Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tawau (Tokyo, Minato-ku)


Hyiashi aesoba: 16 / 20

Finding a decent ramen place next to Daimo after 14:30 happens to be relatively difficult. Finally, we could find this shop that serves a large variety of ramen. I ordered the cold aesoba (a kind of mazemen), and my friend the shoyu ramen. Let's start with the aesoba:

Sauce: No real broth, but a fishy (niboshi?), sour, very pleasant sauce - at least if you enjoy sourness.

Noodles: They had the perfect elasticity.

Meat: Quite a few stripes of deliciously braised, salty chashu.

Toppings: A few thin, classical menma; some bits of negi and nori.

As you may have understood, this was a great experience. I also tried the shoyu ramen of my friend, but honestly, I was much less pleased. The broth was greasy, the noodles too soft and the meat not as good. I would barely give it a 12, I certainly don’t recommend ordering it.


We arrived at 14:50 and were received perfectly in a restaurant that closes at 15:00; and the employee gave me back a 100 yen coin that I forgot in the machine: this kinds of things only happen in Japan, really!

More info on ramendb.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Hamashio (Yokohama, Naka-ku)


Miso ramen: 14 / 20

This place offers a large variety of ramen dishes, with a focus on a shio broth. I had the miso tsukemen though.

Broth: A good sesame miso, spicy broth.

Noodles: Very yellowish, OK noodles.

Meat: An interesting chashu, quite heterogeneous, including some very tender and some robust - but very tasty - parts.

Toppings: Thick, mild, sweetish and crunchy menma. Some bean sprouts are mixed with the noodles for a refreshing experience.

My friend ordered the shio ramen, which had a fairly standard broth and very soft noodles - I didn’t enjoy it as much.

This place is not bad, but don’t go there unless you’re in the area; it might be the best ramen choice right around Yokohama’s Chinatown though, which appears to be surprisingly poor in decent ramen places.

More information on ramendb.

San San Nana (Kanagawa-ken, Kawasaki-shi)


Ichibanshibori tsukemen: 15 / 20

A few months after my first visit, here I am back in this Kawasaki shop, the most praised around the station. Last time I had tried the Nibanshibori (煮番搾り) tsukemen; this time I tried the first option, the ichibanshibori tsukemen.

Broth: A chicken broth thinner than your regular tonkotsu gyokai broth, which sticks to the noodles mainly because of its fattiness.

Noodles: Whole grain noodles, a little bit fragile and with no real chew, but instead a more granular and crumbly structure. Interesting for a change, but I think I prefer the more classical elastic consistency.

Meat: Three pieces of chashu with some fat (alas, not melting), it was decent.

Egg: A surprisingly elastic egg (difficult to seize with the chopstick!), quite well cooked, a little bit on the hard side.

Toppings: I may be wrong but there seemed to be two kind of menma, some with a strong taste, and some milder and sweeter.

Although nothing in itself was exceptional, the combination of crumbly noodles, negi and oily broth made for a coherent dish and an interesting change. The other tsukemen (nibanshibori) was thicker and better in my memory, though. But I would say that both are a slightly better choice than Akazonae, in the same area.

More info on ramendb.

Other review: Ramen Adventures

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ishimanji (Osaka-fu, Toyonaka-shi)


Reimen: 16 / 20

Back to my favorite ramen-shop in Toyonaka! This time, I tried their seasonal reimen.

Broth: Fresh and intense katsuo shoyu broth with sesame oil. Succulent.

Noodles: Yellow and curly, with the perfect elasticity a reimen should have.

Meat: Some thin, overcooked chashu, with little taste - not sure they bring so much to the dish.

Egg: Half a hard-boiled egg, kind of better than your usually reimen-half-egg, but not exceptional either.

Toppings: A lot of bean sprouts; some mild, thin menma; a couple of slices of lime that brought some bitterness; a few chilii stripes.

This broth was, again, excellent, although maybe not as shining as at the recently tested Tensonkourin. Reimen is starting to turn into one of my favorites, too bad summer will end!

More info on tablelog.

UPDATE 2014/09/08

Just before I was leaving Japane for a few weeks, knowing that when I would come back, the reimen season would be over, I came back to eat this reimen; except that this time, I asked them to remove the meat and egg, which did not bring anything to the dish. The result:

It was as good, if not better, than the former one. A strategy I will keep in mind when I know that the meat and eggs don't bring anything.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Tensonkorin (Kobe, Chuo-ku)

麺屋 天孫降臨
めんや てんそんこうりん

Reimen: 16 / 20

This ramen restaurant got excellent-if-few reviews, is conveniently located between Sannonmiya and Motomachi and had been on my radar for some time. Finally, I found the opportunity to go there and ordered their seasonal reimen.

Broth: A thicker broth than the regular reimen broth, smooth in a kind of sirupy way, with an excellent fishy taste enhanced by sprinkled yuzu and myoga bits. Maybe the best reimen broth I had so far.

Noodles: Just the perfect cooking.

Meat: The low point of this bowl, very average.

Toppings: Some negi, chili stripes and cucumber.

I wish I had been there earlier! This bowl shined with its perfect combination of broth and noodles. Too bad the meat was a letdown, otherwise it would have easily deserved a 17. I’m very much looking forward to come back and try their other specialties (a variety of tsukemen, a mazemen…)

More info on ramendb.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Hideyoshi (Osaka-fu, Toyonaka-shi)

おおさからーめん ひでよし

Niboshi ramen: 10 / 20

I’m still not exactly sure how I ended up in this poorly ranked - and far from everything - ramen shop, a few minutes ago from Shonai station. I guess this had to do with me wanting to explore the ramen scene in Toyonaka... Anyway, I entered in the restaurant and there was just the (young) cook and a friend of him. While I was waiting for my niboshi ramen (the shop’s recommendations), I had a nice chat with his friend. The cook served me my ramen, with the egg as ‘service’ - a nice gesture.

Broth: This was the big weakness of this ramen: honestly, if I hadn’t known, I could never have guessed there was a trace of niboshi in that. It tasted like… well, like nothing particular, really.

Noodles: Nothing special here.

Meat: Two thin slices of very average chashu, with a (too) large part of fat around.

Egg: Without contest, the strong asset of this bowl: it was a very high-quality ajitama, with a tasty, salty white part and a nice creamy yolk (slightly on the runny side).

Toppings: Some mild, sweet-ish menma. You can help yourself with ageing, hard dry garlic on the side, in case such a strange idea would cross your mind.

This bowl was saved by two things: the casual and pleasant atmosphere of the shop, and the surprisingly good aji-tama. I’m afraid this is not enough for me to recommend the place, but in case you happen to be in the area, they also have a mazemen that got one (only one, I’m afraid) good review on ramendb.

More info on ramendb.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Mitsukabuzu (Osaka-fu, Toyonaka-shi)

味噌らーめん みつか坊主
みそらーめん みつかぼうず
Miso ramen Mitsukabouzu
"Special kansai daitayama": 16 / 20

And here I am again in Mitsukabose, back to Osaka’s miso-ramen star, to make it discover to a friend. We both tried the Special kansai daitayama (not sure of the name again!) with ajitama, that I had noted last time.

Broth: A quite liquid broth with a subtle miso taste, not too strong, and flavored with many herbs - parsil, coriander…

Noodles: That was a surprise here: overcooked. Seems that I’ll have to clarify a few things next time before ordering…

Meat: A slice of firm, lean chashu with some fat veins in the middle.

Egg: It was remarkable: perfectly cooked (gooey yellow, hard white), nothing to say - a model of an egg.

Toppings: A couple of tofu slices and two pieces of non-fermented bamboo - a nice change from the usual menma!

Interestingly, I had a better impression of this soup when I tasted it from my friend’s plate last time (but it I understood correctly this is a special dish, whose composition might vary over time?). Although the broth was very pleasant, the egg fantastic and the bamboo parts brought an interesting twist, the relatively uninteresting meat and overcooked noodles spoiled a little bit the experience. With just a little work, it could easily become a 17/20 though.

More information on ramendb.
The restaurant's website.

Other review: Friends in ramen.

Shunnosuke (Osaka-fu, Toyonaka-shi)


Hyashi tantanmen: 16 / 20

This restaurant close to Shonai station on Takarazuka line specializes in a variety of chicken-based soup. I was ready to order one of them to challenge my natural lack of interests for chicken-ramen, but then realized that they were also serving a cold tantanmen. I love tantanmen, I love reimen, I had to try this.

Sauce: No real broth, but a white tantanmen sauce with a light but subtle taste.

Noodles: Perfectly cooked, katame in a kind-of-elastic-but-oh-so-pleasant way.

Meat: As usual for tantanmen, there was some ground meat, but this one had an interesting braised after-taste. On top of that, there were two slices of firm chashu. They had the same nice braised after-taste - but otherwise kind of bland (like some average cold roastbeef?), and a part that was way too fat.

Egg: A raw egg topped the whole thing. Mixing it to the sauce it made it pleasantly thicker.

Toppings: A little bit of salad.

I would have given it a 17 without the two relatively uninteresting slices of meat (the ground meat was far enough). It is a very good ramen though; if you like tantanmen and don’t mind raw egg, it is really worth trying.

More information on ramendb.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Marusho (Osaka-fu, Toyonaka-shi)

Menya Marushou

Hyashi Taiwan mazesoba: 17 / 20 

What a nice surprise to discover a ramen shop specializing in mazesoba not too far from Osaka University! This restaurant has an impressive variety of specialties, also including different kinds of ramen. On this hot summer evening, I ordered the cold mazesoba.

Sauce: No broth obviously, but a very tasteful, slightly spicy sauce, that you can spike with some garlic (not fresh, alas) and vinegar.

Noodles: Very enjoyable al dente noodles.

Meat: Some flavorful ground meat.

Egg: Half of a boiled egg, with a pleasant, slightly creamy yolk.

Toppings: A profusion of toppings: goma(sesame)-flavored menma cubes, white and green negi, nori bits and even a cherry tomato. Mix well the whole thing and you get a fantastic combination!

I also got as a side-dish a small bowl of white rice. I was a bit skeptical (why not bread and potatoes also?), but the rice actually proved to be a very tasty way to soak up all what remains at the bottom of my bowl after I finished the noodles (I don’t know if that’s very ‘kosher', but that’s how I ate it). The flavour remained during many minutes in my mouth as I was finding my way back home. So far, this is with Misukabose and Ishimanji my favorite ramen restaurant in Toyonaka (although in Osaka, Cliff’s mazesoba may have my slight preference: I think that a raw egg fits better with mazsoba - but of course maybe not with a cold one).

More information on ramendb.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Rekka (Osaka-fu, Toyonaka-shi)

'Kokon' tsukemen: 13 / 20(濃昆 つけ麺)

This ramen restaurant two stops north of Juso has a large variety of slightly unusual dishes, including a mazesoba and three sorts of tsukemen: a clear-broth tsukemen, a chicken-based chinese tsukemen, and a spicy miso tsukemen. I was tempted to try the mazesoba but being in a tsukemen-run, I went with the clear-broth one.

Broth: A clear broth served sizzling. Not so much taste (it somehow reminds chicken?) and a bit fat. Does not coat so much the noodles, and the soup wari was a bit too fat and salty (they also add a yuzu peel to give some additional taste, but it went unnoticed when I ate it with the rest).

Noodles: Relatively thin compared to what you would find in a tonkotsu gyokai tsukemen, but this makes sense, since the broth is much lighter in taste.

Meat: A couple of slices falling apart as soon as you touch them with your chopsticks, melting in the mouth, fat but excellent. Something quite novel here.

Egg: Half of an OK egg.

Toppings: Unusually, the broth included a slice of kombu. Some menma with a mild taste, flavored with sesame.

Difficult to give a rating here. The whole thing was definitely too fat and I felt slightly nauseous half an hour later. However, the crumbly meat was excellent and original. I would not order it again, but this was an interesting experience. I have to come back to try their other specialties.

More information on ramendb.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Akazonae (Shinagawa-ken, Kawasaki-shi)


Tontori tsukemen: 14 / 20

A couple of minutes away from Kawasaki station, this restaurant features ‘tontori’ tsukemen and ramen, made with pork and chicken, as well as a more classical tsukemen. After several gyokai tonkotsu tsukemen in the last few days, I thought it would be interesting to try a different-but-related specialty and I went with their tontori tsukemen.

Broth: There is chicken in there, no doubt about it! It definitely wins over the pork. A bit too fat for me, though (although it is the fat that makes it stick to the noodles).

Noodles: Slightly curly, al dente, with a classical egg taste, very good as usual - although maybe a little bit on the starchy side.

Meat: A thin, firm and overall relatively unremarkable slice of chashu.

Toppings: Some menma with a strong taste of preserved food. A slice of kamaboko. A sheet of nori.

This bowl was an interesting change from tonkotsu gyokai tsukemen, but it really lacks the deepness, complexity and smoothness of the latter. If you love chicken, you may want to try it though. Overall, it was good, but nothing exceptional.

More information on ramendb.

Katsuji (Yokohama-shi, Naka-ku)

麺や 勝治
めんや かつじ

Reimen: 17 / 20

This ramen restaurant close to Yokohama’s Kannai station did not get so many reviews, but quite good ones. Being in the area, and not in the mood for a jiro, I decided to give it a try. They specialize in shio tsukemen, but also featured by then a spicy reimen that seemed like a good idea on this hot day.

Broth: A very pleasant broth, niboshi-flavoured, as it seemed. I ordered the lowest grade of spicyness, but this was already quite spicy I must say. Go above at your own risk!

Noodles: Thin, yellow al dente noodles, very good.

Meat: Two thin slices of cold chashu. They were in themselves quite unremarkable, although not unpleasant, but their fattiness fitted very well with the broth.

Egg: Two slices of a very well cooked egg - slightly on the hard side, but that was perfect so that it would not fall in the soup. They are quite fragile though, so it's better to eat each of them in one delicious mouthful.

Toppings: Some green pepper (a korean spice as it seems), white negi, microgreens, and a slice of nori. Some long and irregular menma with a mild, pleasant classical taste. You can also get a bowl of rice for free at lunchtime.

This was excellent, and the spicyness really brought a new dimension to the now-classical niboshi reimen. If you are in the area, it is really worth checking.

More info on ramendb.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Tokyo tsukemen (limited) contest

Tomita Shokudo


Ginza Oborozuki



After having tried Michi, Oborozuki and TETSU in a few days, as well as Tomita Shokudo (but I cannot compare its broth with the others, since it is shoyu based when the others are in the tonkotsu gyokai league), I reached the following comparative verdict:
- the broth is clearly the best in Michi (how do they make it so smooth??)
- Oborozuki’s braised meat beats everything
- Tomita Shokudo had the best ajitama and menma
- the noodles were very good in all of them.
- for the atmospheric touch, TETSU’s yaki-ishi delivers (but none of its ingredients are top-notch, just very good).

Put all these ingredients together, and you would get a 20 / 20 tsukemen.

TETSU (Tokyo, Minato-ku)


Tsukemen with ajitama: 16 / 20

In 2011, I had my last Japanese dish (a tsukemen, of course) before going back to my country with a German friend at what may be the most famous chain of high-quality tsukemen restaurant: TETSU, in Kyoto station. More than three years later, back in Japan, we decided to meet again at TETSU; it may not be present anymore in Kyoto station, but it is well alive and kicking in Tokyo. We met at the branch in Shinagawa’s ramen street, and I ordered their famous (tonkotsu gyokai) tsukemen with ajitama.

Broth: A rather earthy tonkotsu gyokai broth, very pleasant, which sticks extremely well to the noodles. The soup wari simply dilutes this strong taste, without bringing any new twist.

Noodles: Thick and al dente, as they should be.

Meat: One slice of thick, fibrous chashu in the broth. Good, but nothing exceptional.

Egg: A good ajitama with a very liquid yolk.

Toppings: A few slices of menma, slightly sweet, with a rather subdued taste.

Is TETSU up to its celebrity, or is it over-rated, having gained its fame thanks to their now-classical yaki-ishi? (the hot stone that you can put at the end in your broth to make it pimping hot again - make sure there are no noodles anymore in the broth, or they will get burned!). Well, I would say that it is for sure a high-quality tsukemen, but it definitely does nor reach the summits of e.g. Fuunji, Warito and Rokurinsha - or, to compare with the one I had earlier that day, Oborozuki. Compared with the latter, TETSU had virtually the same noodles and ajitama, but Oborozuki’s braised meat, broth complexity and interesting wari-soup definitely push it higher. Anyway, TETSU always remains a safe bet.

More info on ramendb.

Other reviews (basically every single ramen blog has an entry on TETSU):
Ramen adventure, Ramenate, Rameniac, Ramentokyo, Enjoy ramen, Ramen Walker, Tokyo times, Food Republic, Gaijin Pot.

Ginza Oborozuki (Tokyo, Chiyoda-ku)

銀座 朧月
ぎんざ おぼろづき

Tonkotsu gyokai tsukemen: 17 / 20

Those few days in Tokyo being devoted to compare a few high quality tonkotsu gyokai tsukemen, Oborozuki came quickly back on my list. I had been there a couple of months earlier, but I was then in a quest for the best shio bowls around, and I had tried their (excellent) shio tsukemen. So here I am, back to the place, where I order the special tonkotsu gyokai tsukemen for 1100 yens (they also have a kotteri tsukemen that got some good reviews).

Broth: An intense and very good both, with some sweet notes. At the end, the soup wari was very fishy and gave a new dimension to the broth (like it did for their shio tsukemen).

Noodles: Some high-quality, thick, pale yellow al dente noodles, with an egg taste.

Meat: One of the highlight of the tsukemen: three slices of fibrous chashu, with just the right amount of fat, which are braised in front of your eyes. On a lower note, however, there are a few dice of meat in the broth, some extremely fat, and some just tasteless - no idea why they would add such a thing: Mr. boss-of-Oborozuki, please remove them!

Egg: A very pleasant ajitama with a very liquid yolk.

Toppings: A few thin menmas with a strong, classical taste. Some strong negi and microgreens. A slice of kamoboko.

This was an excellent gyokai tonkotsu, with a few twists compared to the classical recipe (sweeter, more liquid ajitama, more fishy soup wari, braised meat…). Since their shio tsukemen was excellent as well, I would recommend you to try both.

More information on ramendb.

Other review: Enjoy ramen.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Michi (Tokyo, Katsushika-ku)

つけ麺 道
つけめん みち

Tsukemen: 17 / 20

I continue my investigations of Tokyo’s best tsukemen. Being in Matsudo, I thought I should use the opportunity to try tsukemen Michi near Kameari station, the 6th most highly ranked ramen place in whole Japan on ramendb. Arriving there at 2:45 pm, I was hoping I would not have to wait. How naive I was: 8 persons where still waiting there, and I had to queue during 30 minutes - I cannot imagine how it must be on a week-end. But finally I can enter into the shop; I order the regular tsukemen (they have a special version, and a lighter version too), which comes nicely presented on a tray.

(yeah some day I'll learn how to hide my fingers' shadow on pictures...)

Broth: Wow! That’s why it is so highly rated, no doubt. So smooth… this is remarkable. Feels like floating in the mouth, a really etherical tonkotsu gyokai foam. Let's say it straight: it may be the best tonkotsu gyokai broth I ever had. After the wari soup, it became more classical, but still remarkably unctuous.

Noodles: Nothing surprising here: the kind of thick, chewy noodles that every respectable gyokai tonkotsu tsukemen place should have.

Meat: A thin slice of chashu, relatively unremakable, although it kind of makes the broth even fatter and more unctuous when you put it inside. And a meatball too; relatively flavorfull for a meatball - but, well, just a meatball.

Egg: Half a kind-of-ok egg, but not the high quality ajitama you would expect in such a place.

Toppings: A few thin menma with a strong taste. Some negi. And a little bit of spicy sauce, not sure with what you’re supposed to eat it.

What a contrasted bowl! So first, let me say that I cannot rank it among the 10 very best ramen I've eaten: the broth may be stellar, but a ramen (or tsukemen, for that matter) dish is also composed of many other ingredients - meat, egg, unusual toppings, etc., and those are not up to the level of a top-notch ramen place. However, if you love tonkotsu gyokai tsukemen, you HAVE to try it, just because that might be the best broth ever. I would be curious to compare it with Fuunji on a same day (which also has a very special and smooth broth).

More info on ramendb.

Other review: Enjoy Ramen.

Tomita Shokudo (Chiba-ken, Matsudo-shi)

松戸中華そば 富田食堂
まつどちゅうかそば とみたしょくどう 

Tsukesoba (with ajitama): 17 / 20

It is kind of painful to hear, after 50 minutes spent in the train, that the ramen shop you came to visit is exceptionally closed today because of some problem with the air-con system. It is even more painful when this shop happens to be Japane's most highly rated ramen joint, namely Tomita. Turning with sadness to my ramendb app on my phone to see if there was anything else valuable in the area, I discovered a spin-off of the restaurant, Tomita Shokudou. Let’s try it!

Broth: In contrast with Tomita's tonkotsu gyokai, the broth is here a slightly sweet shoyu. Although it does not have the kotteri structure of a tonkotsu gyokai broth, it sticked decently to the noodles. Adding the wari-soup at the end gave it a delicious, slightly burned taste.

Noodles: Relatively thin for a tsukemen - I presume that it fits better with a broth less sticky than a tonkotsu gyokai - but very pleasantly firm.

Meat: A slice of pork chashu that was really the letdown of this bowl, too fat and nothing exceptional; and a slice of tender and tasty, slightly peppery chicken, that saved the meaty part of this bowl.

Egg: Very flavorful white part, and an excellent gooey yolk. Very well cooked.

Toppings: Some tender, melting peppery menma - some of the best I’ve ever eaten. A few slices of wakame.

This was an excellent bowl - with a better pork chashu, it would have deserved an 18. If you want to try a tsukemen a bit different from your usual tonkotsu gyokai fix, that’s the place to go; you can also consider it in case there is too much queue at Tomita's main shop - that might happen, on the days when the air-con is not broken...

More information on ramendb.

Other reviews: Enjoy Ramen