Saturday, October 3, 2015

Marutora (Osaka-shi, Ikeno-ku)

○寅 麺屋 山本流
まるとら めんや やまもとりゅう
Marutora Menya Yamamotoryuu

Shio ramen: 16 / 20

This place features a number of thick ramen, including a kotteri miso tsukemen, but I chose their ebi shio – I trust Ben to sample the miso one some day!

Broth: A good shrimp taste, quite intense – as often with shrimp ramen.

Noodles: Straight and thin, neither soft nor hard, a good match with the seafood notes.

Meat: Thick, soft, fat chashu, with a relativey subdued pork taste, not bad at all.

Egg: Salty and with a gooey yolk, inegally cooked but quite good. The white part has subtle flavors.

Toppings: Some thin menma with a strong classical taste, the classical balance between crunchiness and softness – some of them were quite juicy. Some green, round negi that were a good fit with the soup. A few small shrimps. Some yuzu zest – but its taste was kind of crushed by the strong flavor of the soup.

Overall, a very convincing ebi shio ramen, more balanced that the quite salty IKR51, and which would be interesting to compare with Ganko. A good place to stop on Osaka's loop line, at Teradacho station – note that there seems to be a couple of other quite good ramen places around.

More info on ramendb.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Hesd'ramen (France, somewhere the middle of a secret forest)

As I went back to France to see my family, they had prepared a surprise for me. You bet it is what you think it was - a ramen!

 (no, don't worry, we didn't eat it with fork and knife)

No industrial low-quality ramen here, totally home-made! And I must say I was impressed: a very tasty tonkotsu-shoyu broth, with a strong taste of rustic pork; pleasant, fat, firm noodles; a good, tender chashu; and a very well cooked ajitama, with a gooey yolk as it should be, on the hard side, and a strong taste of shoyu infusing the white part. Only salt was a little bit off-balance, but overall, that was a very professional ramen.

As I would discover later, this was quite akin to Wakayama-style ramen.

Bravo la famille!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Rakunijin (Osaka-shi, Kita-ku)


Iwashi ramen: 16 / 20

After Fusuma ni Kakero, Ibuki, Mengenso, Strike Ken and Gunjo, it had been a while I wanted to visit this highly praised ramen restaurant in my beloved area of Temma. Finally, here I am, and I order one of their intriguing special dishes: the iwashi (sardine) ramen.

Broth: The first sip gave me the impression to drink the mixed content of a can of sardines. Later, the taste became milder, more inbetween the canned sardine and the niboshi: the usual niboshi pungency, but with a more intense taste. Original and delicious.

Noodles: Thin and straight, and not so firm.

Meat: The thin slice of pork looked like reassembled meat and did not look promising. That was a wrong impression: it had an original and good peppery taste.

Toppings: Some aburaage in the bowl, why not... A couples of crunchy slabs of menma that tasted more like fresh bamboo, peppered with shichimi - a nice twist. And a sheet of nori that fit well with the broth, as usual with niboshi.

A very good bowl that every niboshi amateur should try. Note that they also have a wafu chuka soba, a 2004 chuka soba and a thick, fish tsukemen - guess I'll have to come back!

UPDATE: The wafu chuka soba was good (review to come some day) but I was more impressed by the iwashi ramen.

More info on ramendb.

Other review: Friends in Ramen

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Tanron / Wakamatsu (Hyogo-ken, Nishinomiya-shi)

ラーメン たんろん
らーめん たんろん
Ramen Tanron

Mendokoro Wakamatsu

Noko toritonkotsu niboshi ramen: 15 / 20

Every Sunday (if I understood correctly), Nishinomiya's ramen-star Tanron becomes Mendokoro Wakamatsu and changes its menu to only once choice: a noko toritonkotsu niboshi (thick chicken-pork-sardine ramen). I was quite glad to see that there were only six people queuing when I arrived there; twenty minutes of waiting under a leaking roof later, I was seating in front of my bowl.

Broth: A thick broth that was neither too fat, nor too salty, and covered well the noodles. Curiously, it seemed to have retained only the pungency of the niboshi, but not the rest of the characteristic taste;  quite an addictive pugency, I must say. An interesting mix for sure.

Noodles: Square, mochi mochi, eggy, delicious noodles. I ordered the nami (regular) size - a good idea, as it was already quite copious.

Meat: A thin, large cold slice of chashu, fat and average. The bowl would be better without it.

Toppings: A few menma, sweet'n salty, with the classical menma taste; some were crunchy and some not so much.

Wari soup: You can order either tori paitan (thick chicken) or gyokai (fish) broth. I ordered the latest, and got some pungent dashi, that again did not really taste like niboshi. It was not enough though and the soup remained too thick too drink though (but you can certainly order more if you want to).

An original and good soup, a bit spoiled by the very average meat, but definitely recommended. As I left at 12:20, there was no queue anymore: Sunday seems to be a good day to go to Tanron, if you don't mind having it changed to Wakamatsu.

More info on ramendb: Tanron, Wakamatsu

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Yosuko (Osaka-shi, Kita-ku)

揚子江ラーメン 名門(本店)
ようすこうらーめん めいもん
Yousukou Ramen Meimon (Honten)

Ramen: 12 / 20
Haikotsu-men: 13 / 20

This place is not really the kind of ramen joint I would naturally have gone to. Probably because of the cheap plastic ramen in the frontage – come on, Yosuko, do you really think you will attract customers like this? It looked like a cheap Chinese restaurant offering basic ramen and gyoza to a not-too-regarding crowd. But it had good ranking on ramendb and I didn't want to have a heavy ramen, after my lunch at Hanabusa, so I gave it a chance with a friend of mine.

Broth: Very light broth, made from torigara and tonkotsu. It seemed a bit bland at first, but it actually had some deep umaminess (due to kombu, I presume) and even a hint of sweetness. No fish in this, as the chef confirmed to me.

Noodles: That must have been the softest ramen noodles I've ever eaten. I'm afraid this is not really my favorite style.

Meat: Some thin slices of unremarkable meat, although not unpleasant. My friend had a different meat, with some suji (tendons), quite tasteful.

Toppings: Some bean sprouts, as well as some green, pungent shungiku kikuna. You can also add some dried onions, but I think they crush the relative subtlety of the broth.

This bowl fitted my image (which may be wrong) of a Chinese ramen, with its soft noodles, light broth and slightly unremarkable meat. Not really my style, but it was not unpleasant and I can imagine that some people may love it. If you give it a try, I recommend taking the 'haikotsu' bowl with suji.

More info on  ramendb.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Hanabusa (Osaka-shi, Chuo-ku)

Menya Hanabusa

Shio ramen: 17 / 20

I must say it straightaway: I had a grudge against Hanabusa. I had already tried to come there twice, at times when it should have been opened according to ramendb; and on both occasions, it was inexplicably closed. In any other circumstances, I would have given up, but this restaurant was on the list of the Ra-Sai festival, so it was out of question that I would fail to earn my oh-so-precious bowl (yeah, slight irony inside) because of them.

However, all my gudge disappeared when I took my first sip of their shio ramen.

Broth: An intense shio with a light taste of both niboshi and kombu, not too salty, very balanced and harmonious.

Noodles: Good, slightly curly noodles, with an eggy taste, very easy to slurp. There were quite a lot of them in this deep bowl, actually!

Meat: Two small slices of delicious, crumbling chashu, with just what it should have of melting fat.

Egg: Half of a very well cooked egg with gooey yellow, on the hard side – although the white was a bit soft and could have been a bit more tasty.

Toppings: A few thin, long slices of pale bamboo – they did not really have the typical preserved taste of menma.


Overall, that was a great bowl, very Ibuki-like, and definitely worth trying. For information, they are closed on the third Saturday of each month, but as of August 2015, this still does not appear ramendb. Ramen shops of Japan, thank you in advance for updating your info on ramendb!

More info on ramendb.

Other review: Friends in Ramen

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sanku (Osaka-shi, Fukushima-ku)

烈志笑魚油 麺香房三く
れっししょうゆ めんこうぼう さんく
Resshouyu Mengoubou Sanku

Kake ramen: 17 /20

We had plans to go to Komi to continue our Ra-Sai with Ben, but the shop was closed because of some accident, leaving us with only a sticker to fill our ramen-bingo-sheet. Fukushima was on our way back to the city, an area that offered the promise of a huge choice of ramen. We turned to Sanku, which Ben had already tried some time ago, and that I had unsuccessfully tried to visit a couple of months earlier. Only three persons in front of us, that’s a chance for such a famous shop!

We were first served some kind of simmered potato with a little bit of meat as an appetizer, a nice start.

I ordered their regular dish, the ‘kake ramen’.

Broth: It was salty, very fishy (with some slight pugency due, I presume, to niboshi), intense in taste, and had an interesting graininess in mouth. Delicious!

Noodles: Some curly, thin noodles - not bad, but I would expect something a bit more unique here.

Meat: Two large slices of a thick, onctuous, tender, melting chashu – just great.

Toppings: Some spinach (or maybe komatsuna?), as well as some long bits of hard, white negi. At the bottom of the bowl, I also got half of an iwashi (sardine), but it was slightly burned, and not-so-exceptional in taste.

Ben had the tsukemen, which had REALLY huge noodles, very thick and long (one noodle was enough for a mouthful!), but quite light in taste. The broth, a shoyu tori paitan / tonkotsu, had some kind of veggie texture and a very special taste, kind of fishy, definitely familiar but we couldn't put a name on it. I would rate it somewhere around 16/20, depending on the quality of the meat.

Finally, you get some very good desert made from coffee jelly bean.

Because of the diversity of small dishes, the very detailed explanations, and the friendliness, this shope does enter into the "excellent" category! And as I went out, I realized that they have a niboshi ramen, the gyusan ramen, I guess I’ll have to go back there.

More info on ramendb.

Other review: Friends in Ramen

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Shiki (Osaka-fu, Moriguchi-shi)

麺ゃ しき
めんや しき
Menya Shiki

Shiki-men (shoyu-niboshi ramen): 16 / 20

It was time to hurry up a little bit with the Ra-Sai ramen festival - I still had quite a few bowls to try to finish the stamp rally! On this day I went to Menya Shiki, a relatively isolated ramen shop, fifteen minutes away by subway north-est from Tenroku. Their menu features the Shiki Men (a shoyu-niboshi), a shio-niboshi, a mazemen, as well as a tori paitan tsukemen with tataki chicken. The choice was difficult but my love for niboshi was the strongest and I ordered the shoyu-niboshi, with curly noodles (you can also order straight ones if you prefer).

Broth: As my bowl was getting closer, I knew I had found a winner: the niboshi fragrances were making me hope for something seriously good here. And indeed, it was, a real niboshi bomb, the way I love them - what a delicious pungency! And it wasn't as fat as it looked like. It seems that shijimi is also used in the broth (as in Kuso Oyaji Saigo no Hitofuri).

Noodles: Good curly noodles, very easy to slurp. A lot of it!

Meat: The letdown of this bowl. You get two small, thin slices of overfatty kata-rosu, and one slice of bara that tasted like liver. Which is not my favorite thing in the world...

Toppings: A serious asset of this bowl: a few thin strands of kombu, which brought some crunchiness, as well as a great idea - a few bits of solid niboshi, crunchy under the tooth as they disaggregate, just wonderful! Also, a long, juicy menma branch with a relatively fresh taste. And a sheet of nori which - as usual - fits well with the niboshi broth.

This broth was great – it kind of reminded me the now defunct Hachi in Tokyo for the niboshi broth and the variety of chashu. Too bad the meat was not so convincing, otherwise it could have deserved a 17 / 20.

More info on ramendb.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Kokko (Osaka-shi, Kita-ku)

Shio Kokko

Shio ramen: 11 / 20

All the places I wanted to go to were close on this Saturday a-bit-too-late-in-the-afternoon, so I ended up at this shio-ramen restaurant not far from my home, which I had been curious to try when passing by.

Broth: A simple taste of chicken soup.

Noodles: Nothing remarkable.

Meat: Some elastic, salty, smoky chicken.

Toppings: Some beautiful purple and green negi, and kezurikatsuo.

An elegant but very unremarkable bowl. No need whatsoever to stop there. If that’s your only option, I would recommend eating something else than ramen - there are so many good options around in Tenjimbashisuji and Temma.

More info on ramendb.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Matsuzaka Gyumen (Osaka-fu, Suita-shi)

Matsuzaka Gyuumen (Suita-ten)

Matsuzaka Gyumen: 16 / 20
(松坂牛麺 )

Speak of an isolated ramen place! Seriously, who would think of opening a ramen shop one kilometer west from the far up north Yamada station? If he wanted quietness, that’s a miss: even on a Thursday evening at 20:00, a few people were queuing to eat there. What’s the reason? Not the elegant interior with a long, modern wooden counter. Neither the pleasant sencha nor the hot oshiburi that you get when you arrive. Certainly not the robotic waiter and waitress. No, the reason is simple: people come here for the unique-in-the-world carpaccio-ramen – locally known as the Matsuzaka Gyumen!

Broth: As you see it on the picture, you get served the broth separately from your bowl, and can then pour it as you like – in particular, on the beef meat that you see in the middle. Ingenious! The broth is a light but intense shio, very appreciable.

Noodles: Kind of whole grain noodles, which stick a little bit to each other and break easily under the teeth.

Meat: For me, the nice thing in pouring the broth by yourself is that you can choose how much you want to cook your meat. Rare? Just pour a bit of broth on it and the rest all around. Well-done? Just pour everything on it. You also get a few bits of fat hormon (offal).

Toppings: Some mizuna, as well as a slice of lemon that you can press in your broth for some enjoyable zing.

At 1030 yens, this bowl is not cheap, but all along worth it. If you’re broke, you can still switch to their other option, a kasu-ramen that I would really like to try some day. This ramen place is far away from everything, but it is unique in its style – or nearly unique, since there is a twin shop in Nishinomiya. If you like ramen-oddities, don’t miss it!

More info on ramendb.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Kuso Oyaji Saigo no Hitofuri (Osaka-shi, Yodogawa-ku)

Kuso Oyaji Saigo no Hitofuri

Asari ramen: 18 / 20

Contemporary artworks and rows of Corona beers in a Swiss-chalet-looking restaurant... an oshiburi brought to you as you arrive... this ramen restaurant is different, as should be clear from its name ("the last crappy old man"??). To be convinced, just look at the menu, which offers three kinds of clam ramen: asari ('littleneck clams' - not to be confused with 'assari', which means 'thin'), a thinner-taste shijimi ('freshwater clam') and a hamaguri ('common orient clam'). I chose the former.

Broth: This first spoon was a ramen-experience like I did not have had so many times in my life – one of the most prominently examples was five years ago at Ippudo, the very first sip that made me fall in love with ramen, or Nagi, which triggered my love for niboshi. Wow! Such an intense shoyu, with sweet notes and a deep umaminess from the clams that will sweep you away. The art here is not only on the wall, it is first and foremost in your bowl.

Noodles: Whole grain, a bit firm but not too much, just perfect.

Meat: Two large but thin slices of smoky chashu, quite intense in taste and with the right amount of fat – an excellent fit with the broth.

Toppings: To change from menma, an intense and sweet takenoko – gosh, that might be the best bamboo I ever had in a ramen! Some clams: they were good and a nice change, but after a while, I got a bit tired of them, especially because of the sand to be found in some of them. Maybe the only fault in this otherwise perfect bowl.

Frankly speaking, this shoyu ramen is close to perfection, and instantatly joined my personal pantheon of ramen next to places like Fuunji, Takakura Nijo, Nagi or Kirari. Even if you usually do not like shoyu ramen, you have to try this bowl. Clam-based soup might be my new love after niboshi.

More info on ramendb.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Mutahiro (Osaka-shi, Fukushima-ku / Sengoku ramen event)

中華そば ムタヒロ(大阪福島店)
ちゅうかそば むたひろ
Chuuka Soba Mutahiro

Shio ramen: 16 / 20

It was difficult not to notice this funny smiling guy wearing a hat and overalls on the Sengoku ramen event pictures.

It would have been even more difficult to miss him in the middle of the crowd during the event, using a carrot as a microphone (sic) to advertise his ramen. This was not the reason that made me chose his stand, though: as it happened, he was promoting a thin shio ramen with plenty of vegetables, exactly what I needed as a second, lighter bowl after Nibojiro.

Broth: A peppery light broth which had taken the taste of the fried bean sprouts. Very pleasant. It became too fat towards the end, though.

Noodles: Ah, such beautiful noodles! Look at them – do they remind you something?

If you guessed right, you're a real ramen expert: as Ben told me, those are Nagi’s noodles, which offers possibly the best niboshi ramen of Tokyo. Firm, very curly, they surprisingly fitted extremely well with the broth despite its significant difference with Nagi's – those noodles are magic!

Meat: A lot – too much, actually – of firm, good chicken. At some point, I swear I could taste some yuzu notes, but they vanished as fast as they appeared.

This countrysidish bowl was a very good surprise. Unfortunately, you won’t find it at the shop they have opened recently in Osaka's Fukushima area – but as I would discover later, the dishes there have nothing to envy to this one. To meet the guy talking to a carrot, I'm affraid you'll have to go to Tokyo though.

More info on ramendb.

Other reviews: Ramen Adventures 1 (niboshi ramen, Tokyo), Ramen Adventures 2 (tori paitan, Tokyo), Ramen Adventures 3 (niboshi mazesoba, Tokyo)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Nibojiro (Kyoto-shi, Sakyo-ku / Sengoku ramen event)

Kyoto Saiin Nibojirou

Nibo-shio-tonkotsu ramen: 14 / 20

And one more ramen event – the ramen Sengoku! I had mixed feelings about former events such as the Ramen Expo, but I could hardly pass on this one – and which ramen-companion could be better than Ben to go there?

My choice for my first bowl went to Nibojiro, which I selected because it was a ‘nibo-shio-tonkotsu’ – an uncommon mix (even niboshi-tonkotsu is not so common, although it has been popularized by Tamagoro). I like ramen oddities, I love niboshi, so I had to try this!

Broth: The first sip was quite intense in niboshi, but surprisingly, my tongue became rapidly desensitized and the pungent notes vanished, leaving a not-unpleasant-but-not-so-remarkable tonkotsu taste.

Noodles: Contrarily to many noodles I ate at the Ramen Expo, they were quite well-cooked. Congrats, as this is appears to be a difficult feat in such a context!

Meat: A thin, lean chashu with a relatively uncommon taste, yet difficult to characterize.

Toppings: Some miso paste, ground beef and onion. So maybe after all one should call it a miso-shio-niboshi-tonkotsu-tantan-inspired ramen? In my knowledge, only Mengenso managed to push the mix of styles so far!

Overall, a good bowl, but not as exceptional as I expected it to be. I needed to continue with something more exceptional on that day…

More info on ramendb (for the regular shop, with a different menu)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Kukan (Narara-ken, Nara-shi)

Menya Kuukan

Mazemen: 16 / 20

This time, it was decided: I would go to Mitsuba! This famous ramen restaurant a few stations away from Nara, at Tomio, happened to be close last time I try to go there – but it was 2 pm, so that was understandable. As I drew near around 12:20, I was surprised not to see anyone queuing. Hmm, strange. Anyway, I enter the restaurant, get ready to pay my ticket at the machine when the waiter comes to ask me if I have a reservation ticket: all tickets for the day had already been sold out by 11:30, as he told me – unbelievable!

On the other side of the road, a huge queue of probably similarly disappointed Mitsuba-wannabe-eaters were queuing in front of Hanayama, which didn't looked bad either – but there was no way I would be waiting behind twenty-five people. Thus, I decided to turn to this well-kept secret I had found last time, Kukan, and use this opportunity to try their mazemen (be informed that they also offer tsukemen, tonkotsu shoyu ramen, tonkotsu shio ramen, chuka soba…).

Sauce: Quite good, it had a pronounced taste of sesame.

Noodles: Firm, whole grain and good quality

Meat: A few cold bits of firm chashu, with a nice macerated taste.

Egg: One raw egg to mix with the rest.

Toppings: Some excellent bits of fresh, warm bamboo (not menma, apparently), as well as the regular negi.

The whole mix was quite good, not too salty, and the egg gave a nice viscosity to it. You can also add some laiu and vinegar, but I don’t think that it brings much more to this bowl – it is already very good as it is.

I still have to eat a bad mazemen, and this was no exception to the rule. Kudos for the use of fresh bamboo!

More info on ramendb.

Other review: Philoramen (for the shio lemon ramen)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Ikkei (Osaka-fu, Ibaraki-shi)

麺屋 一慶
めんや いっけい
Menya Ikkei

Shio ramen: 16 / 20

Ikkei looks like a high-tech kitchen that has just been finished the day before  although it apparently exists since at least 2009. The large flat screen was the only jarring note in this elegant restaurant. I ordered their shio-ramen, but they also serve some highly praised shoyu ramen and tsukemen.

Broth: Intense in taste, kind of buttery, with a nice balance of fat and salt. Harmonious.

Noodles: Good noodles with a whole grain texture that definitely gives a special feel to them. They are easy to slurp, and break without difficulty in the mouth.

Meat: Very lean and strong in taste, it seemed kind of undercooked at places.

Toppings: A long, irregularly shaped menma, and some greens for a fresh touch.

All in all, this was a very balanced bowl nothing revolutionary but a very good, well crafted harmony.

More info on ramendb.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Hiroya (Osaka-fu, Kashiwara-shi)

Tokushima Ramen Hiroya

Tokushima ramen (with raw egg): 12 / 20
(徳島らーめん , 生玉子)

As I was going to the far away station of Domyoji to see some (awesome!) plum blossom with a friend, I decided to have a try at some local ramen. I managed to find a restaurant which was opened on Sunday and had received some good comments. I was excited to see that it specializes in Tokushima ramen, a quite special style of ramen, topped with baraniku and raw egg – I had tried it only at (the not-so-exciting) Todai before, so this was a good occasion for a second try.

The shop looks very much like a ‘roadway’ ramen, quite big, with a long counter, a few tables, and a canteen feel. Seems like a familial business, with the friendly old lady serving people. I ordered the version with the smallest portion of meat, and a raw egg – following the tradition.

Broth: Salty and assari, a not so special tonkotsu-shoyu broth. You are supposed to mix the egg in it, but it didn’t bring much, the soup is barely thicker with it – if I had to come back (but I won’t), I wouldn't order the egg. Sprinkle some pepper for a welcome addition.

Noodles: Not so firm.

Meat: A couple of hard pieces of meat, not bad, a bit smoked, quite different from usually – the fat part was not so interesting though.

Toppings: Some crunchy and salty menma with a classical taste of preserved food. A few moyashi that brought a little bit of freshness.

Overall, it was not bad, but nothing special either – barely better than Todai's ramen in my memory.

More info on ramendb.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Kirari (Kyoto-shi, Fushimi-ku)

つけ麺 きらり
つけめん きらり
Tsukemen Kirari

Norinori tsukemen: 19 / 20

This shop is special – this is obvious already from the outside, with people inconfortably queueing on the elevated rim of the pavement. I had been there a few months ago to try their shioton ramen, and had been so enthusiastic that it was clear to me I had to come back to try their "norinori" tsukemen. A day of plum blossom hunt in Kyoto was the occasion for this.

Broth: A very thick tonkotsu gyokai that sticks perfectly to the noodles – in a somehow similar fashion to Fuunji in Tokyo, although not as sweet (because it’s tonkotsu, and not torigara, as far as I know), and with maybe a more pronounced gyokai taste. The soup is so thick, and sticks so much to the noodles, that I basically finished all of it with my noodles (although I had order the regular, "nami" size, not the big one!) You also get a piece of lemon that you can press into the broth, but I don’t think it’s worth doing so. And I did unfortunately put too much of dashi in my soup wari, so this part was not a great success.

Noodles: Thick noodles with an egg taste, not very salted, very mochi mochi, just perfect – they were kind of hard to slurp though.

Meat: A few cubes of onctuous, delicious meat, with a very melting fat.

Egg: Two halves of a sublime egg: tasty white, whose taste is progressively submerged by the intensity of the gooey yolk.

Toppings: Many sheets of nori and some white onion in the bowl, that both fit perfectly well with the broth. Three very thick, fibrous menma, not so salted – they had a flavor that was definitely familiar, but I could not put a name on it (if you ate there and have any idea, please leave a comment below).

Look at this tsukemen, proud like a peacock making the wheel. And proud it can be: very simply, this tsukemen is perfect. Your personal preferences might make you lean towards other dishes, but like at Takakura Nijo, I cannot think of any flaw. If you are on your way between Osaka and Kyoto on the Keihan line, do yourself a favor and stop here. Icing on the cake: the employees are very friendly.

More info on ramendb.

Other review: Philoramen (for the shio-tonkotsu ramen)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Jikasei (Osaka-fu, Suita-shi)

自家製にぼしらあめん 秀一 (穂波店)
じかせいにぼしらあめん しゅういち
Jikasei niboshi ramen shuuichi 

Seabura ramen: 15 / 20

Wow, this restaurant is far from the station! Fifteen minutes on foot at least, west from Suita station, through a very nondescript area. But finally, here I am, in front of a shop famous for its ‘seabura ramen’ with niboshi and sammma. No hesitation to have, that's what I order.

Broth: An intense, fishy shoyu broth with some hints of niboshi – very good, but unfortunately a bit too fat (hence the name of ‘seabura’ - this refers to pork back fat). Not too salted – that was appreciable.

Noodles: A quite large portion of very decent noodles – I wouldn't have minded if they were a bit more tasty though.

Meat: Two beautiful small slices of braised chashu, with a delicious (but a bit overabundant) melting fat.

Toppings: Good peppery menma – some small, and some large and soft. Some negi and wakame flavored with goma oil – as often, the negi fits well with the pungency of the niboshi taste.

My neighbor had ordered the ‘zenbu nose’ version and I regret I didn’t, as it gets you two other kinds of noodles: some dark sesame noodles, and some made with jako fish (if I understood correctly), which really woke my curiosity. However, the zenbu nose comes with extra chashu, and the two fatty slices you already get in the regular bowl are more than enough IMO. The cook is quite friendly so you might manage to negotiate a ‘zenbu nose’ without the extra chashu (how would you say that, 'hanbu nose'?) In any case, this guy was really dedicated to his work and proud of it – it was a pleasure to talk with him. If you are a fan of ramen oddities made by real ramen craftsman, brave the distance and come here.

More info on ramendb.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Mentetsu (Osaka-fu, Toyonaka-shi)

豊中 麺哲
とよなか めんてつ
Toyonaka Mentetsu

Shoyu ramen: 13 / 20

This ramen place close to Toyonaka station is quite popular, and was one of the last in the area I hadn’t tried yet. There is a long counter surrounding a relatively large kitchen space, in which you can see the cooks jumping from one giant pot to another, and preparing the bowls with four hands. I ordered the shoyu ramen – the restaurant’s osusume – but they also serve a shio broth.

Broth: An intense shoyu broth with some Western notes that reminded me of French ‘pot-au-feu’.

Noodles: They had the right elasticity, but a slightly less smooth feel in mouth than usually, because of their square section.

Meat: A (too) large slice of a very average chashu, with a small part of fat.

Toppings: Some short, sweetish menma with a strong taste. Some long negi, and a sheet of nori.

This was a really classical shoyu ramen – which kind of reminded me Strike Ken’s straight bowl in a slightly less perfect version. That’s not really my favorite kind of ramen, but if you fancy this kind of bowl and you are in the area, you may give it a try.

More info on ramendb.

Other review: Friends in Ramen (Umeda shop), Sukimatime

Monday, June 29, 2015

Kadoya (Osaka-shi, Nishi-ku)

Kadoya Shokudou

Niboshi ramen : 14 / 20

Nishinagahori is not exactly the kind of place where you would dream to spend your week-end. But I was there on a mission, namely finally try this Kadoya restaurant, a real fame in Osaka's ramen world. It offers an interesting variety of dishes: chuka soba, shio ramen (both with or without wanton), a tsukesoba, and a niboshi ramen. Of course, I chose the latest!

Broth: Hmm, the strong niboshi flavor, I will never get tired of it. Roasted, pungent, slightly bitter, this broth has everything an authentic niboshi broth should have. However, there were quite a few small morcels of fat floating in the broth, which really became overpowering towards the end.

Noodles: A lof of starchy and (too) soft noodles: disappointing.

Meat: A slice of chashu with an alternance of lean meat and firm fat (too firm, and too much of it). Better to order your bowl without this, IMHO.

Toppings: Some green negi, and a small sheet of nori – both fit quite well with the niboshi flavor, but the nori became too quickly soaked.

So, should you go to Kadoya? This was good overall, but in my opinion, this restaurant is clearly overrated. I was lucky enough to have only five people ahead of me when I arrived there on a Sunday at 14:00, but as I went out at 14:30, there were about twelve people queueing! Ibuki's bowl the day before (a shop without any queue whatsoever, BTW) was much more balanced – although Kadoya's broth had slightly stronger niboshi notes which may be more to my taste. Maybe their other dishes are better, but it looks like Ben also thought that their shoyu broth was a bit overestimated. You can go there, but it’s not unmissable. And as a note, Anomichi and Taku in the area are quite well praised also.

More info on ramendb.

Other reviews: Friends in Ramen, Battera

Friday, June 26, 2015

Ibuki (Osaka-shi, Kita-ku)

中華そば いぶき
ちゅうかそば いぶき
Chuuka Soba Ibuki

Kuro Iriko soba: 16 / 20

I continued my Ra-Sai with the closest ramen to my place, Ibuki. They serve different bowls, including a tsukesoba, but their specialty in an ‘iriko ramen’. I had no idea what iriko was, but went with the recommendation, as I often do.

Broth: An intense shoyu broth, with the perfect amount of fat, not too salty, some herbal taste, as well as a pungency that rang a bell… niboshi, of course! ‘Iriko’ is just the name given to niboshi in Western Japan - and it is here used in the soup (rather than in the tare, as it seems to be the case usually). The taste was not overwhelming, though. A very well balanced broth.

Noodles: Squared-section noodles with a good balance between softness vs. elasticity.

Meat: A couple of small slice of a very bipolar chashu: a very lean part surrounded by a fatty edge. I generally prefer when the fat infuses the lean, and this fat could have been more melting. I don’t think that this meat was really interesting and worth putting in the bowl.

Egg: Half of a very well cooked egg, with a tasty white part and gooey yolk.

Toppings: Some wakame as well as subtly sesame-flavored menma, both quite crunchy.

This was a very harmonious bowl, all ingredients were carefully crafted and balanced, except the meat: with a better meat – or no meat at all – it could have deserved a 17 / 20. If you go to this area, make sure to visit some of the cool cafes of nearby Nakazakicho (like Café Minto, from where I am writing right now), or one of the pleasant restaurants of Temma.

More info on ramendb.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Motor Boo (Osaka-shi, Kita-ku)

Motor Boo

Tsukemen (with raw egg): 18 / 20

(Note: I'm slightly changing the layout of the blog in order to increase the size of pictures; that may change a bit again during the next few days while I'm fine tuning this. Let me know in case of problems etc.)

After 7.5Hz+ and Monjiro, I decided to continue the exploration of the ramen-rich Kitashinchi area. Difficult not to notice the odd name of "MOTOR BOO" standing out amidst all Japanese-named places (by the way, a small piece of advice: if you want to get extra attention for your place, just write it in capital letters; cheap but efficient). I was about to discover that its name is quite fitting: it is probably one of the most unusual tsukemen place ever.

Following the signs, I arrived on the second floor in a fancy small bar. I was surely wrong – but no, the waiter asked me if I was looking for tsukemen! If you’ve ever wanted to enjoy a Yamazaki whisky with your bowl, that’s the place.

Simple to choose your food: they only offer tsukemen, that you can order with a raw egg on the side – as I did. The friendly, dressed-up waiter started to prepare my bowl.

Broth: A delicious sweet and sour gyokai tonkotsu, that transferred the perfect amount of taste to the noodles. You can dip your noodles in the egg after dipping them in the broth – don’t let them too long, or the egg will dilute the taste of broth, but with a quick dip this was a simple, perfect combination!

Noodles: Perfectly firm – they could have a little bit more taste, but nothing really to complain about. I barely dared slurping in such a fancy atmosphere!

Meat: A fair amount of meat, with both tasty lean and melting fat, and the perfect crumbliness. A model.

Toppings: A few very large and thin slabs of menma on top of the noodles, relatively sweet, neither soft nor firm, but very good. You also get a few squares of white negi in the broth that bring some sharp crunchiness, a few brins of rucola, and some black pepper to sprinkle on the broth. A lot of small twists that made this bowl a real culinary roller coaster!

Soup wari: A very round and harmonious soup wari – and totally huge! I could barely drink half of it, but it was a perfect ending to this bowl.

What an unexpected surprise! This place reminded me Sugari in many respects – an excellent tsukemen in an unusual atmosphere – although both bowls are pretty different. This bar is clearly Osaka's ultimate ramen dating place, and – taking into consideration not only the quality of the bowl, but also its atmosphere – ranks among the most exceptional ramen place in Japan. The question is not whether you should go there, but when – and, most importantly, with whom.

More info on ramendb.

Other review: Friends in Ramen

Sunday, June 21, 2015

JET600 (Osaka-shi, Higashinari-ku)

ラーメン人生 JET600
らーめんじんせい じぇっとろっぴゃく
Ramen Jinsei Jetto Roppiaku

Torigara tsukemen: 16 / 20

Shoyu ramen: 16 / 20

JET 600 is a spin-off of nothing less than one of the two most highly ranked Osaka ramen restaurant on ramendb, JET (which is running neck-and-neck with Yashichi). It looks like their menu slightly differ though, as there is no shio ramen here, but a shoyu ramen and a chicken-based tsukemen. My friend ordered the former, and I ordered the latter – let’s start with reviewing mine.

Broth: A good-if-not-exceptional chicken broth, less thick than what I thought at first – a thicker brother could have transferred more taste to the noodles.

Noodles: Flatly-shaped noodles, very beautifully presented in a bowl. They have a very interesting slimey and elastic texture, and looks like partly whole-grain (half-grain?). Really great noodles, I must say - and once dipped in the broth, they become perfectly slippery.

Meat: Two large slices of pleasant meat, salty and juicy. Good, but way too much - and some parts were too fat.

Toppings: A few thin slabs of crunchy, very mild menma.

Soup wari: The soup wari was more earthy than the broth, and excellent.

This was a very good tsukemen, but I think that as far as tsukemen is concerned, tonkotsu usually fits better than torigara (chiken bones) – it was a bit too light in taste for me, like at Kogaryu Seimen in Hyogo (there is one exception to this rule, though, namely the divine Fuunji...) Anyway, the alchemy between the noodles and the broth was fantastic for sure (last time I had this was at Zyurumen Ikeda in Tokyo), so if you want to eat some chicken-based tsukemen, do not hesitate, run there. Oh and don’t worry, it looks like the bowl of noodles is huge, but there is a zaru under the noodles, so there are not as much of them as what you might think at first.

The shoyu broth of my friend had a distinctive and excellent taste of niboshi (but is apparently also made from saba and samma), enhanced by the use of mitsuba, which gave some herbal notes; but the noodles were a bit soft for my taste. The meat seemed harder than the one I had, and somehow slightly sweeter. The menma were identical.

Overall, a very good place, but it would certainly not enter my Osaka's top 5 list. Is their mother shop better? As I would discover later, it isn't (review is coming).

More info on ramendb.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Monjiro (Osaka-shi, Kita-ku)

つけ麺 紋次郎 (大阪駅前第二ビル店)
つけめん もんじろう
Tsukemen Monjirou

Tsukemen: 13 / 20

I continued my exploration of the undergrounds between Nishi Umeda and Kitashinchi. After 7.5Hz+ two weeks ago, another restaurant seemed worthwhile of attention: Monjiro. Lost in the underground maze, it is a bit difficult to localize even with a smartphone (look at the printed maps!), but finally, here I am. I ordered the special, their gyokai tonkotsu tsukemen - has been a while I haven't had any.

Broth: A quite fat gyokai tonkotsu broth, pleasant for sure, but that did not give so much taste to the noodles. You get some fish powder on top of a small bit of nori sheet: I recommend to mix it right away to the soup as it is otherwise a bit mild. You also have on the side some yuzu powder and shoyu/vinegar mix that you can use to spike a little bit your bowl. It makes it better indeed, but does not turn it into something exceptional either.

Noodles: Thick, firm and curly – in a kind of hard-to-slurp way. The taste was a bit bland, though.

Meat: A few bits of a very unremarkable chashu. I would have preferred my bowl without that.

Toppings: Different kinds of menma: some thin and crunchy, and some large and soft – but all mild in taste.

Soup wari: You get a yakiishi (hot stone) to heat your broth, as in TETSU. The soup wari wasn’t bad, but nothing to write home either – for once, it wasn’t on the gyokai side. Adding the yuzu powder made it kind of better, again.

I would recommend this bowl only to the gyokai tonkotsu addicts. Otherwise, places like Suzume, Teru, Mita Seimenjo or Roku San Roku are better in my memory – and wait for my reviews of the excellent Küche and Motor Boo! (and BTW, the latter is not far from Monjiro)

More info on ramendb.

Other (more enthusiastic) review: Friends in Ramen

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Taku (Osaka-shi, Naniwa-ku)

Menya Taku (Ebisu ten)

Niboshi ramen: 15 / 20

I had to keep my rhythm of one ramen of the Osaka Ra-Sai per week, and I was going to the atmospheric area of Shinsekai with a friend on this sunny Sunday, so this was a good occasion to visit Taku at Ebisucho beforehand. Taku specializes in heavy broths, but for the sake of my health, I chose a lighter one - especially since they had a niboshi I was of course curious to try.

Broth: The soy taste was light, but the niboshi notes were definitely present. Very pleasant!

Noodles: Well cooked, in a katame way.

Meat: An average chashu, with firm fat - too much of it, actually.

Toppings: Some thin, crunchy menma with a classical taste.

A no-thrill but really good niboshi broth. If you’re not that much into niboshi, you can skip this one though - but remember that they have many different dishes, including a special, intriguing “ore no shio”.

More info on ramendb.

Other reviews: Friends in ramen 1 and Friends in ramen 2 (both for the chicken-gyokai ramen), Friends in ramen 3 (for the tsukemen) (yep, Ben loves Taku!)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Daimyo (Osaka-fu, Minoh-shi)

Daimyou Ramen (Honten)

Yuzu ramen: 14 / 20

Here I am again, going to eat a ramen along the road 171 north of Osaka University's Suita campus. This time, we went to Daimyo, another tonkotsu shop. Minoh specializes in yuzu product – even their mascot is a yuzu character! – and fittingly, this shop offers a special yuzu ramen. I never had such a thing, so obviously, I had to try it.

Broth: Yuzu it tastes indeed! One cannot really feel any other taste in the soup, even the pork flavor is kind of masked – although the soup had obviously the typical tonkotsu creamy structure. A kind of silky yuzu juice. It is described as "sappari" – which means "refreshing in a light way" – but it was overall similar in texture to many assari tonkotsu ramen you would eat out there. Also, it is supposed to be made with olive oil, but I could not taste any hint of it.

Noodles: Katame, as I ordered.

Meat: Three small slices of a good chashu, very melting, really the kind I like, although it could have a slightly more pronounced taste.

Toppings: Some refreshing bean sprouts, and some green negi (which, IMHO, did not fit that well with the broth).

Overall, a no-thrill but good ramen, very original for its yuzu taste. I must say I prefer small bits of yuzu zest in a ramen – it makes the soup higher in contrasts, expectations and delightful surprises, never knowing when taking a sip whether you will bite on one of those bits or not. Anyway, this restaurant might be your best choice in the area with Ippudo, significantly better than average neighboring shops like Kappa, Kieiken or Genkotsu.

More info on ramendb.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Hoi (Osaka-fu, Toyonaka-shi)

麺屋 ほぃ
めんや ほぃ
Menya Hoi

Shoyu tori paitan: 17 / 20

Shio tori paitan: 16 / 20

On this Tuesday evening, I met Ben to continue our Ra-Sai. This led us this time to Toyonaka at Hotarugaike station, an area I know well for having lived nearby during one year, and famous in the ramen world for the miso-ramen star Mitsukabozu. I had never noticed Hoi before though, and the ramen festival was the perfect occasion to fix this mistake. Hoi specialize in a tori paitan that they prepare in a shoyu version (that Ben ordered), and a shio one (that I took). Let’s compare.

Broth: My broth was very good, but Ben’s one was just excellent, as it had some additional fishy (niboshi and katsuo) essence in the tare – I did not recognize the niboshi, but it gave a delicious smokey twist.

Noodles: Thin and not too hard, this enhanced the general Kyoto-ramen feel of the bowl (although they were not as soft as Kyoto noodles).

Meat: OK, here those bowls go way over the top, with three meaty toppings. First, a delicious slice of peppery, smoked duck (with a thick layer of fat, in a French "magret" style). Second, a meatball with very pleasant gingery notes. Third, a nearly raw slice of chicken breast. I must say that I was less convinced by the last one (and it’s not because it was half raw - I loved chicken tataki at Junk Story, for example), although it was an interesting experience.

Toppings: My bowl had some smoked saba with aosa nori - was it a dream or did it somehow taste like parmesan? You also get some mizuna leaves for a fresh twist, and some pleasant notes of crunchy white onion. Finally, there are some very small hanakatsuobushi on the noodles, barely seeable.

In conclusion, an excellent ramen - but I recommend ordering the shoyu version.

More info on ramendb.