Thursday, September 29, 2011

二代目つじ田 味噌の章 - Tsujita Miso no Shou, Kanda

玉子入り味噌らーめん - Miso Ramen with Egg, ¥900

     Just around the corner from the other Tsujita but without the same fanfare is Tsujita Miso no Shou. 4pm on a Sunday afternoon and it was straight in for us, while big brother had a queue about 10 deep. But this is a business area and I would imagine that it's much busier at 12:05 on a weekday. Lucky us! In fact, there were just as many customers as staff.

     This store specialises in miso ramen, and when I say specialises I sort of mean doesn't offer any other kind. Regular or spicy, with or without an egg. Pretty simple, really.

    I went for the regular miso... With an egg. 

   A deceptively large bowl with a heap of noodles hiding beneath the layer of toppings.

   It was actually quite different from other miso ramens I have had. The miso flavour wasn't so strong but it was quite heavy with an oily layer on top. The aonori  flakes had me reaching for more and the smaller-than-bite-size pieces of chashu made it much easier to ration. Of course it wouldn't be Tsujita without a secret blend of spices to add to the soup...

    I was quite surprised that weren't more people inside for such a high quality bowl of ramen. I would have liked to try the sudachi rice but the ramen was well and truly enough.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

新宿煮干ラーメン凪 - Nagi, Shinjuku

煮干ラーメン - Niboshi Ramen, ¥750

   In an attempt to introduce you to more shops in a variety of areas and try and step away from lazily writing reviews of those closer to home, I ventured into the big smoke, Shinjuku. To be more specific, I went to Kabukicho and to be even more specific, the Golden Gai - a unique area comprised of a few narrow lines littered with tiny bars. It tends to be more alive in the evening which is reflected by the fact that Nagi is open until 5am.

    Nagi is on the second floor, however there is only the one person working so be sure to buy your ticket and hand it to him before you join the queue. Since you'll be waiting outside and he'll be stuck preparing ramen for other hungry customers, the only way to know when to come back in is when he calls you from the window. Once inside you'll be rubbing shoulders with those next to you.

   And the chef doesn't have much space either...

     The specialty here is niboshi ramen, a shoyu based soup that it is completed with stock of dried baby sardines. 

    The combination of the shoyu and niboshi makes for a flavourful soup with a strong aftertaste and the only way to serve this style of ramen is piping hot... It was blisteringly so... I was glad I waited until the weather had cooled slightly before coming here. Although it wouldn't have made much difference.

Nagi is definitely worth a try if you're willing to brave the elements of the Golden Gai...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

らーめんいっとく - Ittoku, Sendagi

鶏白湯玉子入 - Toripaitan with Egg ¥850

    It's nice to know that some visits to a ramen store can still can be a spontaneous decision and that a camera phone will suffice. I don't lug around a big SLR or anything, but it certainly doesn't fit in my pocket. And so it was wandering around our neighbourhood that we happened upon Ittoku. We had seen it before as it is just a few hundred metres from Tetsu, but we were not completely sure what they had on offer. However, one thing was for certain - They like cats...

    Every kind of ramen on their menu is made with chicken, from the obvious toripaitan and gyokai blends, to the less obvious chicken tantanmen. With all these chicken choices in front of we decided to go with perhaps the most chicken-y of them all the toripaitan.

    Toripaitan isn't really the most popular ramen style in Japan - I've mentioned it to Japanese who haven't ever heard over it, but it should definitely be on your to-do list. This particular bowl tasted like a creamy chicken and corn (it IS in there somewhere) soup and was finished off with some ground pork, a couple of soy-drenched menma and some daikon sprouts, kaiware.

    I rather enjoyed the bowl and the fact that it wasn't so greasy and great for a hangover means I'll probably be back. The only problem with this being Burari, a shop just a little closer to home.

Monday, September 19, 2011

麵処 ほん田 東京ラーメンストリート - Honda, Tokyo Ramen Street

味玉豚骨魚介つけ麺 (醤油)- Tonkotsu Gyokai Tsukemen (Shoyu), ¥850

     Another visit to Tokyo station and another visit to Tokyo Ramen Street. This time it was Honda which was fortunate enough to to be selected to join the underground showcase. I had hoped to visit the original store in Higashi Jujo, but it's popularity prevents it from staying open past 4PM since they run out of soup. The beauty of this store being connected to the station is you can pay with your all-purpose train charge card, Suica.

     Although the original store is obviously travelling along quite nicely, they are making a concerted effort to individualise this store so it can grow out of the shadow of it's big brother. The clean, brightly lit dining area, complete with a large glass case full of empty ramen bowls, certainly sets it apart from most ramen shops. 

     It was a tough decision with ordering so we left it to the janken gods to see who would get a tonkotsu gyokai with miso...

     Or shoyu....

     I can see why Honda is one of the more popular stores. The shoyu finished bowl was a solid choice - although it is pretty standard. (As far as tonkotsu gyokai tsukemen goes). The miso bowl was a little less standard. However, both are bursting with flavour and came with a superb hanjuku egg. I must admit that at ¥850 and ¥900 respectively, the bowls weren't really brimming with ramen deliciousness.

    It's amazing how recently, after hearing of this shop called Honda, the word 'Honda' no longer conjures up images of cars and motorcycles, but bowls of ramen. It's a little scary...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

手打ち極太麵 ジョニーの味噌 - Jonny No Miso, Minowa

味噌つけ麺 - Miso Tsukemen ¥780

     I couldn't help but think about the Choirboys' classic and scream 'Jonny!' when I first discovered this little gem by the final stop of the Arakawa Touden streetcar. It could be a bit of a throwback to the '80s and isn't much like any ramen shop I've encountered. 
    Chef 'Jonny' lived in New York for a little while and perhaps wanted to bring back a slice of Americana to this more traditional area of Tokyo. With a little Jack Johnson playing on a hot September afternoon it felt more Hawaii than New York.

     Actually it didn't feel either... With 'Jonny' toiling over a four-burner stove all alone it felt more like we had popped over to his house for lunch - Especially since 'Jonny' doesn't go in for the ramen garb and is decked out in a straw fedora and polo shirt.

    But since we weren't here for 'Jonny' we had more pressing issues to attend to...

    On first inspection I wasn't convinced these handmade noodles were ramen - Jonny No Udon? If you ask for your noodles katame he will tell you they're really thick and probably need to soften up a little. The regular hardness was certainly hard enough.

    The soup was great - certainly not what you'd expect from a restaurant called Jonny. It was a slightly different miso flavour to the others and had a little bite to it. The gyokai powder sprinkled over the top was also a nice touch.

   Be careful, the metal bowl is as hot as you think...

Monday, September 5, 2011

麺屋武蔵 武骨相傳 - Musashi Bukotsu Souden, Ueno

相傳つけ麺(黒) - Souden Tsukemen (Black), ¥750

    This recently-opened store is part of the same family of stores as Musashi Bukotsu (also in Ueno), hence the almost exact same name. Despite the same background and similar appearance the shops are both rather different. Bukotsu Souden has a quite interesting interior and is certainly one of the sleek, modern ramen shops that pop up around Tokyo on a regular basis. The shop was quite busy despite the emptiness of this photo - Everybody left within two minutes of each other.

  The stores fixation on all things sword-like is a little disturbing, however it makes for a unique experience.

    They also seem to treat the chashu with a God-like reverence... And the cleanliness of an operating theatre.

    Once you make your choice at the ticket machine and hand your ticket over you will have to decide between red, black or white soup. These are all actually the same gyokai based soup with different ingredients added at the end. The white is basically the same, the red is a spicy version and the black is made from kogashi onions, garlic and a little coffee. Apparently they have a not-so-secret menu too - a combination of black and red.

   I was expecting something similar to the other Ueno store but it was completely different. The soup had a very-strong gyokai flavour and was well complemented by the seared vegetables. The noodles were seemingly covered in glue as everything stuck to them.

   An entertaining store to visit with it's novel pirate-y atmosphere, modern dining area and the real possibility of hearing some ramen shop staff belt out a few of the orders that come their way in full chorus. Oh, and the ramen... The ramen is great.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

麺創房 無敵家 - Mutekiya, Ikebukuro

本丸麺 - Honmarumen (Tonkotsu Shoyu), ¥780

    Mutekiya is never without a line. Every single time I have walked past there has been at least 3 people waiting. One can only assume that with so many willing to wait that the ramen must be pretty good. This place has been on the list for quite a while but knowing that I was going to have stand outside always put me off. In the end, I just waited for a stormy day to make the wait even more pleasant.
    It's pretty much shoulder to shoulder inside, so if people slurping all around you isn't your style, it might not be for you.

     Someone will come and take your order outside so it's not just a matter of hitting and hoping on the ticket machine. The good part about this is that they have refined the system to an artform and the ramen arrives almost instantaneously. I opted for the flagship, honmarumen, in favour of the not-so-common kanimiso bowl.

     There is a lot to like about this bowl - It offers up some more wonderful Tokyo style tonkotsu, which is often a pleasure to look at as a basic-looking simple bowl and it also has room for the use of nanohana (rape blossom) as an unusual ingredient. It offers a very fresh, healthy contrast to the abura-laden tonkotsu soup. The noodles here were some of the better ones I've had. 
  You can also find some gyokai powder on the counter if you want to change things up a little and add a fishy flavour to your soup.

    Maybe I added too much... Or perhaps it was the amout of seabura floating around the soup. Almost got there though.

   I can understand why people are keen to wait outside, but it would certainly depend on the length of the line. Remember, this is Ikebukuro and there are plenty of places where you can slurp away. However, If you are willing to wait...