Saturday, February 28, 2015

Shunnosuke (Osaka-fu, Toyonaka-shi)


Chuka soba: 14 / 20

I had been at this ramen shop south of Toyonaka a few months ago to try their reimen and had been very pleasantly surprised. On my way through Shonai station, I decided to stop again to discover another of their dish. I continued my shoyu ramen comparison of the last few days to challenge my natural lack of interest for this kind of ramen.

Broth: A classical shoyu broth, not too strong but subtle and pleasant. If I understood correctly the cook, this was made using a mix of niboshi, saba and katsuo - as well as some chicken bones. I could not recognise the niboshi (which I love!) unfortunately, but that was a good broth.

Noodles: Relatively thin and too soft to my taste. They remained very hot quite a long time, so 'gambatte' with your best slurping!

Meat: Two slices of good chashu with melting fat.

Toppings: Some thin, sweet-ish and very mild menma.

Overall, a good - but not exceptional - shoyu ramen. I clearly prefered the reimen I had last time, but that may be just a matter of personal preference. If you are in the area and like shoyu ramen, it’s worth stopping by. Also, the cook is serious but friendly.

More info on ramendb.

Maru Joe (Osaka-shi, Chuo-ku)

中華そば 〇丈
ちゅうかそば まるじょう
Chuuka Soba Maru Jou

Small chuka soba: 15 / 20
(中華そば - 小)

I had been to Maru Joe about one year ago, but this was before I started taking my notes. It has a very high rating on ramendb, which I thought at the time was a bit exaggerated. I decided to give it another try, now that I had a few more shoyu ramen under my belt; also, Ben from Friends in Ramen had told me that this was a representative of Takaida-kei, and I wanted to discover more about this style. I was very happy to see that it was possible to order their chuka soba in a small portion, which was exactly what I needed after those slightly-too-ramen-intense last days. Arriving at 2:15 pm on a saturday, I had to wait 45 minutes before being served! Finally, here comes my bowl.

Broth: A dark shoyu, relatively similar to Kinguemon (which is not surprising, since both are Takaidai-kei). Compared to the latest shoyu I had, it had a much more meaty and herbal taste and was sprinkled with some pepper. Somehow, the experience was slightly closer to a European soup - but only slightly. Very umami, very good.

Noodles: The classical shoyu-ramen noodles, straight and a bit thick and yellowish. They were less firm than at Gunjo the day before, though.

Meat: A couple of thin slices of chashu that were just OK - I wish the fat would have been more melting.

Toppings: A few rectangular, crunchy and mild menma.

So, this was a good and well-crafted bowl, but I keep my original opinion: I think it is slightly overrated. But I generally prefer shoyu ramen with some additional taste - for example the niboshi I had at Katoya, or the sweet gyokai I had at Gunjo. As for Takaida-kei, Kinguemon was better in my memory (it had a stronger taste of dark shoyu), although I should try it again some day to be sure. But anyway, Maru Joe is a safe bet if you want some good local shoyu, in case you don't mind waiting (I noticed that shortly before the closing time at 3:00 pm, people could enter without queueing). And I definitely want to come back to try their "Maru Joe soba", a Wakayama-style bowl.

More info on ramendb.

Other reviews: Friends in Ramen, Take a bow

Friday, February 27, 2015

Gunjō (Osaka-shi, Kita-ku)


Zansetsu ramen: 17 / 20

When we met, Ben from Friends in Ramen had reminded me about Gunjo near Tenjimbashisuji rokuchome (a.k.a. Tenroku) - his favorite tsukemen in Osaka. I had not planned to go there before a couple of weeks, having had much too many bowls on my counter lately. But a French friend of mine who likes ramen came in the area to have a beer with me, so I could not disappoint him: I decided to go for the best of the best and we went to Gunjo. At 7:15 pm on a Friday evening, there were eight people ahead of us. Not so long for such a famous shop, and 20 minutes later, we were in. I was not in the mood of something too thick though, and living now in the area, I knew I could come back anytime, so I had the shoyu ramen - which I wanted to compare with the two shoyu I had the day before at Ramen Expo. My friend ordered the tonkotsu gyokai tsukemen - his first ever! Let’s review the shoyu ramen.

Broth: A sweetish shoyu broth, very much on the gyokai side (with a niboshi flavor), and simply delicious. Actually, the taste of shoyu was a bit masked by the sweet and fishy notes, which is fine for me. The broth became a bit too fat at the end though, I would not recommend finishing it.

Noodles: Yellow, relatively straight noodles, firm enough, very much like the ones I had the day before in Katoya's bowl at the Ramen Expo.

Meat: Three cubes of very decent meat that somehow looked like kakuni (alas not as delightful - I love kakuni!).

Toppings: A few rectangular menma, crunchy and soft at the same time (as is often the case when the menma is not homogeneous), with a rather mild taste. Some white negi - not unpleasant with the broth - as well as some greens.

That bowl was a delight, mainly because of its very original broth - the mix of fishines and sweetness was brilliant. Surprisingly, my friend didn’t like his tsukemen - he thought it was too sweet - so I guess he's a lost cause for tsukemen. I tried it a bit and found it delicious (did I taste some hints of tomato in the wari soup?), so I’m looking forward to come back and have a full bowl.

More info on ramendb.

Other review: Friends in Ramen (for the tsukemen)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Katōya (Ramen Expo / Shiga-ken, Otsu-shi)

まぼろしのちゅうかそば かとうや
Maboroshi no Chuuka Soba Katouya

Shoyu niboshi ramen: 17 / 20

Haven eaten quite my share of ramen in Tokyo during my recent stay, I was thinking to eat only one bowl at the Ramen Expo. However, after finishing the curious Naniwa ramen club bowl, the temptation was high, and the small size of the bowls convinced me to try another ramen that looked very tempting, a niboshi shoyu from Shiga. From outside, both the broth and the noodles looked relatively similar to the former one:

Broth: Ah!!! That’s what I like. A dark shoyu, very strong niboshi broth, yummy! That’s definitely one of my favorite kind of broth.

Noodles: They looked quite similar to the former bowl's noodles: relatively straight, slightly thicker than usual, yellowish - to say it short, very typical ‘chuka soba’ noodles. But definitely more firm. Despite this, the taste of the broth sticked well to them.

Meat: A smoky thin slice of beef: both original and delicious.

Toppings: The two thick and fibrous menma in this bowl really puzzled me: they were so hard to chew that they definitely seemed undercooked. Could it be that the conditions to prepare a ramen were not optimal at the EXPO 70 park? I can believe so - wait for my reviews of later bad experience at ramen fairs!

Except for the menma, this bowl was a great success, appealing to my love of strong niboshi shoyu. Excellent. It looks that this restaurant has quite a few shops across Kansai, and even one in Osaka, but most of them seem to specialize in some kind of jiro ramen - you can only find the niboshi at their Shiga shop.

Also, I could taste a little bit of Daruma’s ramen that Ben's friend ordered. I’m no expert in Hakata ramen, but it seemed to me slightly thicker and stronger in taste than the regular ones - I may prefer such broth in a thinner version. The meat was remarkably fibrous and delicious, and overall I would give it something like a 15 / 20.

Finally, Ben had a bowl of Do-miso - I tasted a bit and it looked like quite a decent bowl, spicy and with thick, short and good noodles. Wait for his test to know more about it!

More info on ramendb.

Naniwa Ramen Club (Ramen Expo / Osaka-fu)

みつか坊主 X 麬にかけろ X ストライク軒 X JUNK STORY
みつかぼうず X ふすまにかけろ X すとらいくけん X JUNK STORY
Mitsukabozu X Fusuma ni Kakero X Strike Ken X JUNK STORY

Crab ramen: 16 / 20

Before I start writing about this unusual ramen, a short note. Until now, I used to backdate each ramen post (except the very first ones) to the day when I ate the bowl; but as I'm always a couple of months late, this showed a big gap between my last post and the current date, and some people believed that this blog was not active anymore. Therefore, from now on, I'll give to each post the date I published it (and some time after a post is published, I will backdate it to the day when I ate it, so that readers have a fair view of how old my advice is).

Anyway, let's resume. After meeting Brian from Ramen adventures on Monday, I continued my discovery of the English-speaking ramen-blog scene by meeting Ben from Friends in ramen. What better place to gather two ramen fan than the ramen expo in Osaka at Bampaku Kinen Koen?

I was firmly decided to try some exotic ramen that was not from Osaka-fu, but Ben informed me about a collaborative ramen from four of the most awesome ramen shops of the province: Mitsukabose, Fusuma ni Kakero, Strike Ken and JUNK STORY. Wow, I had to try this! So what do you get when you mix a restaurant specialized in miso broth, another one known for its subtle shrimp-flavored broth, a third one for its new-wave clam-ramen, and the last one for its chicken tataki? You get a crab ramen. Yes, it makes no sense, but whatever.

Broth: A shoyu broth - I could not taste the crab in it, but it had a very distinctive, and quite pleasant, seafood taste.

Noodles: They were relatively straight, slightly larger than usually, yellow and quite soft - the perfect incarnation, as I see it, of Kyoto-style ramen noodles. Let’s say it straight: this is not the kind of noodles I usually love. However, as it happened, they soaked very well the juice, which was a brilliant idea in the context of the ramen expo: we didn’t have any spoon to eat, only chopsticks, so it was great to be able to eat noodles AND soup at the same time. I don’t know if they wered designed on that purpose, but it worked very well anyway.

Meat: What a profusion of meat! The effect of collaboration ramen, as it seems. There were some thin slices of chashu, not so good-looking but pleasantly enhanced by melting fat (some of them too fat for me though); some lean, but quite tasty bits of pork meat, just covered by a thin but good fat layer; and also some small hard bits of lean meat in the broth. Not bad, but the bowl definitely didn't need all that meat.

Toppings: Some negi, that’s it.

Was it really necessary to gather four of the best ramen shops in Osaka to do this? Each of them separately could actually prepare something at least as good - but anyway, it was a high quality ramen. If you missed it, don’t worry, you can safely go to each of these shops and eat a ramen of the same standard - or even better.

Now, my ramen experience at Bampaku Kinen Koen was not over... (stay tuned!)