Sunday, May 31, 2015

Rokudo (Osaka-fu, Toyonaka-shi)


Sappari tsukemen: 15 / 20

I had other ramen-plans around Toyonaka station but they happened to be close on that day, so I turned towards this low-key shop with fake concrete walls (seriously??). They serve a variety of dishes, including a shoyu ramen, a tori paitan, as well as two kinds of tsukemen: kotteri (a mix of torigara and tonkotsu) and assari - I chose the latter.

Broth: A very salty shoyu-katsuo-torigara broth that didn’t inspire me so much – not enough taste could be transferred to the noodles.

Noodles: Very good eggy, thick noodles, quite chewy – it looks like they are home made.

Meat: Two large slices of smoked pork - delicious, although definitely overabundant.

Egg: Half a delicious egg, on the hard side, with a very tasty white part.

Toppings: A long branching menma, quite salty but otherwise mild (not sure it was preserved, it may have been fresh). A slice of nori - beware not to soak it too much.

Soup wari: You get some subtle dashi (with a pleasant kombu taste) that you can pour to your liking: a nice personalizable option, but even pouring the whole thing wasn't enough - the broth was still way too salty and undrinkable.

What a contrasted bowl! Too bad the broth was slightly unremarkable, as it could otherwise have been a high class-ramen. One slice of meat less and a less salty broth would have been welcome. But that place is really worth checking if you are in the area - for me, it was better than the more famous Mentetsu.

More info on ramendb.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Mugen (Osaka-shi, Fukushima-ku)

中華そば 無限
ちゅうかそば むげん
Chuuka Soba Mugen

Niboshi soba: 16 / 20

Ben (from Friends in Ramen) had informed me about the Osaka Ra-Sai, a ramen festival that would last four months (from early February to the end of May), and during which you have to visit sixteen ramenya. I’m generally not a big fan of this kind of commitment-fostering event, but when looking at the shops that were participating, I saw many tempting places I had never heard about before. And here we are with Ben at Mugen, on the very first day of the operation, at the opening time!

Mugen offer quite a few different specialties: shrimp shio, chuka soba, niboshi ramen and even abura soba. I wanted to try all of them, obviously, but I went with the niboshi (and Ben with the chuka soba).

Broth: Ah, the delicious niboshi scent! One of the best niboshi broth I ever had, nothing less (and Ben's pungent shoyu broth was also quite good).

Noodles: Interesting shape, they were a bit flat and had the right texture.

Meat: What a letdown! A very insignificant slice of meat that felt as if it had been artifically put together. And a slice of chicken, barely cooked and equally pointless.

Egg: Two halves of a very runny egg. Good yolk, but quite soft, and with a tasteless white part.

Toppings: A long branch of bamboo - it may not have been menma, as it did not have a taste of preserved food; quite refreshing. The negi also fitted very well with the broth, as it usually does with niboshi.

Overall, a bowl that shines for its broth and could have been great without its very disappointing meat. Ramen-cooks over the world, please dare trying meatless ramen instead of using such industrial sh*t! The planet and our tastebuds will thank you.

More info on ramendb.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Dogyan (Osaka-shi, Chuo-ku)

宮崎郷土料理 どぎゃん
みやざききょうどりょうり どぎゃん
Myyazaki Kyoudo Ryouri Dogyan

Ten Chuka Black: 14 / 20

As I was coming close to this restaurant, attracted by their mazemen, something rang a bell... I had already been there! But it was before I started this blog, so that was a good reason to come back. The restaurant was full and I had to wait ten minutes in the cold, but the waiters brought to me some tea and put some heating outside – really, such things happen only in Japan! Finally, I could seat and order my mazem... nope, no mazemen left. Well, I guess I'll have their shoyu ramen again, then - could be worse, after all, it is the specialty of the shop, and one of the rare instance of Takaida-kei, this very local Osaka style.

Broth: That’s some intense shoyu! I had forgotten it was so strong. It was fatter than the ones I’ve tried in Kinguemon and Maru Joe – oscillating between the velvety (which is good) and the overfat (which is, well, not so good).

Noodles: Some quite thick, yellow noodles with a pleasant texture. Interesting. Curiously, they were kind of hard to slurp, and more than once I had to cut them with my teeth – heresy!

Meat: Definitely the letdown of this bowl: two slices of a very, very average chashu, with a hardened fatty part, and that looked overall quite cheap. Seriously, Dogyan-mastercook, if you would remove this meat, your bowl would turn WAY better.

Toppings: Many mild menma – some soft, some hard, and overall quite anonymous. Some green negi, which I thought fit well with the soup.

Overall, that’s a good ramen that suffers from a very suboptimal meat and a slightly too high degree of fatness. But that's one of the good places to discover this interesting style of Takaida-kei (although I would rather recommend you to try Kinguemon first). Apparently, the strongness of the soy sauce taste is due to the use of shoyu for sashimi, which is thicker than the one you normallly use in cooking. Note also that it is actually a real restaurant with a pleasant atmosphere - you know, one of those weird places where people can order a variety of seemingly edible things that are not wheat noodles in hot, salty liquid; you might want to give this strange stuff a try, some day.

More info on ramendb.

Other review: Friends in Ramen.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ennosuke Shoten (Osaka-shi, Yodogawa-ku)

Ennosuke Shouten

Soup-nashi Midorichan: 15 / 20
(汁なし みどりちゃん)

Awaji - such a convenient place to go! And such a depressing one too… I would have loved to live there for convenience, as it is perfectly placed on the Hankyu line between Osaka University Suita campus, Umeda, Tenroku, and on the way to Kyoto. But no, it is really much too quiet for me. Anyway, that shouldn’t be a reason not to try the local ramen.

Ennosuke Shouten specialize in a kotteri torigara ramen, but I was not so much in the mood for heavy soup, so I continued my recent soupless investigations and ordered the mazemen. Here it comes, beautifully covered by green negi.

Sauce: Both salty and sweetish, and with a strong, delicious katsuo aroma. Excellent.

Noodles: Just firm enough, they shouldn’t be more thoroughly cooked though.

Meat: Interestingly, there was some chicken minced meat with nankatsu for the crunchy touch. Why not...

Toppings: A lots of green negi as you can see, but very mild in taste. A raw egg, of course. And some bean sprouts.

Side-dish: You can help yourself with what looked like kimchi but happened to be good, spicy daikon.

Although I like nanktasu in itself, I was not really convinced by its use in mazemen. The whole thing was really good, but not as excellent as Marusho or Jikon. Anyway, you will certainly pass by Awaji some time when using the Hankyu line if you live in Kansai, so you should use the opportunity to discover this restaurant.

More info on ramendb.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Bakkoshi (Osaka-shi, Yodogawa-ku)


Kokuyu ramen: 16 / 20

Surprisingly for someone who lost his ramen-virginity at Ippudo (if one forgets a couple of poor, former canteen ramen experiences before - but you know, those are the ones that don't count), I have not reviewed so many tonkotsu ramen on this blog. One of the reasons is that my consumption of ramen being relatively high, I often turn my choice towards lighter and less unhealthy ones. But after my excellent experience at Amanojaku, I had to explore a bit more the tonkotsu landscape in Kansai. This brought me to this ramen shop just next to Juso station, in which you can order the regular tonkotsu ramen as it is, or in a ‘black’ version. That’s the one I chose.

Broth: You know the mayu, this black roasted garlic sauce that is sometimes sprinkled onto tonkotsu broth – most famously, at Ippudo? Well, they go here well over the top with that black wonder, fully covering the bowl with it. The whole thing is surprisingly sweet and pleasantly smooth. The mayu is a bit too fat to my taste though - especially towards the end, when so much of it remains that it becomes quite undrinkable. Interesting mix of strength and softness.

Noodles: Thin and straight: those are Kyushu noodles, no doubt about it. They could be a little bit more katame though.

Meat: Two thin slices of chashu. The first one was perfect, with just enough of melting fat, but the second was way too fat.

Toppings: Some kikurage, negi, and a sheet of nori – which, I think, does not fit that well with tonkotsu broth. There are also a few dried garlic flakes

This bowl was very good, but lacked a little bit of calibration – with a less fat chashu and mayu, it could climb to 17 or even 18.

Other reviews at ramendb.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Jikon (Osaka-fu, Daito-shi)

麺や 而今
めんや じこん
Menya Jikon

Aesoba 'kimutaku': 17 / 20
(キムラ君 / キムタク)

This ramen restaurant was scored #8 in Osaka-fu on ramendb when I tried it, but is quite out of the way - about 800 m from Konoike Shinden station, east of Kyobashi. Whatever, I had some time on this Sunday! I planned to arrive at 13:30, to avoid the queue (the shop is open for lunch till 14:30), but as I arrived, there were still about 10-15 people waiting. Thirty minutes later, I could enter into the fresco-decorated restaurant. They specialise in a niboshi ramen, and also serve a highly praised shio ramen, but as I had tried a few mazemen recently, I wanted to continue my comparison and ordered their aesoba (the ‘kimura kimataku’).

What a profusion of colors! A real mazemen hanabi. The noodles were firm and thick enough, and it had an interesting variety of toppings: mizuna, white negi, daikon tsukemono, kimchi, and some fishy salty mix. There was some ground meat with subtle spices. The whole thing was spicy, but not too much, and I think there was some japanese pepper as I could feel my tongue slightly numbed. When mixing all this, the fishy taste was at first a bit too overpowering, but then blended nicely into the rest. The takuan (daikon), in particular, brought some very pleasant sweetness. The Korean twist given by the kimchi was interesting as well.

Overall, an excellent dish, and a nice change from the Taiwan mazemen I’ve been used to lately. I’ll definitely have to come back to try their niboshi ramen. It seems that they are slightly understaffed though, as some seats were unoccupied when I entered, and stayed so for at least ten minutes, despite the queue outside.

More info on ramendb.

Other reviews: Kansai scene

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Amanojaku (Nara-ken, Nara-shi)

Menya Amanojaku (Honten)

Shio-tonkotsu ramen: 18 / 20

Miso ramen: 17 / 20

When I was looking for lunch for an alternative to Mitsuba around (see my former post), I had noticed this restaurant with its remarkably high critics, but it was unfortunately closed for lunch. No problem at all: when I came back from Nara with my friend after Yamayaki, we decided to stop there and try their various tonkotsu dishes. After more than 30 minutes waiting (this restaurant is popular, and it was Saturday evening!), I ordered the shio tonkotsu, and my friend the miso tonkotsu.

Broth: Wow! An assari tonkotsu, intense in taste but light in texture, very milky – exactly the kind of tonkotsu I love. You know, someting from the Ippudo/Ishimanji family (rather than classical Hakata style) – but this one beat them! Seriously, it may be the best tonkotsu ramen of this style I ever had. I just regret it was slightly too salty.

Noodles: A bit too soft to my tatste.

Meat: A delicious slice of crumbly meat, braised and with the right amount of fat – again, the kind of chashu I love!

Toppings: A few menma, soft but with some hard fibers and a classical taste – not the best menma I’ve had, I must say, and kind of the letdown of this otherwise awesome bowl. You can also help yourself with some seasonings of all kinds - dried garlic flakes, ginger, different kind of sauce... there was more choice than in a good Hakata ramen shop!

The miso ramen of my friend had the same broth (although mine had a little bit of some juice sprinkled onto the broth – maybe the shio tare that for one would not be mixed in the soup?), and some added miso – it gave an interesting twist, which I would recommend to miso fan; but as for me, I preferred the tonkotsu-shio.

So, very briefly: this is the best tonkotsu broth I had in Kansai, and possibly anywhere else. A new favorite, too bad it is so much out of the way.

More info on ramendb.

Other reviews: The Semishigure

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Kukan (Narara-ken, Nara-shi)

Menya Kuukan

Lemon (shio) ramen: 15 / 20

It is difficult to screen good ramen restaurants in Nara prefecture, as few of them got many reviews on ramendb. There was however this place, Mitsuba, that stood up and was conveniently located near Tomio station, on the Kintetsu line from Osaka to Nara. Unfortunately, when I arrived there, it was already close (and as I would find out a couple of months later, the soup is usually already finished by 11:30 on week-ends! yes, you read right, 11:30) There were some other good options, but they were either already closed for lunch or offered only jiro style (and my stomach was begging me not to order a jiro), so I turned to the unkown at Kukan. Good surprise: on the second floor, it happened to be a very pleasant, spacious restaurant, with the atmosphere of an American diner, decorated with some comics figurine. They offer quite a diversity of dishes, and I was very tempted by their mazemen, but then I noticed they had a shio lemon ramen. What, lemon ramen?! I’ve never tried that, I have to!

Broth: As the name says, this is a shio ramen (made from torigara) flavored with lemon – a definitely interesting and refreshing twist. You even get a few slices of lemon in your broth that you can press for more zing, but I do not recommend doing so - the broth tastes enough lemony like that and it would become overpowering. A little bit too salty though.

Meat: Two slices of a firm, delicious chashu, with just the right amount of melting fat.

Toppings: Some long white negi and microgreens.

This simple but good lemon ramen was an excellent surprise; I definitely recommend this convivial place, especially if you are with friends.

More info on ramendb.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Rekka (Osaka-fu, Toyonaka-shi)


Torigara gyukotsu gyoukai ramen: 14 / 20

Shonai is a relatively nice area on the way north to Toyonaka, with a pleasant market and a popular atmosphere. I had been to Rekka restaurant in this area a few months ago - but had not been convinced by their very contrasted kombu tsukemen. It had interesting features though, and I really wanted to try their other specialty, so it was now time for a second chance. This time, I ordred the torigara gyukotsu gyoukai ramen (which means chicken bones + beef bones + fish - yep, quite a mix!), ‘nami’ (regular) size.

Broth: The first sips of this intense shoyu were definitely too fat – they definitely have a problem with fatness in this shop... But it was mostly the upper layer, and the more I ate, the more this powerful, pungent and quite good broth revealed itself.

Noodles: A bit thicker than the usual shoyu noodles, frizzante and katame – as I asked them.

Meat: It was very crumbly, as last time, but I found it too fat this time – I had to surgically remove the fat to eat only the lean part.

Egg: Half of an overcooked egg.

Toppings: Some thin and crunchy menma, with a mild classical taste enhanced by sesame. Some negi which are a bit too powerful.

Like last time, this is a contrasted bowl - I think it could be great with some more work, although it's already quite decent. They also serve a variety of other dishes: chuka soba with torigara and gyukotsu only, or a ramen with only gyokai, a a spicy miso-gyokai ramen (the "rekka ramen"), and a yamagata karai miso. If you try any of those, leave a comment, I would be curious to know how they are but most certainly won't come back. Oh and for the amateurs: there is a jiro ramen restaurant next door. And as a note, they seem to be affiliated with Strike Ken, as their bowls are signed with the name of this restaurant.

More info on ramendb.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Shiogensui (Osaka-shi, Yodogawa-ku)

本店 塩元帥
ほんてん しおげんすい
Honten Shiogensui

Shio ramen: 16 / 20

Negi shio ramen: 15 / 20

Plum shio ramen: 17 / 20

For the last day of my mother’s and sister’s visit in Osaka, I wanted to make them discover what is generally known as one of the best shio ramen in the area, Shiogensui. I had been to the Amagasaki branch a few months ago to try their shio tsukemen and had found it very convincing. Now it was time for some serious ramen comparison at their Minamikata branch. My mother ordered the regular shio ramen with ajitama, my sister the negi shio ramen with ajitama, and I ordered the plum shio ramen. Let’s review all of them together.


Broth: Shio ramen rarely have a very strong taste, but this one was intense enough – with some dried onions, as well as a little bit of yuzu (too little in my broth, IMO). The negi broth had a distinctive negi taste, and the plum one was infused by the umeboshi, which gave to it a delightful sourness. It is impressive how the taste could change with just one item more. The plum broth had my preference, but that might be a matter of personal taste.

Noodles: Thicker than most shio ramen’s noodles, with a very good texture, they don’t get soft too fast.

Egg: Excellent, slightly on the hard side - but that’s what you need in a shio ramen.

Meat: An excellent slice of chasu, very soft, with some melting fat.

Toppings: Some thin menma, mild and sweet. The plum in my broth had a very strong, salty taste and seemed to be of a quite high quality.

This is definitely one of the great shio ramen you will find around – on a par with Mendokoro Ginzasa or Shunmen Shirohachi in Tokyo. Do not miss it. Difficult also not to compare with Ganko in Osaka, as you can get a few twists in each (shrimp or dry onion in Ganko, plum or fresh onion in Shiogensui) - but I prefered the noodles, and especially the meat here at Shiogensui; overall, I found it more perfectly crafted. Note that they also have a branch next to Kyoto station, and another one close to Kansai airport (alas, not at the airport itself but in Izumisano).

More info on ramendb.

Other reviews: Friends in Ramen, The Japan Times, Philoramen (for the shio tsukemen)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

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

Shio ramen & shoyu ramen, thick noodles : 16 / 20
Shio ramen & shoyu ramen, thin noodles : 15 / 20

Fusuma ni Kakero had been something of a revelation when I went there last time, so living next door, I had to make it discover to my family - and, at the same time, to try their more regular shio and shoyu ramen (last time I had their divine shrimp tori paitan). You can order each of them with either thick or thin noodles.

Broth: The shio ramen had a light but complex taste, and adding the side shrimp oil with the ingenious small syringe system definitely added a layer of complexity. The shoyu was very pleasantly flavored, a bit sweetish, with some smoky, fishy notes (was it niboshi?). It also included some ginger in a shell that you can add to your taste: a little bit may be nice, but I used the whole amount and it was definitely too much, overpowering the bowl.

Noodles: The thick noodles were pleasant, though they could be slightly harder. The thin noodles were definitely too thin and soft.

Meat: A few slices of thin pork (I think) which was pleasantly peppered, but the texture was too soft and not that great. Also, one slice of chicken that felt a bit synthetic – definitely not convincing. You also get some cockles – not so tasty, but a nice change.

Egg: Although it was beautifully presented (with some hot-iron branded inscriptions), it was too hard, I don’t recommend ordering it. That's surprising, as it was quite well-done last time.

Toppings: A very long, sweet menma, with a mild classical taste.

Anyone a bit knowledgeable about Osaka ramen's scene would have recognized the similarity between this ramen and Strike Ken's straight bowl - indeed, the two shops have many affinities and the waiters here were even wearing a Strike Ken T-shirt.

The broth of those both bowls are brilliant, but the unconvincing chicken meat and egg pushed it "down" to a 16 / 20. Compared to my last sublime experience of their limited shrimp special, this was a slight disappointment - how could they screw the ajitama that way? Anyway, overall this was very good, and a great experience for my last ramen of the year 2014!

More info on ramendb.

Other review: Friends in Ramen (for the shoyu ramen), Japan Times, Philoramen (for the tori paitan)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Ganko (Osaka-shi, Chuo-ku)

宗家一条流がんこラーメン 十八代目
そうけいちじょうりゅうがんこらーめん じゅうはちだいめ
Soukeichijouryou Ganko Ramen Jouhachidaime

Negi shoyu ramen: 14 / 20
(正油ラーメン, ネギ油)

Ebi shio ramen: 15 / 20
(塩ラーメン, エビ油 +味玉)

Speak about a myth: a small-scale chain of ramen restaurants with branches in Tokyo and Osaka, whose shops are recognizable by a bone suspended in front of the porch, and which can close unexpectedly for the day if the ‘soup is not excellent’ - difficult to make more mysterious! I had been looking for this shop quite a few times but for some reason I always missed it, and thought it had been replaced by the large and flashy Kyo ramen shop next door. But no, it was still there, well recognizable by its bone and "shio" kanji (塩).

I went there with my mother, who loves shio ramen and therefore had to try this one before leaving Japan. We arrived at the opening time at 11:30 on a Saturday, and the shop filled quickly, although there were not many people coming until 12:10. You can order a shio or shoyu ramen, each with onion (negi) oil or shrimp (ebi) oil . My mother ordered the shio ebi with ajitama, and I ordered the shoyu negi to compare (they also have a sesame ramen that I would be curious to try some day).

Ganko endorses three cardinal rules (thanks for the info, Ramenate):
1. The Noodles Must Be Firm!
2. The Soup Must Be Strong and Salty!
3. The Soup Must Be Hot!
Do they abide by them? As I was about to discover, indeed, they do.

Broth: A good shoyu broth with some small burned onions, a little bit too salty but high quality.

Noodles: Some thin, firm, yellow curly noodles – very good.

Meat: Three large slices of a relatively compact meat, with some good fat – but too compact, and really overabundant, one slice would have been enough.

Toppings: Some crunchy cabbage that was quite welcome. Some thin and very crunchy (some of them too much to my taste) menma with an interesting, peppery taste. You can also help yourself with white or black pepper (very much recommended!), vinegar and laiu (I’m less convinced by those two, although they definitely give a special twist), or minced green chilies.

The shio ebi differed only in the broth (more specifically, only in the tare). The shrimp taste is subtle and not overpowering – if you like shrimp, you have to try one of the ebi-flavored ramen. The ajitama was cut in two halves – the yellow was gooey (on the hard side), but the white part didn’t really have any taste and was too soft.

When we were there, there was only one cook handling the whole shop – seeing him flying between the bowls, the dish warmer and the fridge with a maestro precision was a show in itself.

So overall, this is a good ramen, very well crafted – and especially recommendable if you want some shrimp experience (would be interesting to try this bowl just next to IKR51's). I wouldn’t recommend ordering the ajitama though.

More info on ramendb.

Other reviews: Ramen Adventures, Ramenate, Ramenate 2 (all in Tokyo)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Kogaryu Seimen (Kobe-shi, Nada-ku)

Kougaryuu Seimen

Shoyu ramen: 13 / 20 

Shio ramen: 15 / 20

I had been to this shop six months ago to try their torigara tsukemen, and had been a bit disappointed - I was expecting something great, and it was just kind of good. But this shop’s specialty is their shoyu ramen, so I decided to give it one more chance. On the way back from Himeji to Osaka, I stopped there with my mother. She had the shio ramen, and I had the shoyu. Let’s start with the latter.

Broth: An original taste, difficult to characterize - it was a bit roasty, and had some notes that reminded me a bit of French ‘pot-au-feu’. Probably not my favorite kind of broth, but definitely unique.

Noodles: OK

Meat: A quite firm chashu, with some lean parts and fat parts, separated from each other. The fat was too fat, and the lean was pleasant but not so special.

Toppings: You get some long threads of negi, some thin slabs of mild, slightly fibrous, crunchy menma (a bit too hard at places, actually).

It was a very decent ramen, but again, in my opinion not in line with its very high rankings - I’m quite puzzled here about what people find so exceptional in it.

However, the shio ramen had a very good fishy taste and velvety feel - I found it much more enjoyable than the shoyu.

More info on ramendb.

Other review: Philoramen (for the torigara tsukemen)