Thursday, October 22, 2020

麺家 獅子丸 (Shishimaru in Nagoya)

 麺家 獅子丸

Shishimaru, just next to Nagoya Station, is ranked as one of Tabelog's best 100 ramen shops (well, the best 300 I guess) so checking it out was a no-brainer. Turned out to be quite a nice creamy toripaitan.

This style has recently been labeled espuma-style (エスプーマ系). Maximum frothiness is achieved by hitting the soup with a hand mixer before serving. This serves to aerate the broth and turn it milky white. Some people think it is too much, preferring the traditional creamy paitan soups made by cooking soup on a rolling boil over high heat. I'll take them both.

The coveted 百名店. West Japan gets its own list of 100 shops, with Aichi Prefecture getting nine. When fact-checking, I found that they were given a nod in 2019, but not in 2020. Sorry Shishimaru, I'll still show you love.

They make their noodles in-house using Japanese flour and salt from Okinawa. During one of my stints at the Osaka Ramen School, they explained that the salt used in the noodles doesn't matter; salt dissipates in the water when boiling and only serves the purpose of helping the noodles cook. Anyways, it's nice to see that they spend the extra yen on premium salt.

I got the standard bowl, as I had just crushed another Nagoya bowl of ramen. Shishimaru recommends the zeitakumori (ぜいたく盛り) which comes with roast beef, stewed beef, an egg, and a side dish. Too much food for me!

I should have tried it anyway. The chef has a background in French and Japanese traditional cooking, so it probably would have been tasty. The normal bowl was on point.

Official site here.

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Sunday, October 18, 2020

らぁ麺や 汐そば 雫 (Shizuku in Nagoya)

 らぁ麺や 汐そば 雫

Shizuku (雫 means drop) is a popular shiosoba spot about 20 minutes south of Nagoya Station. The ingredients are all-natural, including the 10 different salts used in the tare seasoning. Specialty chicken and dried fish make up the broth. Noodles made in house. Like most premium shio spots, there is a lot of attention to detail.

I always wonder how shops come up with their many-salt blends. Many ramen shops have a blend of three or four, but 10 is quite outstanding.

The shop also serves shoyu, mazesoba, and tantanmen. I'm guessing the tantanmen is very good, though I personally gravitate towards the spicy Japanese version of tantanmen at shops that already have a good shio or shoyu ramen.

Like many good shops, this one is lunch only.

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Thursday, October 15, 2020

らぁ麺 飛鶏 (Asuka in Nagoya)

 らぁ麺 飛鶏

Ramen Asuka is a popular chicken ramen shop in Nagoya. I showed up late, about 20 minutes before closing, and they were unfortunately out of the recommended torisoba, but had a few bowls of the creamy paitan left. Still a winning bowl.

Actually, the reason I was late getting to this shop was the one hour walk. They aren't so close to any station, so I figured I would walk north along Route 19, a six-lane major Nagoya road. Walk for a few minutes, then grab a taxi. In Tokyo, there are taxis everywhere. Not so much in Nagoya. Didn't see one for about five kilometers.

Asuka is known as the chicken ramen shops in Aichi Prefecture. They make their broth with only chicken and water.

Chickens of the Nagoya Kochin variety, along with other specialty chicken bones are used. A blend of shoyu is used for the tare seasoning. The master's goal is to have a bowl with the rich aroma of chicken and shoyu as the main feature.

Two kinds of spice are available on the counter. On the left, recommended for the regular bowl. On the right for the paitan. Be careful, it says, not to put too much in.

Like most shops of this caliber, they list their kodawari points.

Three kinds of chashu cooked sous-vide style and homemade noodles using wheat from Hokkaido.

Official Twitter here.

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Sunday, October 11, 2020

総本家 好来道場 (Koraidojo in Nagoya)

総本家 好来道場 

Koraidojo is an epic player in the ramen world. Their style, korai-style (好来系) has given way to around 30 shops. An easy distinction is the use of ko (好) in the name. An example is Koyoken. Deep broth made with chicken, pork, and more vegetables (especially root vegetables) than you often find in ramen. It is often called yakuzen ramen (薬膳ラーメン), meaning medicinal. This is actually a misnomer. In the past, they served actual medicinal ramen but stopped. The name stayed on, and many people (myself included) write that Nagoya's korai-style is some kind of health tincture.

Only open for a few lunch hours a day, run by old men and women, I thought this one would be stuffy and serious. But after a few words with the master, he handed me some mikan oranges to take home.

Koraidojo opened in 1959. The name including the word dojo makes sense. Dozens of wannabe ramen masters came here for their training in the ramen ways. There is a list of some of these shops over on this Japanese site.

Be sure to ask for the tororo konbu (トロロ昆布) topping. It's the koraimen option on the menu. As you slurp, the konbu melts into the soup. The whole thing is rich and hearty. Feel free to add some homemade chili oil or ginseng vinegar to change the taste.

The soup's flavor is dominated by the chicken, but subtle hints of umami from mackerel (ムロアジ) make it something special.

A reason the shop is only open three hours is that all of these already strong flavors become too strong if they simmer for a long time.

When I sat down, the staff handed me a stack of origami paper, most likely meant for children. I quickly folded a crane for them. This earned me a few more mikan oranges to take home.

Be sure to check out some of the books full of old Nagoya photos while you wait.

Regarding the menu, in typical Korai-style you can choose matsu, take, and kotobushi. Matsu (松) is the standard, with the take (竹) meaning extra menma topping. From there the kotobuki (寿) has extra pork. The other items are just combinations of these with more noodles.

Looking over this late, I realize that the far left of the menu is koraimen (好来麺). This means you'll get the konbu topping. I also realized that when I asked the staff directly, after placing my order, they upgraded me for free. I seriously love this spot.

Just remember their three hour opening time could be cut short if they run out of soup.

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Thursday, October 8, 2020

つけ麺 丸和 (Maruwa in Nagoya)

つけ麺 丸和 春田本店 

The history of tsukemen in Japan is deep. Generally, people know about Yamagishi-san and Higashi-Ikebukuro Taishoken. That shop has spawned dozens of other shops with the same name in the vicinity of Tokyo. And while the name Taishoken is a dead giveaway to a ramen shop's lineage (except when it is a different Taishoken!) this is largely a Tokyo thing, with half a century of history. When you leave the nation's biggest city, tsukemen is a much younger beast.

Maruwa is part of Nagoya's tsukemen history. Until recent years, even Osaka people would have to take a train out here to have some tsukemen. Truly a legend shop.

Maruwa began with Taishoken . . . kind of. Taishoken's tsukemen was an offshoot of tsukemen eaten at Marucho (丸長), an old shop in Tokyo, as a staff meal. Apart from Yamagishi-san, Karoku-san (嘉六) was another staff there. He didn't continue along the same path of fame, but he did open a shop in Saitama called Maruka (丸嘉) in 1969.

Fast forward many years. Kurumiya-san (久留宮) is living in his family home in Nagoya, above their rice shop. At some point, he has work in Saitama, meets a lady, marries, and moves in with his new inlaws. His inlaws include Karoku-san.

Fast forward a few more years to 2004. Kurumiya-san and Karoku-san are watching television and there is a special about Yamagishi-san and Taishoken. Karoku-san casually says how cool it is that Yamagishi-san has become famous. He boasted that he had actually eaten tsukemen before Yamagishi-san. This was the first time Karoku-san had heard about any of this. He wanted to make his father-in-law famous.

Karoku-san introduced him to a branch of Marucho in Saitama, and he trained. The master there, Amari-san (甘利), would prepare soup and noodles from 11:00pm until 3:00am every day, and serve 100 bowls from 8:00am until 11:00am. Oh, and he was 70 years old.

After some time, he returned to his home in Nagoya and opened Tsukemen Maruwa (つけ麺 丸和) in the same building that housed his family's rice shop (also called Maruwa).


Maruwa is a descendent of the first tsukemen created in the 1950s in Tokyo.

The menu is quite large, but you should try either the original recipe Karoku Tsukemen or the modern-style Maruwa Tsukemen.

Or one of each. Both are served in a hot iron pot as an homage to TETSU, who put a hot iron stone in your soup to keep it hot.

The menu is larger now, with limited bowls like local favorite Taiwan mazesoba and ramen dishes.

There are actually half a dozen or so shops in the Maruwa group. The original shop is wonderful, though, so you should try and make it there if you can.

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Sunday, October 4, 2020

Relief for Australia Ramen at Soranoiro


Remember January 2020? Australia was hit by horrible wildfires. We thought it was the worst thing that could happen this year. Then a few other things happened, and people generally moved on to the other problems of the world.

Well, Ramen Adventures is around eight months behind on the posts, so let's revisit January 2020.

Soranoiro teamed up with Gaku, a robata-yaki restaurant from Sydney, Australia. Robata-yaki is a traditional style of cooking in Japan. Coals are placed in a large sandpit and skewers of meat roasted around it. Gaku also does ramen.

Gaku and Soranoiro's special popup was also an event to raise funds for a bushfire charity. How cool!

Five kinds of shellfish coquillage (コキヤージュ), a kind of French soup. It was buttery and full of ocean flavors. Definitely something new.

Great one-off bowl. The shrimp toast melted into the soup as I ate the noodles. All kinds of interesting textures going on here. They also did wagyu ramen during this charity event, but I'm glad I went with the mussel soup.

If you would like to donate to an Australian bushfire relief, check out the Bushfire Foundation.

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Thursday, October 1, 2020

Mashi no Mashi in Roppongi, Tokyo

 Mashi no Mashi Tokyo

I had to do it. No matter how much I didn't want to spend $100 on a bowl of ramen, I had to at least try this one once. One part fueled by the tourism boom, one big part hype, and one part top tier ingredients. This is Wagyu Mafia's Jiro-style ramen, now available in Tokyo.

Complete with the made-for-Instagram food pose by the staff.

So what's the deal? How do we arrive at an 11,000 yen bowl of ramen in Tokyo in 2020?

Wagyu Mafia is the brainchild of Hisato Hamada and Takafumi Horie. It started as a member's only wagyu beef restaurant in 2016. The point was to serve the most expensive cuts of beef, bought without consideration of budget, eaten by the elites of the Japanese foodie scene. CEOs and their mistresses sat next to independently wealthy heiresses from Hong Kong. Meals were somewhere around $600, with everyone getting a slightly different bill.

But that's just the beginning. Word of this exclusive wagyu restaurant skyrocketed when they bought the most expensive cow from the 2016 Kobe auction, a bovine with the highest recorded fat marbling in recorded history. Wagyu dishes were also having a big run overseas, and Instagrammable dishes like A5 wagyu with uni and caviar became a surefire way to garner attention. Wagyu Mafia jumped on this hype without thinking twice.

Soon the guys behind the Mafia were jet-setting around the world, doing popups and entertaining celebrities. David Beckham and Ed Sheeran are fans. Investors made things simple, and a Wagyu Mafia Hong Kong was opened. They also opened less exclusive yakiniku spots (in both Tokyo and Hong Kong) and crowdfunded a cutlet sandwich restaurant in Tokyo. 

Then came the ramen.

The name Mashi no Mashi along with the stark yellow colors in the shop are a give-away to any ramen nerd. This is Jiro style ramen. Mashi refers to an extra amount of a particular topping in Jiro shops. Want extra garlic? Ninniku mashi. Want even more? Ninniku mashi mashi.

Bones are cooked for 24 hours to bring out maximum meat flavors. Noodles are thick and rough. Bean sprouts, cabbage, and plenty of garlic constitute the non-meat toppings. Chashu is thick-cut wagyu beef, stewed eight hours.

In the end it is kind of Jiro-esque. Real Jiro is much heavier, but Mashi no Mashi tries their best.

Want to know what I thought of it? This was a great bowl. Everything is well made and I definitely crushed it. Is it worth over $100? That's a tough one.

In a value-for-wagyu situation, no way. I can go to my favorite yakiniku spot and spend around $60 for a fatty beef feast. For a bit more I could go somewhere like Oniku Karyu for a wicked wagyu course. The volume of wagyu topping here was also kind of sad. You would think for $100 they would really pile it on. I heard you can ask for the wagyu mashi mashi to get around triple the amount (for a price).

If you are after the experience of trying mega-expensive casual food, this is something you must eat. 

If you are, like me, a ramen hunter in Japan who's list of shops to hit in Tokyo is dwindling, you gotta do it.

I'd say that if you were a YouTuber looking for a viral hit, this might work, though the algorithm doesn't really work that way anymore.

In the end, I'm of the opinion that anything interesting in the ramen world is worth it. While Mashi no Mashi's bowl is pricey, other less expensive wagyu-topped bowls have been popping up here and there.

Official Wagyu Mafia site here.

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