Wednesday, June 29, 2011

麺や武蔵武骨 - Musashi Bukotsu, Ueno

黒武骨 - Black Bukotsu Ramen (Tonkotsu Shoyu) ¥750

    Despite being one of the major hubs of Tokyo, Ueno isn't known much for it's ramen however there are a few ramen shops that seem quite popular around the Ameyoko market area. You'll find this member of the Menya Musashi family if you see the ropes set aside to organise the line. Luckily, we can wait in air-conditioned bliss inside once we've bought our tickets, lingering over those unlucky enough to be seated near the ticket machine.

    The staff were kept pretty busy by the constant flow of salarymen looking for their Friday night fix and the tsukemen seemed to be the most popular choice with the mercury hovering around 30 degrees celsius.

     With summer slowly creeping up I decided to buck the trend and ordered the black ramen, treating each passing bowl as it could be my last for the summer... (This doesn't include tsukemen.) Also, I couldn't pass up the opportunity for a bowl of ramen infused with squid ink.

    The colour is mainly aesthetic and novelty as we get a nice, creamy bowl of tonkotsu shoyu with a healthy serving of menma and spring onions. The pork is sliced thick like the bread in a Japanese supermarket and quite tender.

    Despite the heat it was an easy bowl to finish. I was also impressed by the fact there's a design on the spoon. Apparently they're working on an idea to get one on the chopsticks too.

Ramen Database (Look here for some of their ramen with chocolate photos)

Google Maps

Musashi Bukotsu Homepage

Friday, June 17, 2011

麺彩房 - Mensaibo, Nishi Nippori

玉子つけ麺 - Tsukemen with Egg (Tonkotsu Gyokai) ¥850

   I'm a little skeptical of the Nippori-Toneri Train line as I can see it from the street however I can't recall ever seeing a train here... Or hearing one for that matter. This branch of Mensaibo lurks in the shadows of the mysterious train line and is about 5 minutes from Nishi Nippori station on foot. The others are in Gotanda and Nakano.
   A tricky ticket machine greeted me at the door where you must choose between the large or the regular service at the top left hand corner before making your selection. Perhaps it was this rookie error that led to the staff asking whether it was the first time I'd eaten tsukemen. Or maybe she was bored as customers were almost outnumbered by the staff during the usually busy lunch hour.

   Tsukemen is anything but subtle, particularly tonkotsu gyokai and I would go so far as saying the soup here was one of the most overwhelming I've had. It may have been bursting with too much flavour much like audio clipping destroys the intricacies of a record at the expense of volume. It was a little too busy with a sweet yet sour, acidic aftertaste.

     The hanjuku eggs were great too, with the outer edge of the yolk cooked slightly more than the central area delivering an almost crispy texture. I wish I could do this!

    I didn't feel like finishing the soup but with the staff hovering around and wiping the same space on the counter directly in front of me over and over, I felt I had little choice.

    Mensaibo is a pretty decent tsukemen shop and I certainly wouldn't rule out going there again, although that could be difficult when Tetsu is only 10 minutes away from here.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

中華そば富田食堂 - Tomita Shokudo, Matsudo

中華そば (中) - Shoyu Ramen (Medium) ¥700

   Yes, I'm out in Matsudo again for some ramen - which tends to happen when you work in the area and no, this isn't the famous Tomita that you may have seen on TV and tops all the lists of must-have ramen. The main reason being that I finish work in the evening and Tomita has run out of soup sometime during the afternoon. However, this is in the same family of shops and is open well into the night.
    This store is tiny and seats a row of about 7 or 8 people just inside the door. There is only counter space and the staff had baseball commentary blaring from the radio.

     It's nice to see when a place offers only a few selections as you can assume that they are specialists - They had a shoyu tsukemen and a shoyu ramen in 3 sizes. I chose the ramen.

     It came with a healthy amount of negi, wakame and menma and some peppered chashu. It definitely exceeded my expectations of a bowl of shoyu ramen and was bursting with flavour - like an entire barbecue had been jammed into the bowl. The flame-grilled chashu was the main protagonist in this.

     The entire bowl was demolished within a few minutes. I'm glad I found this place and will definitely be returning. Matsudo isn't known for a lot, but it's 2/2 so far in my experience.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

馬賊手打拉麺 - Bazoku, Nippori

坦々つけ麺 - Tantan Tsukemen, ¥800

  I don't know whether this is a Nippori institution or whether it's just close to the station, but either way Bazoku is probably the most well-known ramen shop in Nippori. There are often people wandering by who stop and look at the noodles being made on a pretty regular basis in the shop-front window. That said, it's just us much fun inside with the constant thud of the noodles smashing into the counter. These ones were making themselves....

    I went for the tantan tsukemen since it's been warming up a little recently and wanted an oolong hai too, but apparently it's not on the menu anymore.

    Not sure whether the regular procedure includes staff asking 2 or 3 other customers if it's their order, but that's what happened to my soup as it seemingly had a whole tour of the store before coming to it's rightful owner.

    That's right. Just the soup... I should have used this.

    The noodles got there eventually.

   The soup had a really strong sesame flavour. Also, it had an initial spiciness that remained throughout however, like most spicy foods, it didn't intensify the further I went on. The noodles were soft but fairly chew and seemed incredibly fresh. These are what keeps the turnover high, I guess. However, they are probably the longest noodles I've encountered - transferring them to my soup was quite a task. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

ばんから - Bankara, Ikebukuro

ばんから角煮, Bankara Kakuni (Tonkotsu Shoyu), ¥980

 "Douzo, douzo. Iraishaimase."
   I thought that being a ramen chef could be a pretty interesting job - The people that do it are obviously well into their ramen, there is often a high-paced yet friendly atmosphere in the kitchen and they get to be creative. But after sitting at the counter directly across from the kitchen window at Bankara and watching the chef utter these words again and again, I'm not so sure. He didn't seem to be having fun and the scene was reminiscent of a cartoon character working away robotically as though he'd forgotten why he wanted to be a ramen chef in the first place.

    There are a few Bankaras around Tokyo and two in, what some say is the ramen capital of Japan, Ikebukuro itself. I made my way to the honten, the original store. It's actually a quite large store despite the fact that it's about 2 metres wide for the most part. It's just very long. And quite popular too as there was quite a big turnover and it remained full. One reason for this could be that people weren't interested in queuing up at neighbouring Mutekiya. (I'll get to it.)

  You'll need this...

  The ramen didn't take too long to come and looked as you would expect a bowl of tonkotsu shoyu to look except it was more of shoyu flavour with a little tonkotsu mixed in. 

    The bowl's a little busy...

    The overwhelmingly strong shoyu flavour which was most obvious in the chashu which tasted as though it had been soaking in a pot of soy sauce for days.

    I could only get this far with the broth as there was just too much abura floating on the surface and you have to draw the line somewhere when you're eating so much ramen.