Monday, April 25, 2011

麺-酒処ぶらり - Burari, Nippori

鶏白湯ラーメン - Toripaitan Ramen, ¥890
    I was pretty excited to be going to Burari for the first time. I had heard good things about it from people and it is yet another that is pretty close to home... It's not difficult to find, but you have to know where you're going too - A narrow lane leads you from the street to the entrance, and it's tucked in behind another building. Once you see the Tanuki, you're probably in the right spot.

    It's rather calm inside and seems to have been converted into a ramen store rather than conceived as one which seems to offer a little more space for the wait staff to help you with your order. Although the noise of the nearby trains funneling through the kitchen's exhaust fan outlet could be a little unsettling to those not accustomed to the rattling of daily life in Tokyo. 
     I went with my method of trying the top left button of the vending machine when in doubt of what to select, and then found a menu at the counter... (Not 100% sure why it's there since we've already ordered at this point.)

    It was a pretty relaxed atmosphere inside and seemed to appeal more to people who are eating out together, more so than your average ramen shop. There were also more women inside than usual. I had heard it was popular with females due the soup being high in collagen. I didn't have to wait too long.  

 This was a pretty interesting place since the ramen seemed to have a different quality than most other ramens. We usually have a very full-on, in-your-face kind of flavour that leaves little to the imagination but this is a lot more subtle. The chicken dashi broth makes the concept of umami, our fifth taste sense, applicable to this ramen. I got an egg in mine...

Mmmmm. Delicious....

   I can understand why this shop is popular and highly rated but you definitely have to be in the right mood for it, not when you are simply craving ramen since it just has different qualities to your average bowl. I left thinking it could be a little cerebral for me but then I saw a poster of AKB48 visiting this store and realised that couldn't possibly be the case.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

一風堂 - Ippudo, Ueno

赤丸かさね味 - Akamaru (Tonkotsu Ramen), ¥850

     With my father deciding to brave the aftershocks and visit Tokyo, it was only natural that I would take him out to enjoy a bowl of ramen (or two) and there aren't many places better to go than Ippudo if you're only in town for a short time. This place is spreading the joy of ramen around the world these days with stores in New York City and Singapore. We were in Ueno so we went to that store... And lucky for us it was open.

    The usual lunchtime crowd of businessmen perched themselves around the large communal table that we were seated at but more interestingly there were a few freebies on the table which would surely be gobbled down by every single customer if this weren't Japan. We helped ourselves to some spicy moyashi while we waited for our ramen.

    Ippudo originated in Fukuoka and offers us 3 different varieties of the renowned hakata tonkotsu ramen that emerged from the same area. I've only tried 2 types there - The red (赤) and the white (白) - and decided to go with what I know best...

    Ippudo is one of the most popular and well-known chains in Japan with good reason. There really is nothing wrong with this ramen at all - The soup has a really rich, strong pork flavour and is only slightly spicy and it is a pretty decent serving. There isn't a great deal of chashu but they're not really skimping on it at the same time. And I'm pretty sure there weren't any octopuses weren't harmed here either - just some garlic oil. The thin hakata style noodles are great when you really want to shovel it in too.

    Not that it really needs it, but one of my favourite activities at Ippudo is to add some extra garlic myself and here we don't just scoop some crushed garlic out of a jar...

    I've never seen anyone take these away to be cleaned but they're always immaculate when I want to use them. They've got a pretty unique tipping system too, but I was a little suspicious of the salarymen around so I declined. 

   All in all, a pretty good place to visit and worth the 20 minutes of your day that it will take up - particularly so if you're in town for a short stay and only have time for one bowl.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tetsu, Nishi Nippori

夜つけ麺, Evening Tsukemen ¥800
     The first time I visited Tetsu was after 3 days in bed with norovirus and I feel I can say with some authority that ramen is not the meal you want to have first up after 3 days on electrolyte drinks, jelly and water. Luckily for me though the first visit didn't involve any waiting around outside in the cold.... Unlike this visit.

    Tetsu is another of the seemingly endless list of popular tonkotsu gyokai ramen shops that populate Tokyo although this one seems to be more popular than most. (It is ranked in the Top 10 on the Ramen Database!) The line wasn't so bad - maybe a 15 minute wait, but it was much worse by the time we left which seems odd for a Sunday night in a quiet part of town. They also have a few other stores around Tokyo (Roppongi, Shinagawa, etc)

     The shop is so small that there isn't any room for the ticket machine inside so be sure to grab a ticket before you get in line. As you can see, only half of the machine is lit up. This is because Tetsu has a different menu for daytime and nighttime and their most popular tonkotsu gyokai tsukemen is only available during the day and in the evening they offer a chicken and fish flavoured soup.

     I have to say that I'm pretty happy that this place is close to home since it is amazing. The soup has a quite complex flavour without being overpowering or too strong, and it also manages to stay at nice consistency without becoming gritty. Sometimes you just don't need an egg... Luckily we also get instructions on how to eat our tsukemen... Just in case.

    Did you read closely? Shwaaaaa! Once you've finished your noodles and want to finish your soup off there's a problem. The soup is not hot enough anymore so you can ask for a piping hot stone to put in and heat your soup back up... Genius!

    You can then thin the soup out a little with the boiling water that is on the counter (Please don't confuse this one with the drinking water!) and enjoy a really refreshing soup with just a small hint of yuzu... Wow!

     Tetsu is well worth a visit - It's a ramen store that offers something a little different from the others, albeit a stone that heats your soup up, but it certainly doesn't feel like a gimmick. I'll be back because it's some of the best ramen I've had in Tokyo!

    But be aware of what you might have to contend with.....