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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Free meals!

Day 117:

The best thing about working at two different ramen-ya's are the free meals. For lunch I get to eat at Ivan Ramen. (Pictured below is the new special edition Tonkotsu Ramen.)

And for dinner I get to eat at Bassanova. All for free! This is the life!

Well it is and it isn't. It's been a rough couple weeks without a day off so after work tonight I decided to meet up with a few of my closest friends to unwind a bit.

Thanks guys! That was exactly what I needed.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Another 18 hours...

Day 116:

It was another long day of working both Ivan Ramen and Bassanova. I woke up with a sore throat so I was a bit nervous on how my body would hold up, but it held up just fine. Fine enough to savor this beer and meat bowl in the end.

Some of you may have noticed that my posts have been delayed. Sorry about that. Aside from not having an internet connection at my new place (will get it hooked up once I can afford it), I haven't had much free time to do anything other than sleep and eat. I really feel bad about not responding to all your comments too. If you can wait just a little longer, I promise to respond to all of them. As always, thanks for reading my measly blog.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The shop of truth...

Day 115:

One of my beautiful nieces turned five today. Happy Birthday!!! Unfortunately I wasn't able to attend her birthday party because I was working. ごめんね。I promise I'll make it up to you.

With a light rain falling, it was time to seek out the truth. Makotoya (makoto meaning truth), near Hachimanyama Station, is a fairly popular shop that I've always wanted to try since it's on my way to work.

I ordered the special ramen with 3 toppings and fat noodles. It's a tonkotsu-shoyu blend that is definitely porky but contained a good balance.

The fat noodles were chewy and easy to slurp. But the real star of this ramen was...

...the kakuni! Tender, moist, and full of flavor, I've never seen it done better in ramen before today. The egg and the chashu weren't bad either.

Makotoya also gives out stamp cards so you can get free stuff after a number of visits. After 45 bowls you can get a free t-shirt. I don't think I'll ever be wearing that t-shirt.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lots to dream about...

Day 114:

And even more to become reality. I've been doing a lot of thinking lately and I'm finally starting to see where this may all lead. I could be wrong, but there's only one way to find out--to live the way I want to live. It may take time, but I'll get there.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A date with a burger...

Day 113:

The other day I was craving a burger. And when I mentioned that to a friend, she offered to take me to one of her favorite places in Shimo-Kitazawa, Village Vanguard.

I ordered the pepper bacon burger. It was good, but I don't remember much of it because my mind was wandering elsewhere if you know what I mean. Yeah sorry, you probably don't know what I mean.

My friend got the special barbecue burger. Afterwards, we took a long stroll through Shimo on this unusually warm day. It was nice.

Then it was off to work another night at Bassanova. Today I learned how to make the tonkotsu soup. It was enlightening! I thought about taking pictures and sharing, but it's way too gruesome. So instead of bloody pork bones, here is what I ate for dinner.

I always wanted to try the wadashi ramen with the flat green curry noodles, but never had the guts to ask in the past. So today, I finally got to do so. I think I like it better this way.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A ray of hope...

Day 112:

I woke up this morning, or should I say this afternoon, with a new appreciation for life...and a mean hangover. From what I can remember, I went out to eat with the Bassanova boss and crew and didn't get home until 8:30 in the morning. It was a very memorable night. One that I know I'll never ever forget. Someday I'll share the details, but for now I'll just share the cure...hangover cure, that is.

On my way to register my new address at the Suginami Ward Office, I passed by Hope Ken on Kannana Dori and instantly knew that this was what I needed. Around since 1938, Hope Ken's chuuka soba is a classic.

I ordered mine with extra chashu. Smooth and creamy, the soup reminded me of something you would find in Fukui.

The curly noodles also worked their magic. And 10 minutes later I was cured.

Cured enough to begin another long night at Bassanova. Here's an exclusive behind-the-scenes shot of the kitchen. This will be my second home for 2 nights out every week.

And this is the secret tonkotsu soup that fuels the famous green curry.

For tonight's free meal, I learned how to make this niku-mori tsukesoba. I can't believe I actually ate a Bassanova ramen that I ate myself. Crazy!

Mmm...damn good!

This is how every night should end...

Monday, February 22, 2010

A separate slurp...

Day 111:

I slept as much as I could and woke up as late as possible. I didn't have much time to grab a meal before work, so I just hopped into the soba-ya near Daitabashi station and ordered the tuna bowl combo with udon. Cheap and satisfying.

While I was at work, I received a phone call from Bassanova asking me to stop by later tonight. Apparently the big boss of Bassanova, who lives in Fukuoka, was in town and wanted to meet me. Needless to say, I complied and was in for a long night filled with talk of destiny and hope...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Protein and carbs...

Day 110:

After only 4 hours of sleep, I was back to working another 9 at Ivan Ramen. And 12 cups of coffee later, I finally started to wake up. I made it through the day without any problems, but by the end of the night I could barely keep my eyes open. After work, some family friends picked me up and took me out to dinner at Bakery Restaurant Kobeya. I'm not gonna lie, I'd rather have gone straight home to bed. But these friends came all the way from Shizuoka to see me so I sucked it up and tried my best to stay alert.

Kobeya is known for their freshly baked breads. And with every meal, you can have as much bread as you want. I tried to eat every single kind.

My friends basically forced me to order the steak because they all thought that I eat too much ramen and could use some protein. Hmm, I wonder why they would think that?

This was the first steak I've eaten since moving to Japan. It was okay, but it makes me want to eat the Hawaiian Ribeye from Houston's.

When I finally got home, I actually had enough energy to put together my new bed that has been sitting in boxes for the past few days. Then I drank a beer and passed out.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Part time lover...

Day 109:

So I started working at Bassanova on my days and nights off of Ivan Ramen. I wasn't sure how to tell you about it, but I sort of hinted that last Wednesday was "sort of" my day off. As it turned out, I moved during the day and worked my first day at Bassanova that night. And this was my second night. I worked a total of 18 hours today, but I'm not gonna complain about it. I can't even begin to tell you how good this feels. You're probably getting sick of me saying this, but this dream just keeps getting better.

So far I've been given the duty of grilling all the chashu for the orders that come in. There will be more to share about Bassanova in upcoming posts, but for now I'll just show you what we get to eat at the end of our shifts. Yup, you guessed it. Whatever we want!

And as much as we want!

Of course I had to go with the green curry ramen with two grilled pieces of meat and an egg. The above pics are of what my coworkers ate.

By the way, beginning at the end of this month, Bassanova will be open for lunch too!

More to come...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Bloody ramen...

Day 108:

I know it's not fair to judge a tsukemen shop on their ramen, but if they're gonna have it on the menu shouldn't it at least be decent? I've heard the tsukemen is good at Tsukemen Onya, but I opted to go with the ramen since it was so damn cold outside.

Probably a big mistake. This had to be one of the worst that I've eaten in Tokyo thus far. The soup just tasted like...(the title of this post).

Please excuse me for this next description, but the kakuni tasted like how a wet dog smells.

The noodles weren't too bad. I'm sure they would taste a lot better with the tsukemen though.

I really hate writing about bad ramen. I sometimes would rather not write anything at all. But these are my day-to-day experiences and it would hurt more not to share them with you.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chocolate Beer?

Day 107:

In case you didn't get enough chocolate from last week's ramen, here's some beer to go with it. This is what happens when the leading beer maker from Hokkaido and the leading chocolate maker from Hokkaido spend too much time together drinking too much beer and eating too much chocolate. Like it says on the front, the beer is bitter but the smell of chocolate is everywhere. It was interestingly not bad, but still it wasn't for me.

Sorry no pic of ramen today. Aside from eating my daily ramen at work, I was too exhausted to eat after. So it'll just have to be this chocolate beer. Goodnight.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Moving day...

Day 106:

I've been feeling a bit down lately due to sheer mental and physical exhaustion (hence the delays in my posts), but today is moving day and I'm ready to move on! Before I say anything further, I really need to thank my brother and his family for letting me stay at their pad until I got settled in. My sister-in-law has been especially helpful in translating and guiding me through all the stuff that I had no clue how to do. 姉さんありがとう!I'm sure I overstayed my welcome, but that's what little brothers do, right?. haha. But seriously, thank you!

So this is my new pad. This is where I'll be calling home for the next year or two...or three or four-ever? Who knows. I still don't have a bed so I'll be sleeping on the floor for the next couple days until I can get one delivered. My internet connection is spotty (cuz I haven't hooked mine up yet), but I'll manage something to keep my blog alive on a daily basis.

Since this was my day off (well sort of), instead of perusing through the latest ramen mag to see what shop to hit up next, Brian and Nate agreed to help me move. Thanks dudes! So to repay them for their labor, I took them to my local ramen joint Jiraigen. I still can't believe neither of them have ever been there before today.

They needed to eat for themselves the ramen I once called "the best shoyu ramen I've ever had." And what did they think? You'll have to check out their blogs to find out.

I ordered mine with all the toppings for an extra 500 yen. I may not be able say that this is the best I've ever had anymore, but it's still top 3 for sure. Sadly, it turns out that I'm not the only one moving. Jiraigen will be moving out of my hood at the end of the month and opening up a bigger shop in Nakano. Bummer. But at least I still have...


The pic above is a pic of Bassanova's negi meshi (green onion rice). Okay...it's time to keep moving....

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Miso craving...

Day 105:

The days are flying by! I move into my new apt tomorrow so on my way to the ward office to change my address I decided to fulfill my miso craving at Misoichi. With over ten shops in the Tokyo area, Misoichi is well-known and well-respected.

But after having tried some of the best miso ramen in Sapporo, this one was just meh. Seriously, just meh.

The only thing memorable about this ramen was the bowl that they used. Called a suribachi in Japanese, using a mortar for a bowl was definitely eye-catching. But that was about it.

Anyway, I ended up riding my bike all the way to the ward office for nothing. They wouldn't let me change my address until after I moved in. So I guess I'll be going back tomorrow...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Day 103:

For several reasons, it took more than a month to finally meet up with Kimura-san and have his farewell party. But it was well worth the wait. On this night, the employees of Ivan Ramen ate yakitori, drank s***loads of alcohol and settled any differences between us. This is what I love about Japan. No matter how much you can detest a person, everything evens out after a few beers. Well, in this case ten. Honestly, this was one of the most 楽しい (fun) nights I've had living in Japan.

I don't remember how it ended, but I know that we all understand and respect each other more than ever. Thanks guys. We gotta do this again soon! マジで楽しかったよ!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sharing the dream...

Day 102:

A couple days ago, I received an email from a reader named Jay. He had just arrived in Tokyo to start living his ramen dream and asked if we could meet. Of course I said yes. Jay's story is a little bit different from mine, but we both share the same passion and hope of spreading the ramen word. After being laid off from the typical salary-man job, he decided to risk everything and chase his dream of opening up a ramen shop in San Jose, California. He even sold his house and left his supportive wife and 2-year-old daughter back in the states to come to Tokyo and learn how to make quality ramen. Since Jay is originally from Japan, the language barrier is not a problem. But finding an ideal ramen shop to train at could be.

We definitely had a great conversation. This probably won't be the last time you hear about Jay either. We've agreed to keep in touch so I'll try to provide updates as I receive them. Good luck Jay! 頑張ってください! We're all rooting for you!

Friday, February 12, 2010

The sound of slurp...

Day 101:

I walk by Daitabashi Taishoken almost everyday on my way to and from work. It's one of those "mom and pop" ramen shops that only the locals know about and really care about. You'll never see this shop in a magazine nor will you ever have to wait for a seat to open. There is no hype. No fanfare. Just good ramen.

Over the faint echoes of Enka, all you hear is the sound of slurps. The locals come in and just blurt out what they're having before they sit down. There's no need for them to even look at the menu. If you want less noodles, blurt it out. If you want more salt, blurt it out.

I'm not sure about the lineage and it's relation to the other Taishoken's in Tokyo, but the yuzu in the soup and the scalding hot temperature is evidence of some type of connection.

These small shops inspire me. They remind me of what ramen really is. Someday...this is how I would want to retire...