Thursday, January 30, 2020

らーめん本竈 (Honkamado in Sendai)


Honkamado is one of Sendai's most lauded shops, located a solid 30 minutes drive from the city center. Thus begins the Ramen Rider 2019 summer ramen tour to Tohoku and Hokkaido. 

A bit of route talk. If you plan on riding to the north of Japan, you might want to consider taking the expressway to Sendai, then cutting over to the coast for the local roads. Sure, there are some local roads between Tokyo and Sendai, but unless you spend a good three days on them, the highway is my way.

Honkamado is located perfectly on the last bit of city road between the expressway and the coast.

Homemade noodles made with natural salt. A standard double soup made with quality bones and dried fish.

Honkamado takes pride in their shrimp wontons, so be sure to get a bowl with those.

Really good stuff. I crushed it and headed out to my secret camping spot to the north. I say secret because camping is probably prohibited at this seaside park.

 Official site here.

Monday, January 27, 2020

中華徳大 (Tokudai in Ogikubo)


That's not ramen!

To which I agree. But they serve ramen here so I might as well include it in the annals of Ramen Adventures. Also, their fried rice topped with egg was some incredibly good eats, so there you go.

Tokudai is an old school Chinese-ish spot with a massive menu. Around 20 noodles dishes, over a dozen rice dishes, and another 20 lunch plates. I say Chinese-ish because I don't quite know how to classify this genre of restaurant. The way Chinese food in America is often Americanized, Chinese food in Japan is often Japanified.

Everyone here was ordering the ホウレン草炒飯, spinach fried rice, topped with an egg. Seriously, nine out of ten were on this one.

Service is fast, preparing five or six at a time.

You can't see it, but there is a pile of wok-fried pork under that egg blanket. So satisfying.

The massive menu. Number 30 for those who don't want to search.

I came with a ramen friend and we tried the ramen as well. It was that classic chuka style. Simple and nostalgic, but not really for me.

Ogikubo wins again.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

麺ハチイチ (81 Noodle Bar in Kichijoji)


There is a nice Japanese izakaya in Nishi-Ogikubo that I go to sometimes. Higher-end stuff, with top-shelf uni, fresh nodoguro, and homemade karasumi on the menu. I was surprised when they said they had produced a couple ramen shops in the area. I was even more surprised when they said that one was Jiro-style.

The three shops in their group do very different styles. Buta (豚), wa (和), and abura (油). Pork, Japanese, and oil.

Dashisoba and aburasoba. With soup and without. When it comes to Jiro-style, I always go for the soupless if I can. Honestly, I can't hang with that intense pork soup. It ruins me every time.

Yes, if you look to the right of the menu, there is sake. More on that later.

This is Jiro-style ramen. For the love of all that is sacred, don't order a large size if you don't know exactly what you are in for. You may love vegetables, but the mashi-mashi veggie topping looks to be about half a kilo of bean sprouts.

Though I can't hang with Jiro, it is a thing of beauty. Chunks of silky-smooth back fat. Raw garlic marinated in strong soy sauce. Those thick noodles.

Mix it up. If it looks good, that's because it is. If it looks bad, it tastes better than it looks.

Since they are connected with a local izakaya, they have a great supply of premium sake. Go ahead and get your day drinking on, no one will judge you. I've spoken with sake experts about this before, and aged sakes like the 伊根町 in the middle go well with heavy ramen. The aging oxidizes the alcohol and brings out some interesting flavors. A good match.

Right next to Inokashira Park. For those reading this in April of 2020, be advised that they just announced the closure of this famous cherry blossom viewing spot on weekends in light of the recent Covid-19 problem.

Official site here.

Monday, January 20, 2020

MASTERPIECE in Katsuura, Chiba


Katsuura Tantanmen is a unique style of spicy ramen hailing from the southern tip of Chiba's Boso peninsula. Light broth, spicy oil, and a boatload of coarsely chopped onions define this style. MASTERPIECE is one of many, many shops in the area serving this tantanmen, and like many shops, you will probably need a car or motorcycle to make it here.

Some Katsuura Tantanmen shops in the area (Ezawa comes to mind) tend to serve a limited menu. Not MASTERPIECE. Their menu book is a dozen pages of choices. Clear soups, creamy tonkotsu soups, and soups flavored with miso are a few choices.

They recommended the black tantanmen. Tonkotsu soup with burnt garlic oil. It's their original style.

The onions in the soup soften in the hot broth, and the negi green onions on top give a nice aroma. 

Gorgeous soup.

Even more menu choices are posted around the shop. It's a nice bonus for the regular local families that come here frequently.

I filmed this one for my YouTube channel, as part of a series I have been working on for years. Will Ramen Riders ever make it to your screen?

Thursday, January 16, 2020

道有楽 (Doraku in Kashiwa, Saitama)

MENYA 食味の道有楽

Doraku is way out in east Kanto, an area where you don't quite know if you are in Chiba, Saitama, or Ibaraki, but it doesn't matter. The nondescript apartment buildings house the masses and pachinko parlors keep them entertained. This ramen shop is located just past those apartments and shares a parking lot with a massive pachinko parlor.

The menu of this cramped shop is all over the place. While some more normal ramen options are there, the limited bowls and soupless mazesobas are the ones that really pop out.

Should I go with the namakohakushoyu (生琥珀醤油) mazezoba topped with an entire sac of tarako fish roe?

Or the limited raw horse chilled ramen. For 3000 yen you get both lean horse meat and fatty.

I skipped the horse this time for the mazesoba. Onsen egg, pork chashu, chicken chashu, bonito flakes, and an entire sack of salted cod roe. Flavor overload. Junk food heaven.

Tarako is a great ingredient for pasta dishes. If you add it to hot broth it will instantly turn white and dry out, but on some warm noodles, it keeps its form and uniquely salty taste.

Monday, January 13, 2020

中華そば 螢 (Hotaru in Saitama)

中華そば 螢

This is one of Saitama's highest-ranked shops. Hotaru can't really be classified by style, as they do shoyu, shio, and miso ramen as well as tsukemen. I guess you could call it thick taste, intense ramen. 濃い味最高風?

Hotaru, meaning firefly, is a good 15-minute walk from Owada Station, which is a good hour by train from Shinjuku. It's no surprise that most Saitama natives have and drive cars around here.

Three main menu items. Chukasoba for a shoyu base. Torisoba for salt. Miso soba for . . . miso.

The miso ramen is made with extract from shrimp, scallop, and oyster. Getting just the essence of ocean umami without much fishy taste was the goal. Miso comes in a blend of funky Shinshu and red misos.

The chukasoba is a new style gyokai bowl, meaning a lot of dried seafood. Mackerel, skipjack, and dried sardines are some of the fish powders that make it into the soup.

A shop like this would be a good stop for motorcycle riders heading north.