Welcome to my ramen dream... Currently being interpreted in Ramen Burger Land... Looking for a good slurp? Email me ! - Keizo

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Living The Ramen Dream...at Ivan Ramen!

I guess the title says it all. Yup, this is where I'll be working in Japan...at Ivan Ramen.

I first met Ivan back in August of 2008 and instantly felt connected to his passion for ramen. If you know his story, I'm sure you'll understand what I mean. Since then, every trip to Tokyo didn't feel complete without paying a visit. So you can only imagine how I felt last month when I finally got the courage to ask if he could help me fulfill my dream and he said YES!

I can't believe I'll soon be learning how to make dishes like these. This is definitely a dream. Please do not pinch me. Click here to see the full menu.

So next time you're in Tokyo, please stop by and say hi. Ivan's ramen is amazing and you will not leave disappointed! Click here for directions. You can also use this timetable to find your exact route using Rokakoen as the destination.

Ivan, thank you for giving me this opportunity and for being such an inspiration. Words cannot describe how grateful I really am. I promise to work hard everyday and cherish everything you teach me. Once again, THANK YOU!

See you next week!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Living The Ramen Dream...

Dear Friends,

We all dream. We dream about many different things. But primarily, we dream about the good things in life that make us happy. Some of us strive for them and some of us just admire them from afar. Regardless, these dreams help us live for the future and give us hope and reason. So today, if you don't mind, I would like to share with you my dream--my Ramen Dream...

It all started when I was young, very young. My mom often jokes that she may have eaten too much ramen while I was in the womb, but I still think she didn't eat enough. I was born in the U.S. but my parents were both born in Japan, so growing up we would often visit relatives in and around Tokyo at least once a year. It was during those times that I became obsessed with ramen at such a young age. As a kid, I was very picky with what I ate (I can eat anything now) and refused to eat any of the traditional Japanese foods because they all sounded and looked so gross. Apparently, this frustrated my mom. So being the great mom that she is and because she'd rather not see her son starve to death, she took me down the street to the nearest ramen-ya in hopes of finding something I would like. And what do you know, I did.

Now back to my dream. I began to realize it back in April during my inspirational ramen journey throughout Japan. At that time, I knew what I wanted to do, but I just didn't know how I would go about doing it. I even wrote on the last day: "As this dream is officially coming to an end, it has opened the door for a new one to follow." Well guess what? The day to enter that door has finally come. So without further ado, let me explain.

Last week, I submitted my resignation from my job as a programmer. And beginning next month, I will be moving to Japan to start a new job at a popular ramen shop in Tokyo. Most people think I'm crazy to give up such a good job just to go make noodles, but that's only because they don't really know me or my passion. This is my dream. It's my only shot at actually living it so I can't let this opportunity pass on by. I'm sure it will be hard and I know that I will struggle, but the mere thought of getting to actually live in Tokyo to work and learn the art of ramen from one of the best gives me goosebumps. I'm nervous, yet more excited than I've ever been in my life!

I'll reveal the shop and the master soon enough, but I first wanted to fill you in on my dream. I know I can count on you to support me. After all, we've come this far together and I thank YOU for letting me share all my ramen encounters on this measly blog. I will do my best to document my experience on a frequent basis as well as provide bigger and better reviews from Japan. So please stay tuned and join me as I live the Ramen Dream!

Yours Truly,

p.s. I leave for Japan on 11/2.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ichibankan (尾道ラーメン壱番館) - Onomichi City, Hiroshima, Japan

On a hot September day in Onomichi, Shukaen was closed and Tsutafuji had a long a** line so my friend and I decided to try the flashy Ichibankan across the street, which featured a 人気No.1! (#1 most popular) Kakuni Ramen. Big Mistake!! If you ever encounter a similar situation in Onomochi, just wait in that long a** line! The ramen was somewhat okay, but compared to the aforementioned shops it was below average by all means. First of all, it was missing that heat and lastly, (in the words of another ramen blogger) "that place sucked!" Well...at least I got to meet an angel. :P

From Onomichi Station head Northeast (left out of the station) and follow the road for 15 minutes and it'll be on your right. It's open from 11am to 8pm and closed on Friday. Once again, it's across the street from Tsutafuji. I recommend you only go here if both Shukaen and Tsutafuji are closed.

Other sites that mention Ichibankan:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mitsuwa Autumn Fair 2009

"The masters of renowned shops will come in by the flocks!
Smack your lips over selected their specialties."

Here is the rundown:

10/22(Thu) - 25(Sun) Torrance Store
10/29(Thu) - 11/1(Sun) New Jersey Store
Featuring "Shina Soba."

10/22(Thu) - 25(Sun) Costa Mesa Store
Featuring “Tan Tan Men”, “Sung Hon Men”, and “Shoyu Ramen.”

10/29(Thu) - 11/1(Sun) Chicago Store
Featuring "Rich Miso Ramen & Rich Shoyu Ramen."

As always there will be more than just ramen, including “Fish Cakes” of “Murakawa kamaboko”, “Ijinkan Maki” and “Waffles” of “Kobe-Fugetsudo”, & "Okonomiyaki" of "Otafuku". Check Mitsuwa's website for more details!

Youki Yokogawa-ten (陽気 横川店) - Yodogawa-machi, Nishi-ku, Hiroshima, Japan

I originally wanted to go to this Youki because it is consistently ranked in the Hiroshima top 5. But since that one is only open at night and I was looking for lunch, I decided to try the Youki in Yokogawa that is supposedly run by another family member. So I arrived at the peak of lunch to a packed house--always a good sign! With only three things on the menu (ramen, rice ball, and beer), this was my kind of ramen house. The ramen was unusually light for a Hiroshima-style chuuka soba that usually screams shoyu, but the flavor was flat-out fantastic. And the noodles...wow! I normally don't notice the actual flavor of noodles when I eat ramen, but this homemade batch was very different. The clean, salty flavor of the noodles noticeably stood out and its inherent sliminess was remarkably good in a unique sort of way. If I hadn't eaten an hour earlier, I could have easily ordered another bowl!

From Hiroshima Station take the Sanyō line one station down to Yokogawa and it's about a 6-minute walk from there. Fortunately, I had a friend drive me there so I won't be able to tell you the exact route. They are open from 11:30am to 2:30pm and from 4:30pm to 9pm and closed on Sundays.

Other sites that mention Youki Yokogawa-ten:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Shanghai Souhonten (上海総本店) - Hatchobori, Naka-ku, Hiroshima, Japan

Shanghai Souhonten is consistently in the top 10 when searching the various ramen rankings of Hiroshima City. Since it was so close to my hotel and because they open so early (gotta love Japan!), I knew I could squeeze a bowl in for a late breakfast. The first thing you notice when you walk in is a huge tub of oden sitting in a nasty-looking vat that appears like it hasn't been washed for years (see second-to-last slide). Apparently it is self serve at 100 yen/piece. I didn't try it because at first I wasn't sure if it was safe, but now I regret it. I bet it was good! Anyway, the ramen here is typical Hiroshima with that strong shoyu flavor that gives me goosebumps. This place, in particular, tasted like I was licking burnt shoyu from a pan. Awesome! The menma also retained that deep shoyu flavor without being mushy. The chashu was fairly dry but still tasted good and the starchy noodles stood up well to match the soup.

From Hiroshima station take the Hiroden Streetcar (#1, #2, or #6) to Hatchobori. Then it's about a 5-minute walk in the North direction. You can also take the #9 streetcar from Hatchobori to Jogakuinmae, but I found it better to walk. They are open from 10:30am to 9pm and closed on Sundays.

Other sites that mention Shanghai Souhonten:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tonkotsu Ramen Fa~Men (とんこつらーめん名古屋総本家ふぁ~めん) - Naka-ku, Nagoya, Aichi-ken

Technology is a beautiful thing!* When I first heard of the Ramen Robots, I was very impressed and knew that one day I'd have to make a visit. So as luck would have it, I got a chance to pay that visit on my last trip to Japan. Immediately, I was in awe. The geek in me was exploding as I watched two recycled robot arms, aptly named R2B1 (manager) and R2B2 (asst. manager), take turns conversing, cracking jokes with one another, and oh yeah...preparing ramen. Notice how I said "preparing" rather than "making." Just to clarify, the robots don't actually make the soup or the noodles or the toppings. They just put everything together in that robotically-fine-tuned fashion. The other geek in me (yes there is more than just one) would love to take a look at the code that runs these two bad boys. Yes, I am a nerd...

*(I know some people might be against this sort of technology but let's save that discussion for another day on another blog.)

Before I get to the you-know-what, I'd like to reenact, in loosely-translated English, a scene that I found hilarious. I didn't get a chance to video it but you can see someone else's here (via morimrim).
  • R2B2: What were you doing yesterday at that restaurant?
  • R2B1: Huh? I don't know what you're talking about.
  • R2B2: Don't act stupid fool. I saw you!
  • R2B1: What? I was just eating some Japanese barbecue.
  • R2B2: But you weren't alone right?!?!
  • R2B1: Yeah you're right. I was on a date with some girl.
  • R2B2: Oh yeah???
  • R2B1: Yeah...she was just alright. Nothing special.
  • R2B2: Dude, you're talking about my girlfriend!!
  • R2B1: .....bu..but it was nothing.
  • R2B2: I know your my manager and all, (*pulls out a knife*) but you know you done f*d up, don't you? You know it, don't you? (If you didn't get it, that was a Menace reference...nevermind.)
And the rest is a bit violent to describe to all you kids out there but let's just say there were robot guts everywhere...just kidding. After a few attempted stabs from R2B2, R2B1 gracefully dodged them with his condiment-cover shield. Then they quickly made up and began making ramen and calling each other stupid like nothing ever happened. Awesome!

I did manage to take an amateur video of the ramen-preparing pair in action. As for the actual ramen, it was just an average bowl of Kumamoto-style tonkotsu. It was good, but not nearly as impressive as the robots. The soup was a bit plain, even with the kuro-mayu (burnt garlic), and the toppings (chashu, kikurage, negi) were fairly standard, although the chashu was pretty good. Anyhow, you can easily tell that most of the shopkeeper's time went into the robots and not the ramen. Hence, if I were to come back again it would be for the robots and probably not the ramen.

This next video is of R2B1 spinning a dish on his mechanical finger. R2B2 yells out "wow brother! you're awesome!" and shortly thereafter the dish stops spinning and you see R2B2 turn his back and crouch in shame. hahaha!

The last video is of the pair dancing in sync to the music. I guess they do this after their comedic acts are finished and there are no more customers ordering ramen. It's actually quite soothing.

So there you have it! The infamous Ramen Robots of Fa~Men. Now go check them out for yourself!! Here are the directions: From Nagoya Station, take the Higashiyama Line (bound for Fujigaoka) to Fushimi. Then transfer to the Tsurumai Line (bound for Toyota) and get off at Oosukannon. Head north and look for a big sign that says Akamon Street. This map should also help. They are open for lunch from 11:30am to 3pm and for dinner from 5pm to 7:30pm. Closed on Wednesdays.

Other sites that mention Tonkotsu Ramen Fa~Men:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Chuuka Soba Ichiriki (中華そば 一力) - Tsuruga, Fukui, Japan

My first experience with Chuuka Soba Ichiriki was when they made a brief appearance at the Shinyokohama Raumen Museum last year. And ever since then, I just knew I had to hunt down the original location in Tsuruga. Ichiriki has been around for 50+ years and it's another one of those ramen-ya's that started from a yatai (push cart) near the train station. Although the soup for all the ramen here is the same, the Chashu Ramen is by far the most popular. This "double chashu" ramen starts with a meaty layer of chashu from the pig's leg followed by the juicy fatness of the ribs. Yup! It's that awesome! I decided to get a little crazy and ordered the Chashu Wonton Men. The wontons were tiny, bite-size morsels of goodness that accompanied the amazing "double chashu" in a lightly, rich peppery broth. The noodles were surprisingly curly for being down this far south, but they had just the right bite to them. I'd have to say that this was one of my favorite bowls from my most recent trip.

Tsuruga is about an hour Northwest of Nagoya on the Sea of Japan side. Ichiriki is about a 30-minute walk from Tsuruga Station so I recommend taking either a taxi or the bus. If you're cheap like me, then let me tell you how to take the bus. Once you exit the station you'll see a コミュ二ティバスのりば (Community Bus Stop) sign on your left (see last slide above). Get on that bus and head for a stop called Shiyakusho-mae (市役所前). You can get a bus schedule from the info desk at the station which tells you all the times for the bus. Anyway, once you get to Shiyakusho-mae and exit the bus, walk to your left and make a right at the intersection. After a few more steps, you should be able to see Ichiriki on your right. They are open from 11am to 7:30pm and closed on Tuesdays. To get back to the station just hop on the same bus from the opposite side of the street.

Other sites that mention Chuuka Soba Ichiriki: