Sunday, November 30, 2014

Fusuma ni Kakero (Osaka-shi, Kita-ku)

麬にかけろ 中崎壱丁 中崎商店
ふすまにかけろ なかざきいっちょう なかざきしょうてんがい
Fusuma ni Kakero Nakazaki Ichou Nakazaki Shoutengai

SCS ramen (with ajitama): 18 / 20

Located close to Nakazakicho station, this restaurant has always at least a few people queuing in front. I would soon realize that this was justified. Inside, the atmosphere is quite pleasant, with a two-tier counter in the middle of which the waiter can bring the dishes, and some fresh jasmine tea to wait for your dish. They usually feature a shio and shoyu ramen, but on this day, they only had one option: a special ebi (shrimp)-flavored, kotteri (thick) tori paitan (chicken ramen), with the intriguing name of ’SCS'. Let’s try it, with ajitama.

Broth: Shrimp it tastes indeed! Don’t think about ordering it if you don’t like it. The chicken taste was relatively subdued, but this broth was delightful. Also, I must say that it was not too thick, contrarily to some very kotteri chicken Kyoto-style broth (who said Gokkei?).

Noodles: Thin and firm, relatively similar to the ones you would find in a Hakata tonkotsu ramen.

Meat: Two very beautiful lean, pink slices of meat, which were simply delicious, tender and full of flavor.

Egg: A very well cooked ajitama, with a slightly sweet white part and a firm-but-gooey yellow.

Toppings: This bowl was a wonder of toppings: some ‘rice krispies’ nicely soaked the broth and brought some additional thickness. There was also some finely shredded seaweed that brought a delicious marine twist. And in case there is not enough ‘ebi-ness’ in your broth, you can even add some shrimp oil with an intriguing syringe system.

This was simply perfect. The shrimp taste may be a little bit too overpowering for my personal taste, but I found it excellent all along. Best ramen I've tried in Osaka so far - and that’s someone who is usually not a big fan of tori paitan who says that. I don’t know how often they serve this special though, it may have been a limited offer. Don't worry, their regular ramen are also delicious (reviews soon to come!)

More info on ramendb.

Other review: Friends in Ramen (for the shoyu ramen), Japan Times.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Shinpuku Saikan (Kyōto-shi, Sakyō-ku)


Chuka soba: 13 / 20

Chuka soba, without meat: 14 / 20
(中華そば 肉なし)

Although Kyoto station is especially famous for its ramen street ("Kyoto Ramen Koji") on the 10th floor, the ‘real’ afficionados know that the appeal of the area does not come from the sometimes-average ramen restaurants in this ramen street, but a couple of hundred meters east from the station, where two monuments of Kyoto ramen history stand exactly door to door: Shinpukusaikan and Honke Daiichi Asahi.

As we arrived there with my friend, there was a long queue in front of the latter, so we chose the former, a big room with a very canteen-feel. They serve only one kind of dark-shoyu ramen, that you can order with (or without) various toppings - as well as in a large version, and with additional meat. I was pleasantly surprised to see a version without any meat, which I ordered (with additional menma); my friend ordered the regular version.

Broth: A relatively intense shoyu broth, which was pleasant even for a non-shoyu-lover like me.

Noodles: Yellow and relatively firm at first, they got soft relatively quickly though - which is, I guess, what is required for a Kyoto ramen.

Meat: I tasted the meat in my friend's bowl, and I was very happy I didn't ordered any in mine: the slices were thin and tasteless.

Toppings: The menma were soft and mild, but relatively pleasant. Lots of negi, which for once seemed especially tasteful.

Overall, a relatively pleasant bowl, but nothing exceptional. There is definitely a feel of 'Showa era' authenticity in this bowl though: a simple, intense shoyu ramen in a canteen where regulars come and go. It is worth going there for the experience - actuallly, it seems that this was the first ramen shop in Kyoto that opened after World War 2. But I strongly recommend ordering the meatless version.

More info on ramendb.

Other reviews: Ramen Adventures, Friends in Ramen, The Piggly Wiggly travels

Daikoku (Kyōto-shi, Fushimi-ku)

Daikoku Ramen

Ramen: 12 / 20 

Two ramen shops have quite good grades near Fushimi-Momoyama, in south Kyoto: Daichou and Daikoku. Daichou was slightly better ranked, but unfortunately five people were queuing in front, and I had only twenty minutes to swallow quickly some ramen, before meeting my friend to chase some momiji. Thus I switched to Daikoku, a simple, local restaurant with not much choice - one kind of ramen, with more or less toppings. I ordered, well, the ramen.

Broth: I guess it was a tonkotsu-shoyu broth, decent but very conventional.

Noodles: A bit soft.

Meat: A few thin slices of a decent-if-slightly-unremarkable chashu.

Toppings: Some moyashi and negi. You can order some menma for 50 yens.

Overall, it might be better than the average ramen you would find out there, but for me it is clearly over-rated on ramendb. No necessity to stop there. I would rather try my luck at Daichou, or go to the EXCELLENT Kirari a few hundreds of meters from here (stay tuned - review to come!).

More info on ramendb.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Miyoshi (Kyōto-shi, Nakagyō-ku)

博多長浜らーめん みよし
はかたながはまらーめん みよし
Hakata Nagahama Ramen Miyoshi

Ramen: 14 / 20

Right in the centre of distinctive and elegant Kyoto, this ramen joint has a resolutely unique feel, purely Hakata yatai atsmophere. Half open onto the street, you will often see people queuing in front of this small restaurant with narrow seats, that serves only one kind of tonkotsu ramen, with various garnishes. I ordered the regular version.

Broth: Ah, the delicious smell of Hakata tonkotsu! Not too thick, smooth, it seemed to me slightly more sweetish than the classical Hakata ramen though (but I'm no expert in Hakata ramen, so it's difficult to tell), with some notes that reminded me a bit of a corn soup.

Noodles: Surprisingly for a Hakata ramen place, the default noodles cooking style was not katame - so if you like them so, make sure to explicitly order them that way.

Meat: Some thin, average chashu bits with too fatty part, which do not bring anything to the dish. The best part of them was the brown outer side.

Toppings: The menma were both spicy and sweet, very good. And like at any respectable Hakata ramen place, you can help yourself with ginger and flakes - but they were old and too soft.

A very local place with a great atmosphere - a bit too local I thought, when I saw the cook taking the money and then cooking without washing her hands… Several components (meat, flakes, noodles) were very average, but the delicious broth and the unique atmosphere push it to a 14. Plus, it’s cheap and open till 6 am.

More info on ramendb.

Other reviews: Ramenate, Ramen Adventures, Umamiart

Gokkei (Kyōto-shi, Sakyō-ku)

Menya Gokkei
麺屋 極鶏
めんや ごっけい

Niwatoridaku: 15 / 20 

This place has opened only a few years ago but it is already a myth. On three occasions already I thought of going there, and three times I stumbled on a one hour-long line. How would it be at 11:30 (the opening time) on a rainy weekday? You guessed it: a one hour-long line. I won’t come back to Ichijoji before a while, so I thought that whatever the time it takes, I’ll be waiting. One hour letter, I seat in front of my tori-ramen, with ajitama.

Broth: Imagine a three liters-recipient full of chicken bones that you would let boil until absolutely no water remains. That’s about how this broth feels. Actually, it should be called a 'sauce' rather than a 'broth'. If you were looking for the graal of kotteri-ness, don’t search anymore, here it is - although, I must say, the honour may be shared with Muttepo. I’m not a big fan of ultra-kotteri rame, but I must say that this one kind of reconciliated me with the style. At some point, I had the impression I was nearly munching crunchy bones.

Noodles: Quite soft, as they should be in a Kyoto-style ramen. Unfortunately, I’m not very fan of soft nodles. They were also a bit difficult to untangle from each other.

Meat: Some average chashu that falls into parts.

Egg: Well-cooked, gooey on the hard side; however, it did not fit with the whole thing and I don’t recommend ordering it (and the soup alone is heavy enough!).

Toppings: Some slabs of menma, with a very unified (rather than fibrous) texture, crunchy and mild.

Eight minutes after I started my dish, I’m hurrying out of the shop to let other hungry ramen-addicts enter. I would say there was at least 1h15 minutes queue at this point.

I’m going to make enemies here by giving it ‘only’ a 15 / 20 (which is actually a pretty good grade). I can easily imagine that kotteri-fan could give it a 20 / 20. Fine for me, but I’m not into soft noodles and thick broth. Despite this, the experience was quite pleasant. I wish I would have ordered it in the black version though (with some roasted garlic liquid), I may have liked it even better (you can also order a red – spicy version, or a fish-version, which, I imagine, must be totally different?) Also, the restaurant has a quite pleasant atmosphere, with its short counter, one regular table, and one floor-table. And overall, this was a much better experience in my memory than the nearby Tentenyu, which also specializes in Kyoto-style ramen.

More info on ramendb.

Other links: Reina Loves eating

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sandaime Miyatamenji (Osaka-shi, Chūō-ku)

三代目 宮田麺児
さんだいめ みやためんじ
Sandaime Miyatamenji

T2G tsukemen: 15 / 20

I hadn’t noticed before this low-key tsukemen restaurant near Shinsaibashi, but this was a mistake. The place occupates two floors of a building, with the kitchen and a counter on the first floor, and the main dining room on the second floor. Pleasant lounge music, lots of couples – looks like the perfect ramen-date place. I ordered the first tsukemen on the menu.

Broth: A very thick veggie broth (the base seems to be tonkotsu gyokai), that sticks exceptionally well to the noodles – last time I saw such a thick smoothness was probably at Fuunji in Tokyo! (with a very different broth) I didn’t have time to ask for the soup wari, so I just drunk my soup like that - it felt like a thick countryside soup.

Noodles: Relatively soft, but very good though.

Egg: Half of a quite hard, but good egg.

Toppings: A few crunchy, mild and sweetish menma. A couple of tomato slice.

Overall, it was a very convincing mix, a bit like Watanabe Seimen in Kyoto and Toyonaka. I’ll have to try their other specialties, the KK100 and the TM3 (seriously, what do they smoke to find inspiration in naming their ramen, the same stuff as they do in IKR51?)

More info on ramendb.

The shop's website.

For a review of the first Myata Menji (now gone): Friends in Ramen

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Takakura Nijo (Kyōto-shi, Nakagyō-ku)

麺や 高倉二条
めんや たかくらにじょう
Menya Takakura Nijou

Ramen (yuzu noodles) with ajitama: 19 / 20

The adventure at Takakura Nijo starts before entering, right in the queue, when you smell the delicious scent escaping from the aircon system. As I entered, I had a strong impression of déjà-vu: those golden teapots… this atmospheric lounge music… those two kind of noodles (yuzu and regular)… Of course, it is a Sugari-lookalike! The atmosphere is a bit less fancy here, but they indeed belong to the same chain. I ordered the ramen with ajitama, and chose the yuzu noodles.

Broth: An excellent tonkotsu gyoukai broth, relatively thin but intense in taste, without being overwhelming, on the sour side. Delightful and original at the same time.

Noodles: Absolutely delicious yuzu noodles. They were slightly on the soft side, but despite my addiction to barikata noodles, I loved them.

Meat: One slice of braised chashu, perfectly balanced, firm enough but with just what is should have of melting fat, and a powerful - but not overwhelming - taste.

Egg: A very well cooked ajitama, on the hard side, which fits perfectly well with the rest.

Toppings: One thick, fibrous, firm menma with a very balanced mild, salty taste. A cherry tomato with a pickled taste.

You can also help yourself with some sanshou (japanese pepper), and some garam masala that for some reason tasted like cinnamon and fits DIVINELY well with the broth.

Let me put it shortly: this is the most perfectly crafted ramen I ever ate in my life. Period. They even beat their brother Sugari by having a better cooked egg (although you may prefer Sugari if you're more into motsu than into chashu). I don’t see how this bowl could get any better - except maybe by moving to the even more atmospheric Sugari. Obviously, this is subjective, you may not like this kind of broth and find it too sour. But for me, this is perfection made ramen. I’ll keep the 20/20 rating for the day some ramen will fall from heaven on Earth. But this one may as well have been.

More info on ramendb.

The list of all the shops.

Other review: Go Ramen!

Shinjuku Menya Fuka (Kyōto-shi, Shimogyō-ku)

新宿めんや 風花 (本店)
Shinjuku Menya Fuuka (Honten)

Yasai shio ramen: 14 / 20

This restaurant south of Karasuma station in Kyoto specializes in shio ramen of different kinds. I noticed they had a purely vegetable version of shio ramen, which was a welcome healthy suggestion after all the ramen I had been eating lately.

Broth: A good shio broth, with a very hot, fatty upper layer - beware!

Noodles: A little bit curly, and slightly too soft for my taste.

Toppings: Lots of various tasty braised vegetables.

Not much to say here, but a good ramen, that would be perfect for a flexitarian (some bones must surely be used to make the broth, but the bowl does not include any meat or eggs).

More info on ramendb.

The shop's website.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Ramenman (Osaka-shi, Chūō-ku)

ラーメン専門店 ラーメンマン
らーめんせんもんてん らーめんまん
Ramen Senmonten Ramenman

Ramenman: 12 / 20

Finding a ramen after 9 pm can become significantly more difficult. Several looked tempting on my ramendb app, but they were all closed at that time. I finally found a not-too-lowly ranked ramen; let’s try it. I ordered the signature dish of the shop, the ramenman.

Broth: A tasty, spicy broth with a Korean twist.

Noodles: Too soft.

Meat: Nothing exceptional but melting enough.

If you need a ramen after 9 pm in this area, you may consider this place. But I would not recommend it otherwise, although the shop with its toothless owner definitely has some atmosphere (if some day I want to shoot a movie about a very local ramen joint, I will go there).

More info on ramendb.

Kappa (Osaka-fu, Minoh-shi)

Kappa Ramen Honba

Black tonkotsu ramen: 11 / 20

After Kieiken, another ramen shop located on the road 171 which passes north of Osaka University's Suita campus. This one draws its name from kappa, a Japanese mythological creature. Is their ramen a myth too? Unfortunately, no. I had their black ramen, with 'losu' meat (you can chose between 'losu' and 'bara').

Both: Assari tonkotsu-shoyu with some black, garlic liquid. That’s usually a winning combination for me (that’s the kind of broth that made me fall in love with ramen four years earlier at Ippudo!), but here, the black sauce was too fat. Not unpleasant, but nothing exceptional, really. Also, as many tonkotsu-shoyu broth, this was too salty.

Noodles: Barikata, as I ordered.

Meat: The losu was really nothing special. The bara my colleagues were eating did not look much better.

Toppings: The menma were a bit hard, with a very subdued version of the classical taste of menma. Not very enjoyable.

I would recommend to stick with the classical version of the ramen, that you can order in light taste, or koi (concentrated) – I had a better impression of this ramen last time I went there. If you are in the area, Ippudo or even Kieiken would be a better choice.

More info on ramendb.

Other review: Friends in ramen (Minami shop)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Gundan (Kyōto-shi, Sakyō-ku)

Ramen Gundan

J-mazesoba ninniku: 15 / 20
(J-まぜそば にんにく)

This ramen restaurant may not be the most famous of Ichijoji, but got pretty good reviews, and I was curious to try it. However, they specialize in a very kotteri (thick) ramen and tsukemen, which did not sound like a great idea less than four hours after my tonkotsu-shoyu ramen at Bishiya. So I went with the J-mazesoba, thinking that it may well be lighter; oh but by the way, what could the ‘J’ mean?... It is only when I saw the pile of bean sprouts on top of my gigantic bowl coming towards me that I got it: ‘J’ stood for ‘jiro’. I wanted to have something not too heavy, and I ended up with a jiro ramen, probably the heaviest dish in the universe... well, whatever, I’m not going to let that go to waste.

Sauce: No broth obviously, but a pleasant, very garlicy sauce, that coated nicely the noodles under a garlic fat layer. The more I ate, the fatter the broth was, until it was definitely too fat and I gave up.

Noodles: Thick, firm and curly, good noodles.

Meat: A very large, thick part of pork, crumbly (not unlike some tuna in a can), with a quite light, but pleasant taste.

Toppings: As usual in jiro ramen, there was a large pile of toppings: crunchy cabbage sprinkled with chilli powder, bean sprouts, and lots of garlic mixed in the sauce.

The mix of bean sprout, thick delectable noodles and garlic has definitely a lot of appeal to me, and I've never been disappointed by a jiro ramen - admittedly, I haven't tried much either, maybe 5 or 6 in total. This one was comparable in quality with the few ones I've tried before, but the sauce was definitely too fat after a while, hence the ‘only’ 15 rating. Oh yeah, and that was definitely too much meat.

Note also that if you are a fan of jiro ramen, there is another one in the same street, Yume wo katare, just before the corner with Higashioji dori, which is kind of a local fame (it was actually there that I ate my very first jiro ramen, four years ago).

More info on ramendb.

Bishiya (Kyōto-shi, Sakyō-ku)


Tonkotsu-shoyu ramen: 16 / 20

Coming to Ichijoji in Kyoto for lunch on a saturday during the momiji season (and possibly during any season) is not really a good idea. Crowds of hungry ramen lovers swarm in front of all the ramen restaurants - at least, the good ones (the queue in front of Takayasu was daunting!). I wanted to try a relatively recent restaurant which opened a couple of years ago, but there was still a one hour waiting time at 14:15 (and, as I would discover later, the same waiting time later at 17:15 - impressive!). Not very patient in nature, I chose to try a ramen shop that did not get so many reviews, but only good ones, Bishiya. As the name indicates, it specializes in Yohohama-style iekei ramen (all iekei shop finish by the 屋 kanji, which reads "-ya"). As it happened, I had tried iekei ramen only once - at nothing less than the founding restaurant of the style, Yoshimuraya, in Yokohama. Since the queue in front of Bishiya was somewhat shorter than in front of the other local celebrities, I decided to give it a try. This was a good idea.

Broth: A thick tonkotshu-shoyu broth, delectable although quite salty (nothing unexpectable when you add shoyu in a tonkotsu broth…). The juice perfectly coated the noodles in a fatty layer. You can add some pepper, which I would recommend - it fits well with the broth.

Noodles: Slightly thicker than the regular tonkotsu noodles, good quality.

Meat: A slice of thin chahsu that falls apart a bit - not too bad, but could be better.

Toppings: Some spinach - not so tasty, but I guess it’s nice to have some vegetable (although that’s more of an excuse). Some kikurage, negi and a slice of nori.

Difficult to compare it with Yoshimuriya, as I tried it already some time ago, but it lived up to the expectations. One could say that it is not surprising, since Yoshimura has put his recipe in open access, but I've heard several ramen experts complaining about the general low quality of iekei ramen across the country. I cannot imagine anyone complaining about this one, though.

More info on ramendb.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Kinsei (Osaka-fu, Ibaraki-shi)

Ibaraki Kinsei

Niboshi shoyu ramen : 14 / 20

Having taken the wrong train, I ended up in Ibaraki-shi, about 20 kms from where I was supposed to stop. Although I had sworn to myself that this would not be one more ramen-day, the opportunity was too tempting and I had to transmute this slightly annoying incident into a great experience, by trying some local ramen before doubling back. I went to Kinsei, the most highly ranked ramen restaurant around Ibaraki-shi station - and in continuation with my Tokyo-trip, I ordered the niboshi-flavored shoyu-ramen (they also serve a niboshi shio ramen).

Broth: The shoyu and niboshi taste was pleasant but light (I wouldn't have recognized the niboshi inside).

Noodles: Nothing special here, classical straight noodles.

Meat: A couple of slices of a relatively fat, kind of OK chashu.

Egg: There was a very small egg – could it be quail egg ? Behind the crunchiness of the white part, the yolk exploded in the mouth. Quite good.

Toppings: Some long, white and strongly tasted negi. A few crunchy menma with a very light taste and some unknown notes.

So overall, this is a good ramen but I don't think it deserves to go out of one's own way – I find it a bit overestimated on ramendb. Kudos for the creative use of the quail egg, though.

More info on ramendb.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Ishin (Tōkyō-to, Shinagawa-ku)


Niboshi ramen: 16 / 20
Niboshi tsukemen: 13 / 20

This ramen shop located 300 m from Meguro station has a definitely pleasant vibe, with its white bright atmosphere and jazz background music. My friend ordered the niboshi ramen, and I chose the niboshi tsukemen. Let’s start with the former:

Broth: A wonderful niboshi broth enhanced by some yuzu notes – a beautiful harmony!

Noodles: A little bit curly and slightly too soft for my taste.

Meat: Very lean and tender, but very mild in taste.

Toppings: Some soft menma with a light classical taste, some purple onions, white negi and herbs.

I love niboshi, I love yuzu, so I was bound to love this broth. Although the remainder of the ingredients were not so exceptional, this elegant broth could compete with the best niboshi around.

Unfortunately, my tsukemen was less remarkable:

Broth: Light in taste and sticks little to the noodles, not bad but a little bit disapointing when compared to the ramen. The soup wari was too diluted and totally uninteresting.

Noodles: Very thin noodles for a tsukemen, they kind of looked like whole grain but still had some elasticity. Interesting change but not so convincing – also, they were quite sticky and it was a bit difficult to separate them from each other.

Meat: Two slices of pink ham (I guess?), which gave some colorful twist to this elegant bowl, but hardly tasted anything.

Toppings: A very long menma branch, tender behind the crunchiness, but light in taste. Some parsil, and some mitsuba.

An interesting and elegant bowl, but not as convincing as expected. I would definitely recommend to stick to their niboshi ramen – and they also have more classical shoyu (see Ramen Tokyo's review) and shio ramen that might be worth trying.

More info on ramendb.

Other review: Ramen Tokyo

Monday, November 10, 2014

Oto (Tōkyō-to, Adachi-ku)

麵屋 音
めんや おと
Menya Oto

Niboshi-shoyu soba: 13 / 20

After having (re-)tried the fantastic Nagi and En, I was in the mood for more niboshi-ramen comparison. I was in Kita-senju, and this happened to be the specialty of this shop in Kita-senju, so there was only one thing to do:

Broth: Very thick broth, with some yuzu peel, but the niboshi flavor was very light – too light for my taste.

Noodles: Firm and slightly brittle.

Egg: Half of a hard-boiled egg. Seriously, Oto-cook, what's the point?

Meat: Some braised, firm chashu, not bad at all.

Toppings: Some menma with a strong taste, crunchy at places and soft at others.

Although this was not unpleasant, I would recommend this ramen only to the kotteri ramen fans. Which I'm unfortunately not.

More info on ramendb.

Miso Matador (Tōkyō-to, Adachi-shi)


Miso tsukemen: 15 / 20

Matador and its beef-ramen in Kita-senju is a myth, but unfortunately a bit far away in the northern area (although conveniently located for tourists who want to enjoy Kita-senju's budget hotels). I was finally looking forward to try it... before I realized it was closed on Monday. Fortunately, the best app in the world (supleks ramendb, obviously) informed me that they have a spin-off restaurant that specializes in miso-ramen - sounded like a good alternative! I ordered the miso-tsukemen, a rarity in the ramen world (the only two I tried so far were at Kururi and Suzuran). 

Broth: A sweet-ish miso broth with many tomatoes, slightly spicy. It was pleasant both before and after adding the wari-soup.

Noodles: Firm and good.

Meat: Some pleasantly flavored minced meat, next to the noodles. It was a good idea they were not served in the broth, as the miso taste would probably have overpowered their subtle notes.

Toppings: Some nori sheet, which did not fit so well to the broth IMHO.

So it was a pleasant surprise, recommended for sure, although not exceptional. Compared to my memories, the broth was stronger and more pleasant than in Suzuran, and not as intense as in Kururi (which may be a good thing – Kururi's aftertaste is too strong for me, although most ramen-fans seem not to mind) – but I had quite a few bowls since then (euphemism), so it's a bit difficult to tell. I'm not sure if they use beef bones also in the tsukemen, as they do in the main Matador restaurant, and also apparently here for the miso ramen; but for sure, I could not taste anything special in this respect. Anyway, if you fancy a miso tsukemen (and also miso ramen, if I believe the other reviews), that's definitely a place to go.

More info on ramendb.

Other reviews: Ramen Adventures, Ramen Love

Sunday, November 9, 2014

En (Tōkyō-to, Hachioji-shi)

煮干鰮らーめん 圓
にぼしいわしらーめん えん
Niboshi Iwashi Ramen En

[Niboshi] shio ramen: 18 / 20
Niboshi [shoyu] ramen: 18 / 20 

I had been at En in Hachioji during my one-month Tokyo-stay a few months ago before I started this blog, but I was still kind of a ramen-rookie at the time (probably under 100 bowls), and it was the first time I had tried a niboshi ramen. Now going to the Showa kinen koen a few stations away from there, I thought it was a good occasion to re-try this monument of the ramen world with more experience. That was a good idea. I took the shio ramen, and my friend the niboshi ramen (both are niboshi based, but the niboshi ramen has some shoyu added - you can also try the 'mukashinagara' bowl for a shoyu with some more punch).

Broth: Very simply, En’s broth is sublime. A model of niboshi-ness, with enough fat to concentrate the subtle taste and make it infuse into your whole body. If I should just rate the broth, En would score 20 / 20: this tare is out of this world in its simple perfection. Both the shio’s broth and the shoyu’s broth ranked equally, with the shoyu’s one having a little bit more of roastiness and more pungent, and the shio more smooth (nearly buttery?) letting the niboshi express itself in its whole purity. I might have a slight preference for the shoyu one (the so-called 'niboshi ramen'), but not enough to rank them differently. Both are divine.

Noodles: Katame and relatively brittle (maybe like some kind of whole grain noodles, although they didn’t have the typical light brown color). There was quite a lot of them though and they became soft after a while. Enjoyable enough, but not the kind of noodles I love - I prefer more elastic noodles.

Meat: The letdown of the bowl. Although the roasted edge of the slices was very pleasant, the fat inside was quite elastic and the meat not up to the level of the rest of this bowl.

Egg: Half of a superb ajitama, with a very tasty white part (infused with shoyu) and a gooey yolk. I appreciate that they provided only half of it, this was just the right amount necessary to enjoy it.

Toppings: Some thick menma with a square section, soft and crunchy at the same time (don’t ask me how that’s possible, just go there and try by yourself), with a strong taste, that perfectly harmonize with the broth.

With better chashu (and noodles a bit more to my taste), this ramen could have score 19 or even 20. But this is a model of a ramen, and if you are a fan of niboshi broth, you definitely have to try it some day.

I usually don't post the pictures of my bowls once finished, but I thought that this one was cute:

More info on ramendb.

Other reviews: Ramen Adventures, Timeout

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Jankudo (Tōkyō-to, Shibuya-ku)


Italian abura soba: 11 / 20

Jankudou specializes in abura soba and offers an impressive variety of them. I tried the italian one that seemed to be the most ‘healthy’ – if one could speak of a healthy abura soba.

Sauce: Nothing really special except that it tasted like cheap olive oil.

Noodles: Relatively brittle (rather than elastic).

Toppings : Some cubes of unremarkable ham, some basic parmesan, and some tomato and salad.

Although no ingredient was remarkable in itself, the whole thing was not unpleasant to eat – but it cannot be recommended either. Despite the interesting variety of abura soba, I would not recommend wasting time and ramen-energy there, unless you're a die-hard abura soba fan who decided to try all of them in the capital city (good luck).

More info on ramendb.

Friday, November 7, 2014

KING KONG (Tōkyō-to, Toshima-ku)

いけめん きんぐこんぐ
Ikemen Kingu Kongu

Torofuru tsukemen:  17 / 20

King Kong had been on my radar for a long time, as it was on Ramen Adventures' first recommendation list, but for some reason I did not find myself so much in Ikebukuro - and most of the time I was there, it was to bring friends to Tokyo's most crazy place, Namjatown, where you can eat gyoza from all over Japan (try also some of the 60-or-so ice cream flavors there, you'll be surprised!). So this time I was in the area with no plan to go to Namjatown, I really wanted to try at last this mythical tsukemen.

Broth: A dense and sweet tonkotsu gyoukai broth that sticks very well to the noodles. The sweetness seemed to come from some green unidentified stuff - and was maybe a little bit ovepowering after some time, but really brought an interesting twist to your usual tonkotsu gyokai fix.

Noodles: Very firm noodles – at first I thought they were even too firm, but as it happened they were quite pleasant like that. They did not have the eggy taste that you often find in tsukemen noodles.

Meat: A slice of biocolor, very melting chashy, infused with delicious fat, and two slices of leaner meat – was it chicken? There was also some minced white meat in the broth but it didn’t really bring anything.

Toppings : Some thin, menma with a strong, typical taste of preserved food. You can also add some curry powder to the broth for some interesting twist.

Overall, an excellent tonkotsu gyoukai tsukemen. Looks like I missed their special apple/yuzu vinegar - a good reason to come back some day.

More info on ramendb.

Other reviews: Ramen Adventures, Japantravel

TOKYO UNDERGROUND RAMEN Ganja (Tokyo-to, Toshima-ku)

とうきょうあんだーぐらうんどらーめん がんじゃ

Kotteri tsukemen: 15 / 20
(濃厚 つけめん)

Arriving early with the night bus in Tokyo at Ikebukuro, I wanted to use the time I had there to maximize the number of ramen I could sample. Therefore, I was happy to discover that a relatively highly praised ramen shop was opened from 10 am. I tried their kotteri (thick) tsukemen (it is their default option, but they also offer a ‘light’ tsukemen that seems to be shoyu-based), with ontama (alternatively, you can go for a more classical ajitama).

Broth: Kotteri it said, kotteri it was: that may have been one of my thickest tonkotsu gyoukai broth ever (the divine Fuunji is out of competition, as it is chicken-based). It sticks exceptionally well to the noodles, but lacks a little bit of taste - fortunately, there is a little bit of powder on top of the bowl to add some punch. As usual, the soup-wari pushed the taste towards more fishiness.

Noodles: Flat and thick noodles, with a good, classical taste of eggy tsukemen-noodles.

Meat: A few meat-‘allumettes’ in the broth (sorry for importing some more French words into food vocabulary, but I don't know the equivalent in English, I don't think that 'meat-match' would sound so great...), nothing exceptional here.

Egg: The ontama was very runny, I was not sure how to combine it with the dish. First I tried to dip the noodles in the ontama before re-dipping them in the soup - it made an even thicker coating, not unpleasant.  Then I mixed it with the soup, but it didn't really bring anything. I would rather recommend to stick with the classical ajitama (in case it is good, I have no idea about that), or to order your dish without egg.

Toppings: A few fin and alumettes-shaped menma, very salty and crunchy, with a mild aroma.

So overall, a good tsukemen, and one that - I presume - some thick-broth-fan may fall in love with, but for me it did not reach exceptionally high levels. They also have a tantanmen-mazesoba that I’d like to try some day. Not that the settings were quite pleasant, with one side of the counter facing a large mirror, and the other side facing a wall of big stones.

More info on ramendb.

Other review: Go Ramen!