Thursday, October 31, 2019

Le Sel Organic Ramen in Kyoto

Le Sel オーガニック

Recently opened Le Sel in Kyoto brings a choice of different bowls served as part of a small course. You'll get a couple Kyoto-style snacks, a rice dish, ramen, and a sweet. Check the video!

Conveniently located just down the road from Kiyomizudera Temple.

Everything here is top-notch. The shoyu ramen is made with five or six types of dried fish. The tori paitan made with 100% organic chicken. Some big chicken flavors going on here. At the time I went, the vegan option was a vegetable potage blended with soy milk.

High on my recommended list for Kyoto, it is a no brainer to tell tourists to hit this one on their Kyoto vacation. One tourist (though they are hopefully a local) that agrees is whoever gives Bib Gourmand award from Michelin. Le Sel was awarded a Bib Gourmand shortly after they opened.

Monday, October 28, 2019

スパイスらぁめん 釈迦 (Spice Ramen Shaka in Ikebukuro, Tokyo)

スパイスらぁめん 釈迦

Indian spice meets ramen at Shaka.

And like most shops in Tokyo that serve Indian curry dishes, the variety here is deep.

The shop is part of the MENSHO group. In line with everything Shono-san puts out, this one is unique. For me, I really wanted to try the インド式ミールスつけ麺, Indian Meals Tsukemen. I won't lie, this looked like a good one for the gram.

Noodles with a few curry dipping options on the side, as well as various chutney pickles.

In MENSHO fashion, the noodles are homemade and fantastic. Thick, flat things in the case of Shaka. Bits of whole-grain add some substance.

The curries may or may not change over time. This time the tsukemen came with a Northern Indian butter chicken and a Southern Indian pork curry. Along with this, a Sri Lankan coconut soup. Mango pickles, carrot salad, and a curried potato mix are a great bonus.

Countertop chutney if you want more flavor. Though the curries weren't so spicy, the chutney was.

If you prefer just one of these flavors, the shop offers some ramen choices using similar curries.

The Northern Indian is on the mild side, while the Southern Indian 天空 (heaven) is very spicy.

It wasn't anything you need to worry about heat-wise. Japanese spicy is low on the world spice scale.

Cool shop. As with all Shono shops, I can't recommend it enough.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

大盛軒 (Taiseiken in Nakano, Tokyo)


My Japanese isn't terrible, but when I saw this shop on a map, I thought 大盛軒 was 大勝軒. The latter is famous Taishoken. The former nothing of the sort.

Located just outside the never-used east side exit of Higashi-Nakano Station, just by the cop box.

This is a teppan (鉄板) style, meaning you get something on a hot iron plate. How could this possibly tie in with ramen?

Boom! A simple bowl of shoyu ramen with a side of fried pork. Mix in a raw egg and some fried garlic chips, stir it up with the cabbage and slightly spicy sauce, and go to town. This is one serious meal. I love that the noodles are simple, while the topping situation is out of control.

The shop is old school, and the menu is quite large. Expect a rotating menu of sizzling dishes with different kinds of meats and seasonings. At the time, a ginger fry was what many customers were working on.

Official site here.

Monday, October 21, 2019

麺匠ぼんてん (Mensho Bonten in Sendai)


I've been very slowly pursueing shops on my Fukushima list. Bonten was the next one up.

Kitatkata style, meaning you should always get it with extra chashu. I've never been disappointed with a few extra slices. Kitakata style is generally a lighter shoyu with a niboshi kick and some chewy, flat noodles.

The soup here is made with カエシ, a kind of shoyu tare seasoning. Kaeshi is much more simple than other tare sauces. Vegetarians can rest assured that it only contains soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. Vegetarians, though, probably shouldn't be eating ramen like this.

The chef here worked all over Japan, with Saitama, Osaka, and Asahikawa in Hokkaido all on his ramen resume. It's no surprise that this was one of the pioneers of chemical seasoning free (無化調) in the area. Chemical seasoning free always sounds off to me. MSG-free is another way to say this, but I also feel that MSG isn't a bad thing. Anyways, this is a good bowl.

Hand massaging the noodles before cooking gives them a bit more bite. It's a popular technique in Kitakata.

They even have their own cute character. Tsubasa Ootori has a short katana and a chicken backpack. Makes sense to me!

Official Twitter here.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

ローストビーフ油そば ビースト (Roast Beef Aburasoba Beast in Shinjuku, Tokyo)

ローストビーフ油そば ビースト

Mazesoba is trending these days. Or maybe mazesoba is just trending with me. I love the stuff.

One benefit of mazesoba is the liberal use of unique toppings. As the name of the shop suggests, Roast Beef Aburasoba Beast has roast beef. Eat it as is, eat it mixed with the noodles, eat it with vinegar and spices mixed in, and eat it with rice. Another standard at mazesoba shops is an illustrated how-to-eat guide.

A beautiful bowl with the red meat and a couple slivers of red and yellow bell pepper. The cut is ミスジ, or top blade from near the shoulder. One of the more choice bits.

The secret tare seasoning is an aged soy sauce mixture. Mix it up and go. Feel free to add more flavor as you like with their wasabi vinegar or junk powder.

ジャンクパウダー? Junk Powder?

Fried garlic with garam masala spices.

Lots of choices for adding flavors. Horseradish, spicy daikon, salt. Do it how you like it.

The shop is located in the heart of Kabukicho, with an opening time to match. Fridays and Saturdays they open until eight in the morning, while other days only until four. You can choose your amount of beef by weight, so carnivores come hungry.

Official site here.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Noodle Club in Hawaii, USA

Noodle Club

Noodle Club on the north side of the Big Island serves ramen and Japanese snacks, as well as the dreaded saimin. I know this is ramen adventures, but I wouldn't really call this a ramen shop. It's a noodle shop opened by Chef Edwin Goto, a local who just wanted to make tasty food with local ingredients. Hence the above photo of bone marrow on a bowl of pho.

I spy more teriyaki sauce. And bao. Despite my dislike for the concept of a sides-heavy ramen shop, I never let it distract me. Actually, I love to crush a bowl and then kick it with some gyoza and drinks. Ramen first, snacks after.

Won ton min.

Noodles from Sun Noodle, the revolutionary, practically monopoly of a noodle company in America and soon Europe. The soup is made with local beef and pork, simmered for a long time. Mushrooms add some decent umami to the broth. A simple bowl on the surface only.

Much of the shop's ingredients are local, with Waimea having plenty of farms and ranches. Local oxtail was on the menu at the time, as were a few other beef options.

Another shop full of strange art on the wall and a collection of antique toys scattered about.

Official site here.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Nori's Saimin and Snacks in Hilo, Hawaii, USA

Nori's Saimin and Snacks

I took a quick trip to visit my father in Hilo, Hawaii and thought I would hit the noodle scene. Maybe I can find something closer to ramen than saimin. I didn't enjoy saimin when I had it before and wasn't about to try and convince myself otherwise.

Saimin is tough to define, mostly because restaurants just kind of do what they want. Saimin noodles are all flour, but the saimin menu at Nori's includes your choice of saimin noodles, thin egg noodles called Hilo-style ramen, curly egg noodles (ramen), buckwheat soba, and udon. I went with the Hilo-style. Saimin tends to be soft and soggy to me. Maybe the so-called ramen would be more to my liking.

Along with noodles, the shop serves an aray of Japanese-Hawaiian dishes. Noodle burger sliders? Does Keizo know about this?

There are many other dishes, making this a proper restaurant.

The ramen has Chinese-style roast pork and some shreds of a fried egg to make it a questionable bowl. A light, fishy broth with a bit of soy sauce giving some salty flavors. It came with a side of spicy mustard. I don't know if that was meant for the ramen or the side of chicken.

Noodles that weren't mushy. Sure, they weren't as firm as I tend to like, but I'll take it!

Fun, friendly place. My order of ramen came with a side of yakitori, and all the other customers were going all-in with rice dishes, dozens of sides, and extra-large soft drinks. Hawaiians love to eat.

In general, Japanese-style yakitori in America seems to be covered in sweet tare, called teriyaki sauce. I'm not a fan.

I read (in America) that teriyaki was created in Hawaii by Japanese immigrants who mixed pineapple juice with soy sauce to make an original glaze for meats. I also read (in Japan) that teriyaki was created by the burger chain MOS Burger in the 70s. Either way, I find it too sweet as the main seasoning of meats, though I'll eat a teriyaki burger with sliced pineapple any day.

I like the kitschy nature of the place, with retro sticker machines, toys, and framed newspaper accolades all really bring the place together. Many people get a chocolate mochi cake to go, or maybe some of their mustard cabbage koko, a kind of kimchi.

Official site here.