Monday, July 22, 2013

鳴龍 Nakiryu: beauty and the bowl

Nakiryu was given a sterling write-up by none other than Ramen Adventures, the intrepid biker and explorer of ramen destinations across Japan and beyond.

It's out there in Otsuka, which is known for its old-school trolley and...uh...yeah. We didn't stick around for too long after eating.

Nakiryu has three choice bowls: shoyu, shio, and a spicy tantanmen. Lunch options are limited, but the night menu brings fancy stuff like wontons, or bowls of rice topped with steamed clams or shirasu, also known as dried baby anchovies.

The shop is sleek, the owner, slick.  He used to run Omotesando Hills now-defunct ramen joint MIST. Ramen for the bourgeoisie, you might think, but it was actually a surprisingly well-balanced shio, if a little lacking in oomph.

Shio ramen with ajitama (800yen)

Nakiryu's shio is much more flavorful. It's also a work of beauty. Pinks, greens, browns, reds bob in the bowl like still art. It's almost too lovely to eat.

I believe Ramen Adventures called it "refined." Lots of dried scallops, high quality vegetables, and imported Mongolian salt have been used to make the dashi. It starts out mild but becomes denser and more complex as you get to the bottom of the bowl. By the end, it was almost saucy in its depth.

Tantanmen, or dan dan mien, is always a tricky beast. Japanese spicy-sweet noodles with heavy amounts of ground pork, peanuts, chili oil, Sichuan peppers, and scallions. Too sweet and the spice is rendered mute. Too spicy and the bowl becomes almost bitter.

Tantanmen with ajitama (850yen)

Nakiryu's tantanmen is their signature bowl. It's more difficult to make the peanut and pork broth attractive, but Nakiryu's tantanmen comes surprisingly close in its balance and simplicity.

This one is very good. Great color and presentation to start, with a thinner noodle usually at home in a bowl of Hakata tonkotsu pork broth. The bits of meat cling to the noodles well.

This one is less on the sweet side, but this works in the bowl's favor. The pork flavors the soup, so the broth becomes richer and meatier as you work your way through it. By the end, its practically a pork and peanut porridge.

As is typical with Japanese editions of spicy food, it could've used a bit more punch, but there was enough tang (and optional DYI numbing pepper) for a mild sear through the entire bowl.

There is also a shoyu, but these are the two bowls you must order on a first or second visit. The quality and attention to detail in Nakiryu's savory bowls are impressive. A professional operation, and one worth a mild trek.

Tokyo-to, Toshima-ku, Minami Otsuka 2-34-4 Sky Minami Otsuka Bldg. 1F
Closest stn: Otsuka

Open from 1130am-3pm and 6pm-9pm (closed Mondays and Tuesday lunch)


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