Thursday, November 28, 2019

The Best Ramen in Tokyo - 2019

It's time for my annual best-of list, where I look back over the year at my favorite bowls. These 14 shops are all in Tokyo, and all are highly recommended. Head over to my dedicated best-of site

Best of Ramen

for the details and maps. As always, this isn't a best-of list in the traditional sense, just a look back over the previous year and the bowls that made it special for me.

For reference, here are the shops.

Clam Bonito RAIK in Honancho

The second shop from the RAIK group goes all seafood, using different fish bones and shells each day.

金色不如帰 (Hototogisu in Shinjuku)

Hototogisu is back with a Michelin star and a new location in Shinjuku.

金竜 (Kinryu in Matsudo)

Inconvenient, but this is one of Tokyo's most famous miso ramen shops.

中華蕎麦 にし乃 (Nishino in Hongo)

A pure bowl kissed with sansho oil.

龍朋 (Ryuho in Kagurazaka)

Classic hiyashi, a cold noodle dish best enjoyed in the sweltering summer months.

MENSHO San Francisco (in Shinujuku)

See what the west is loving these days at this shop inspired by the San Francisco outpost of Mensho. A5 wagyu ramen and creamy tori paitan.

らぁ麺 鳳仙花 (Hosenka in Shinjuku)

Ramen highlighted by kinmedai, one of Japan's luxury fishes.

おとど餃子食堂 (Otodo Gyoza Shokudo in Yawata, Tokyo)

The ramen here is an afterthought, as it is the gyoza that shines.

海老丸らーめん (Ebimaru Ramen in Jimbocho)

Lobster bisque ramen. Overkill for some, pure pleasure for others.

丿貫 (Hechikan in Yokohama)

Niboshi, shellfish, and plenty of little quail eggs.

ののくら (Nonokura in Kameari, Tokyo)

You like these ultra-refined ramen bowls that have been all the rage lately? This one is up there at the top.

せんだが家 (Sendaga-ya Mazesoba in Shinjuku, Tokyo)

Tasty mix-em-up noodles just steps from the 2020 Olympic stadium.

銀座八五 (Ginza Hachigo in Ginza, Tokyo)

This is many ramen hunter's rookie of the year shop. They keep the cost down to 850 yen by using only salt as a seasoning. Elegant and refined.

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

Rich tonkotsu gyokai topped with up to six different kinds of churrasco meats. It's kind of an overkill, in the best way possible.

Monday, November 25, 2019

つけ麺 繁田 (Shigeta in Kobe, Hyogo)

つけ麺 繁田

I never know where to eat in Kobe, so I just brought up the local rankings. Shigeta was at the top spot when I went. The shop has been open since December of 2015. 

As expected, there is a bit of a line.

Tsukemen, tsukemen with an egg, tsukemen with extra pork. The shop's master, Shigeta-san, considers the noodles to be the main dish, and the soup is just something extra to complement them. Tsukemen is the perfect dish to accentuate noodles.

Beautiful, beautiful pork. The chashu on this one is exquisite. Both the sous vide chicken and tender pork. Excellent. Again, just something to highlight the noodles.

Homemade noodles are thick and wheaty. Be warned that the soup is intense. Pork with massive amounts of dried fish flavors. A tiny sliver of yuzu citrus peel gives some respite from the overbearing nature of this bowl.

The shop also offers a mazesoba that looked particularly tasty. The master's future goals are to open a ramen shop and a mazesoba-only shop, so keep this one in your sights.

Official Facebook here.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

自家製麺うろた (Urota Homamade Noodles in Fukushima)


Yup, it's ramen.

I'll admit it, I came here for this one in particular. Most customers are going with one the shop's standard bowls, but the artistic nature of this colorful bowl couldn't be passed up. Jackson Pollock on a plate.

Each paint is made from natural ingredients. Green spinach, yellow kabocha pumpkin, black squid ink. Though the individual flavors get lost in the mix, I appreciate the effort.

The base of this one was a sesame-heavy tantanmen with miso and milk. They served it with a side of Death hot sauce, which basically ruined the entire bowl. At least I got a good two thirds down before that happened.

ペイントクレイジーミルク味噌ラーメン on the menu if you are curious. There are honestly about 20 other menu items, like a shio ramen made with five kinds of shellfish, an oyster sauce soupless ramen, and a karasumi shoyu ramen. A return is in order.

I enjoyed this one. Not a gimmick at all.

Official Twitter here.

Monday, November 18, 2019

さんわ (Sanwa in Ehime)

さんわ 伯方島本店

Forgive the iPhone SE photos. I was traveling light this time.

From Onomichi in Hiroshima Prefecture to Imabari in Ehime Prefecture there is something magical. The Shimanami Kaido is a dedicated cycling route. It crosses seven bridges, six islands, and enough scenery to warrant a nice camera.

Which I didn't bring.

The cycling route is around 60 kilometers in length. Personally, I found it very easy, though each bridge is preceded by a 1.5 kilometer, 7% grade incline. If this is tough for you, you'll have a challenge ahead. That shouldn't dissuade you, though. The bicycles are only about 1000 yen a day to rent, and you can drop them off at the end for a one-way adventure.

A Ramen Adventure! I'm loving the custom cycling jersey. In the center is my friend Mr. T, who runs a fishcake factory on Oshima, the island in the background. Dave is on the right. My college roommate and a great friend. Two other dudes didn't want to wear their jersey on the second day, so they don't get to be in the shot.

At around kilometer 45, you can make a detour to visit the area's most famous ramen shop. Sanwa is a no-brainer for me.

Local shio ramen.

Family-run for decades, they make a bowl that parallels the local Seto Inland Sea. Dried sakuraebi shrimp, slivers of local fishcake, and a light salt-based broth.

If you are doing the cycling route, keep in mind that this is a detour towards the later part of the cycling trip. People will be tired and possibly cranky. Forcing them to add ten kilometers is a tough sell. There's also a slight 75-meter elevation gain along the detour. Despite the constant views, it was a struggle.

If you do this route, I would suggest staying on Oshima at my friend's ryokan. It's here:

You could even take a ferry from near the ramen shop to Oshima, thus skipping the hill leading up to the bridge.

Official site here.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Ramen and Kakigori at Florilège in Tokyo


Florilège is a French / Japanese restaurant with two Michelin stars, a healthy spot on the World's 50 Best, and a solid waiting list for reservations. I think it is one of the best spots in Tokyo for a gourmet lunch, which will cost you somewhere around 15,000 yen if you go for a wine pairing. Sure, that is out of the budget for many people, but maybe for a special occasion. The food is quite nice.

Being such a famous shop, chef Kawate-san is often out of town doing collaborations with other stars of the gastronomy world. Instead of leaving the restaurant vacant for those days, the staff take over and do their own thing. One of those things is ramen and kakigori.

This time the ramen was simple dashi, homemade noodles, and a little escargot butter to make it fancy. A very nice bowl.

And then the kakigori. Kakigori is Japanese shaved ice. If you follow my IG, you know I like the stuff. If you shy away from sweets, but love fruit and tea flavors, you can find heaven in kakigori. Clouds of ice topped with fresh seasonal fruits.

Mugwort and Hassaku citrus. Rhubarb and sakura, a slightly salty flavoring. Red sake lees and white miso. Everyone's favorite strawberry. White cacao with butterbur.

With a friend, we tried the red sake kasu and miso, the sakura rhubarb, and the white cacao. What would you go for?

Official site here. Keep an eye on their Instagram account to see if they will do ramen again.