Tuesday, July 26, 2011

燦燦斗 - Sansanto, Higashi Jujo

豚骨魚介ラーメン玉子入り - Tonkotsu Gyokai Ramen with Egg, ¥750

     It's a little hard to believe when leaving Higashi Jujo station that you are in 21st Century Tokyo,  a city on the cutting edge of modern technology. Here it feels that you have stepped back into the Showa era with lots of little standing yakitori places and extremely narrow streets. It's just as hard to believe that 2 of the current 5 most popular ramen shops in Japan can be found in this often forgotten part of town.
    Despite this popularity our visit was a quick one and there was only one other customer inside the tiny store that has had to sacrifice some space for the massive noodle making machine, although by the time we left there were a few people outside. The store suits the area perfectly and doesn't appear to be a must-visit ramen store. This contrast is even more explicit since it specialises in the ultra-modern abura soba and tonkotsu gyokai varieties.

   I was keen to get the abura soba when I arrived but I eventually played it safe and went for the ramen. This time playing it safe meant not trying what is currently the number one abura soba in Japan. What can I say, I like soup...

    And it was a good choice. A lighter than normal tonkotsu gyokai soup where the fish flavour is taking on a much larger proportion of the soup. Could it be gyokai tonkotsu? In any case it was quite refreshing and not at all heavy and the hanjuku egg was up there with the best. I definitely could have used more chashu, however.

   While my girlfriend took a punt on the tsukemen.

    If you are a little unsure of which to choose, I would suggest to go with the ramen. The soups are basically the same although the tsukemen seemed just a little stronger however, as far as tonkotsu gyokai is concerned, a little thin. This is much more conducive to a bowl of ramen when the noodles have time to soak up a little of the flavour.
   After practically inhaling the soup, I got a glimpse of a slightly odd bowl design. I would have preferred the one with a dragon. Maybe next time.

   If the lines are always this small I would definitely come back. It's not often you get the chance to eat amzing ramen in Tokyo without a 10-15 minute wait.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

麺や葵 - Aoi, Nippori

豚骨魚介つけ麺玉子入り - Tonkotsu Gyokai Tsukemen with Egg, ¥880

    Continuing the search around my local neighbourhood I stumbled upon Aoi, which is about a 10 minute walk from home. Aoi actually has two locations in Nippori - One is about 30 seconds from Nippori Station and this, the honten, about 15 minutes. In an attempt to bring you the authentic (and possibly better) Aoi taste I went for the longer walk.
   Aoi doesn't seem to be catering to a crowd who like a pleasant atmosphere when they are having lunch. The dining area is full of fridges and pipes.

    However, they did have a few buttons marked osusume on the ticket machine which recommended about 3 different  choices. I went for the tonkotsu gyokai tsukemen... Again. I took my seat and waited uncomfortably wondering what I should do with these eggs. Are they there for customers?

    After a pretty decent wait my tsukemen finally arrived and I suddenly forgot that I had been waiting.

   With a little gyokai powder sprinked on top.

     The noodles were really think and katame, a little hard at first but I quickly got used to them. This kind of thick, heavy noodle is great for tsukemen as everything sticks to it. In fact I was a little worried my soup would run out before I finished the noodles. The soup itself was full of favour without being too busy, but it is definitely in need of some soup wari, broth to even out the consistency if you want to finish it completely.

    Once again I'm feeling pretty happy to have found a quality bowl close to home. Although the heavy, greasy soup did take a little spring out of my step.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

むつみ屋 - Mutsumiya, Tokyo Ramen Street

赤味噌らーめん+玉子 - Red Miso Ramen + Egg, ¥950

    Tokyo Ramen Street at Tokyo Station is a pretty good place to start if you're introducing yourself to the world of Ramen - There are eight stores in total and there seems to be a good variety of soups and styles to cater to anybody, no matter what you prefer. Me? Well, I prefer not waiting in a queue too long when I have the option of doing so. Especially when I'm hungry. Mutsumiya seemed to have the shortest wait. Considering it was a national holiday, five minutes wasn't so bad. And then I got to play with some individually wrapped crushed garlic.

    The turnover at these places must be pretty insane - open for 12 hours a day, at least 20 seats inside and always a queue. Mutsumiya also recently opened a store in Thailand. Which must keep Mr. Mutsumiya very busy.

    Mutsumiya is from Hokkaido and specialises in the local miso ramen. Despite operating in Tokyo the soup is still made from Hokkaido water. Obviously I couldn't taste the difference... Because I, ah, didn't, um, have a bowl with non-Hokkaido water to compare it to.

   I was glad I got the egg to go with it.

   It certainly doesn't pull any punches and there are no surprises. It's miso ramen from Hokkaido without any Tokyo twist added to it. Very solid. If you're feeling in need of a little more adventure you can try the kim-chi miso ramen. I was pretty happy with the soup and the chashu had a nice smoky flavour. And, well, you can see the egg.

    Finishing the soup off was great but it also revealed a pretty weathered bowl. Now, we all know someone has eaten from a bowl before us, but this one and all of the others in the store could do with a bit of a touch up. What is the average lifespan of a dish anyway?

Ramen Database

Google Maps

Friday, July 8, 2011

屯ちん - Tonchin, Ikebukuro

東京豚骨ラーメン - Tokyo Tonkotsu Ramen, ¥650

    Part of living and travelling in Japan is eating the local food that originated in that area when you're passing through. A trip to Osaka can't be made without sampling either okonomiyaki or takoyaki, or both. Therefore a ramen nerd making their way to Tokyo must indulge in a bowl of Tokyo style ramen. And a perfect place to try it is at Tonchin in Ikebukuro which prides itself on this with 'Tokyo Tonkotu Ramen' adorning just about everything - including the lightbulbs!

   There are a few of these around Tokyo (naturally) and if you want to continue with the authentic experience this store in Ikebukuro is the the honten, the original store. Even though I'm sure this lad isn't the creator, the hontens are usually much more popular than others bearing the same name.

    Arriving slightly before midday to avoid the lunchtime rush everything was ready to go.

     And the lunchtime crowd started to wander in just as my bowl arrived.

   Defining Tokyo ramen is quite a difficult proposition as there are so many different varieties that have been available in Tokyo for such a long time. However, I'm led to believe the most common feature is curly noodles. Tonchin has these ( 3 different amounts all for the same price) and your regular ramen ingredients. The soup here is also a very rich flavour with a fair amount of floating abura that will have slurping until you empty the bowl.