

I had to go with the motsu. A touch of offal in a thick ramen soup is always a good thing in my opinion. 

Some lightly fried veggies make a nice contrast to the funky meat. This one is a powerhouse.

With the minimalist styling comes some cool minimalist condiment drawers. Garam masala spice, sansho pepper, red pepper, black pepper.

I always imagine shops like this will disappear, as rent must be through the roof, but No Name seems to be doing well. There were a handful of foreign diners in the shop when I went, most of them choosing the wagyu. Something for everyone.

Monday, September 16, 2019

らぁ麺 とうひち (Touhichi in Kyoto)

らぁ麺 とうひち

I had a feeling I would love this one. Touhichi is on Kyoto's upper west side, and you'll need to drive or take the bus. Not a problem.

Thumbs up for a bus in Japan that has actual leg room for me!

Homemade, organic noodles.

The tsukemen looked incredible. Noodles served in konbusui, viscous kelp water that is pure umami. Not everyone is a fan, as it is as viscous as 10W40 engine oil, but the stuff is good.

Though I love this dish, first-time customers are pushed towards the 鶏醤油らぁ麺, chicken shoyu ramen.

To call this one premium is an understatement. What's above premium?

Local tanba kurodori from Kyoto. Kurosatsumadori from Kagoshima. Hinaidori from Akita. These are all famous brands of chicken in Japan. 京都の京都丹波黒どりと鹿児島の黒さつま鶏と秋田の比内地鶏。

The soy sauce tare is made with a blend of 10 different soy sauces.

Touhichi is one of a few shops in Japan that do this ultra-refined chicken style. Rock'n'Billy S1 is another. For many ramen rookies, this bowl is a game-changer, converting pork loving tonkotsu fans into a lighter breed of rameniacs.

Everything is perfect, apart from the slightly inconvenient location.

This part of town isn't visited often by tourists. Another absolute gem in the area is Rakushan (洛叉庵), probably the best warabimochi in Japan. You will need to call ahead and reserve. There is also one of the most incredible temples in the area. Send me a DM on Instagram if you want to know about it, I've been sworn to secrecy.

Official Twitter here.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

流星軒 (Ryuseitai in Kannai, Kanagawa)


Classic shoyu ramen.

In another shop dedicated to Eikichi Yazawa (矢沢 永吉). If you don't know who he is (I didn't), the internet says he is quite famous, selling out stadium tours around Japan and playing benefits with Robert Palmer, Bon Jovi, and Rod Stewart. He also has a number of ramen shops opened by his hard core fans.

Other Yazawa tribute ramen shops? Takesue comes to mind. I've heard there are many more up in Gunma and Tochigi.

This shop is on the way to Trick, a shop I had an appointment at. Why not have a pre-ramen bowl of ramen!

Classic shoyu. I love these simple bowls, as most people can crush one with ease. The entire time, from sitting down, to ordering, to eating, to paying took about three songs.

Official twitter here.

Monday, September 9, 2019

雲林坊 (Yunrin in Kudanshita, Tokyo)

雲林坊 九段店

Hot and numbing tantanmen was declared the ramen trend of 2019, with shops like Yunrin taking the lead.

Choose your levels of heat and choose your levels of numb.

As these bowls are on the sloppy side, a paper apron is a wise choice for those wearing anything lighter than black.

This one was standard. It's a bit nutty from the sesame and peanuts, a bit smoky from the mara spices, and a bit chewy from the noodles. Be careful not to get more spice than you can handle.

Mix the rice bowl into the leftover sauce to get every last bit.

Official site here.