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

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The dragons of Fukui...

Day 89:

Shimo-Kitazawa is a cool little town and is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Another popular ramen shop in the neighborhood is Chuuka Soba Ichiryu (一龍). I initially thought it was the same Ichiryu from Hakata, but apparently I was wrong. This Ichiryu hails from Fukui, which now explains why the ramen reminded me so much of Ichiriki in Tsuruga. Babbling aside, let's check out them noodles!

Aww yes...Fukui. The memories of last September are all coming back to me now...good and bad.

This ramen was interesting. Similar to Ichiriki, yet very different. The chicken-ness stood out far too much, but not necessarily in a bad way. I know, I'm not making any sense at all.

Regardless, I still ate it all and left satisfied.

On a side note, dancyu magazine came into Ivan Ramen today to interview Ivan for an upcoming issue. I tried to take a picture of them taking pictures, but I was too busy making men.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Slurping through Tokyo with The New York Times

I have to take a quick break from Living The Ramen Dream to let you know about the epic ramen article in the New York Times today. It was written by Matt Gross and is titled One Noodle at a Time in Tokyo. It features my ramen buddies Brian from ramenadventures.com and Nate from ramenate.com who have recently begun to dominate the Tokyo ramen scene. This is quite possibly the best article ever written about ramen in the English-speaking world. Matt does a really great job of describing his six-day adventure of consuming the best of the best. He even visits my two favorite ramen shops--Bassanova and Ivan Ramen (not just saying that cuz I work there). This is a big step for ramen. I'm just happy to be a part of it.

And now back to our regularly scheduled dreaming...


Day 88:

No not Yeah-Oh-Yeah. Ya-Oh-Ya (ヤ-オ-ヤ). That's what the locals in Shimo-Kitazawa call the 808 bar I found last month. It's the perfect place to chill and hang out and...talk about ramen. Uno-san, the owner, is a big ramen fan as well. I mentioned this before, but his dad owns a ramen-ya up the street and his good friend just opened Bigiya in Gakugei-daigaku. Uno-san even came in to eat at Ivan Ramen a few weeks ago after I told him that I worked there. He's a really laid back Hawaiian-style-guy, just like his lounge.

So we talked and talked about ramen as I leached off his free internet connection and discussed the differences between old style versus new style and all the new crazy trends that make up this so called "ramen boom" that we're in. And now there apparently is a "new old style" ramen too. I'm not exactly sure what that means, but that's how Keisuke describes his newest shop in Sumiyoshi that coincidentally opens today.

Anyhow, all this talk was getting me hungry so Uno-san whipped me up a batch of his homemade nachos. It sort of reminded me of home.

After a couple more beers, I decided to stop by his dads ramen shop on my way home. It's called Taisho and the big Uno doesn't like to be advertised and hates that his shop is in the ramen database.

He doesn't mind not being popular. He just loves making ramen for the locals and the occasional passer by who is hungry for a bowl of old-school natsukashii ramen. Hopefully he won't mind being on this blog.

The shoyu ramen here is not fancy and you won't find a line out the door or groups of otaku hanging out with their cameras. There's no hype and no fanfare, but this is what real ramen is (or should I say was).

The current ramen generation may call this bowl plain, but this is the type of ramen I fell in love with as a small child. Sure my ramen cravings have evolved over the years along with the ramen world, but I'll never forget slurping that first bowl with my mom in some random ramen-ya in Tokyo.

These types of bowls give me the most comfort. A straight blend of chicken stock, pork bones, and vegetables with a little bit of niboshi (sardines) in the tare.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Torpedoed by a bond of hearts...

Day 87:

One of the many perks of working at a popular ramen shop in Tokyo is that my boss gets to be chummy with all the other famous ramen bosses and when one of them opens a new shop, I get to tag along. Today was opening day for Honko Chuuka Soba Gyorai (本枯中華そば 魚雷). The newest ramen creation from Mr. Bond of Hearts himself--Tsukada Kenji (塚田兼司).

Located near Korakuen and Kasuga station (exit 8), Gyorai, which means torpedo, uses only the highest grade katsuobushi in their soup. And as you'll soon see, Tsukada-san employs a new technique involving something I've never seen used in the ramen world.

But first we need to stop for some pictures. Here's Ivan and Tsukada-san posing in front of the flowers from Ivan Ramen. I still can't believe I was the one that took this picture. Talk about living the dream!

While waiting for the shop to open at 11am, we were approached by the owner of Ramen Dining Do Miso (seen talking with Ivan below), who ended up sitting with us at our table. So cool!

The setup inside was like a clean cafe that just happened to serve ramen.

And here is that new technique I mentioned earlier--using coffee siphons to extract the dashi into the soup. It's time-consuming, but an impressive technique indeed.

Included with the regular ramen is your choice of 3 toppings from the list of 8 that hangs from the ceiling.

I ended up choosing Uzura (quail egg), Menma, and the Chashu.

The ramen is shoyu-based and looks plain upon arrival...

but as the aroma gently creeps up to your senses, the high quality katsuo is instantly recognized.

It's a very refined soup with a fishiness that doesn't overpower. The noodles are a bit on the soft side but I shouldn't be complaining. Hurry, someone pinch me please!

The toppings were all great and worked well with the soup. The smoked-flavor of the chashu was eye-opening.

All in all, Tsukada-san knows what he's doing. I wish him all the luck with Gyorai, but I doubt he would need it.

Wow, this was definitely one of the coolest days since I've been here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

No jaywalking!

Day 86:

It's 11:30 at night. There are no cars on the road and the crosswalk signal for this two lane road is red. You may not believe this, but 5 min before I shot this pic there were at least 5 people waiting for the light to turn green. It's a strange phenomenon, especially to us foreigners, but most Japanese people will never jaywalk under any circumstance. And as much as I try to blend in with what the Romans do, this part of me is just too American. haha.

Anyway, no ramen pics today cuz it was my long day of prep work. I will have some more for you tomorrow. Goodnight.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Slayed by the field warrior...

Day 85:

It's Wednesday. My day off and the day we usually meet for ramen. Nate was back from Korea so we called up Brian and all met in Koenji. Nate and I found Tabushi (which could mean field warrior) while browsing the ramen database ranking for Suginami-ku. After a few minutes of roaming around the crowded streets and passing right on by, we finally found it.

Brian and I soon had our eyes glued on the picture of the Black Tan Tan Men out front. We immediately decided that THAT was what we were getting.

One sip and I was slayed by its spicy smoothness that ripped my tongue with flavor. This was definitely a great find!

The noodles were a bit overcooked, but that could have been my fault for being the noodle paparazzi that I am. This was a satisfying tan tan men.

I've been really craving gyoza lately so it was a no-brainer get an order with my ramen. They weren't anything special but they still fulfilled my craving.

After ramen, we went Pringles-spotting. Grand Canyon Pringles anyone?

Or how about some Halloween Happiness Party Pringles for 50% off?

I'll think I'll take the Night Star Pringles.

Hey look, it's an injured pinky cameo.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

In the hunt...

Day 84:

I started the day by making one last trip to the hospital so the doc could check how my pinky was healing. He said it was healing perfectly and that I could start using it again beginning tomorrow. He also said I was very lucky. I agreed!

Afterward, it was back to Meidaimae to go apartment hunting with the 不動産 (realtor). Except the dude that I was supposed to meet today scheduled our appointment on his day off. What a loser. Anyway, the guy who ended up showing me around was a lot more knowledgeable about the area and took me to see some nice places. I actually found one I really liked, but I needed some time to think about it...over some ramen.

Since I was in Meidaimae, I headed down the street to grab a bowl from the Nakata Brothers ramen shop.

I'm not sure but I think this is one of the brothers.

The shop is known more for their tsukemen, but I was in the mood for some shoyu ramen.

The broth is made with anago (salt-water eel) and there's a bit of a strong fishy smell, but it is otherwise a pretty decent bowl.

I thought about it and decided to go take a look at the place one more time. The kids seemed to like it so I ended up applying for it. We'll see what happens. It's a bit out of my price range but starting life over isn't supposed to be easy, right?

Later that night it was off to Shinjuku to have a few drinks with friends. Okay so there was more than a few drinks involved. And there's nothing like eating ramen in the cold from a yatai after some drinks.

It's not great ramen, but on this night, in this setting, it's perfect.

I fell asleep on the train on my way home and ended up passing my station. Luckily, I didn't go that far and was able to catch another train coming back.

Whew, that was a close one.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The temple of money...

Day 83:

Hmm...the temple of money sounds better than the temple of apples. Maybe I should live in Koenji. Anyway, I visited a ramen shop called Menya Enji (en meaning money and ji meaning temple) to treat myself after getting my stitches out in the morning. By the way, the pinky is healing just fine.

Enji has been on my list for quite some time because it is close by and they serve a vegetable potage tsukemen that has been getting some rave reviews lately. Nate's been there, but he ordered the wrong thing and still thought it was tasty.

The noodles are a bit darker than usual which leads me to believe that they use some type of whole wheat flour mixed with regular flour. But that's all speculation so don't quote me on it. haha. They had good bite and on this cold day I definitely went with atsumori. (p.s. the noodles took 6 minutes to cook,)

The soup is a triple mix of tonkotsu, gyoukai (fish blend), and a vegetable potage made with mountain potatoes. It's not extremely thick, but it's smooth and scintillating.

Seriously, this has to be one of the best tsukemen's I've had in awhile. It's hard to explain, but the fish was not overbearing due to the potage and the tonkotsu didn't feel greasy either. I was extremely satisfied with this bowl. Even the self serve soup wari kept the aromas and flavors intact. Impressive!

Afterward, I hung out in the nearby Sanshi-no-mori park where I found two young aspiring comedians practicing their Manzai act into the loud waterfall. It was nice to see others working hard in pursuit of their dreams.

One more night of work, then two days off!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A clear day...

Day 82:

My cousin's live finished well after midnight as I expected and the last train was long gone by the time we left the club. I could have taken a taxi home, but my friend who I brought with me lives in Chiba and a taxi ride for her would have been way too expensive. So rather than leave her roaming the unfamiliar streets of Tokyo alone, we decided to hang out at a Manga Kissa (aka Internet Cafe) where I was surprisingly able to get a few hours of sleep before getting up to go to work at 9am. The morning was rough, but it was such a beautiful, clear day that I soon forgot how tired I was. I was even able to snap a picture of Mt. Fuji from my train. A wonderful sight indeed!

When I finally got home from a long day of work, I was greeted by two cases of Miller Light. My brother had bought them from the military base earlier in the day and man was I ready for a drink. I never thought I'd say this, but it felt nice to drink American beer for a change. I thought about going to eat a bowl of ramen, but I passed out on the couch within minutes of sitting down.