Wednesday, December 25, 2013

麺屋 宗 Menya Sou: salt of the earth

The end of the year is approaching quickly. At this time of year, a lot of shops produce a gentei (limited-time) bowl full of seasonal ingredients. Above all, I was interested in Menya Sou's gentei bowl. They're located in Takadanobaba, which is one of the biggest ramen battlegrounds in Tokyo.

Sou was pushing out a salt and butter ramen. Sounds rich! I thought to myself while licking my lips. Sou uses Beurre d'Echire butter, which is a gourmet French butter often used for high-priced sweets.

The bowl is beautiful. A slice of lemon and several more slices of prosciutto make this bowl look like an Italian pasta dish.

One sip, and I let out a moan like an porn star. The butter and mushrooms combine for an amazing flavor profile.

The Echire butter adds a creamy accent that dribbled from my mouth. I was sad to see it dissolve into the soup. The noodles were chewy, going well with such rich soup.

As an added bonus, Sou provides some rice and cheese in which to use the leftover soup for a sort of ramen butter risotto.

Pouring the rest of the soup on the rice and shredded cheese was very yummy.

We enjoyed this gentei til the very last drop. A wonderful Christmas present for my belly. Unfortunately, this bowl is no longer available at Sou, but I'm sure they'll have more, so visit them and let us know!

Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Takadanobaba 1-4-21
Closest stn: Takadanobaba

Open from 1130am-4pm and 6-10pm


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

日清亭 Nisshin-tei: hot springs, hot noodles

We took a short trip last weekend to Hakone, a resort area of Japan south of Tokyo full of hot springs and historical culture.

The last of the beautiful autumn foliage was visible despite the windy temperatures.

Weekend excursions to beautiful resort towns do not preclude us from building appetites for bowls of ramen. Hakone's local favorite is a diner-like shop called Nisshin-tei.

There aren't a lot of ramen shops in this part of Japan (I imagine most tourists would rather eat luxurious kaiseki courses than slurp bowls), but Nisshintei is noteworthy regardless for making their own noodles, in full view of passersby and hungry tourists waiting in line.

First trips to strange locations call for the house special.

Ramen (600yen)

The shoyu had a basic broth with accents of chicken and vegetables, chashu, menma, and a slice of naruto. Your typical, no-frills diner ramen from the Showa era.

The standout is definitely the noodles, which are hand cut and vary in length and texture for unpredictable mouthfuls.

Lum went crazy and got the sanratanmen, which is a sweet and sour ramen that's also pretty spicy. I only had a bite of this, but it was much more of a solid punch in the face.

Sanratamen (850yen)
By the time we got outside, a massive line had formed with many groups and families. Word has definitely gotten out about this friendly, solid joint. It's worthy of a side trip if you're already dipping your cold skin into hot onsen.

Kanagawa, Ashigarashimogun, Hakonemachi-Yumoto 703
Closest stn: Hakone-Yumoto 

Open from 11am-9pm (closed Tuesdays)


Friday, December 6, 2013

凪煮干し王 Nagi Niboshi-ou: the fisher king

It's getting to be the best season for ramen. Hearts and I were roaming around Shibuya and decided to go to Nagi.

Our last experience at Nagi's tonkotsu shop was disappointing, but this time, we went for Nagi's claim to fame, a soup made up of tons of dried sardines.

If the shop is busy, you wait outside while they call you using this classic tube device.

They have a certain quirky style. The sign in front of the shop says:

Dear customer,
To be honest, if you don't like dried sardines, you will not be satisfied

Hearts got the shop's signature bowl...

Niboshi shoyu ramen (700yen)

...while I tried their spicy ramen. Both had soy-sauce bases.

Karami niboshi shoyu (750yen)

I'm not always satisfied with spicy bowls when I order them, so this time, I ordered the spiciest level (5).

But the strong flavor of the soup and the extreme spice levels knocked me out. Or rather, the spiciness overwhelmed even the strong sardine flavor of the soup. I should have ordered a less spicy level (Hearts pressured me!).

Their staple is solid, with a heavy fish flavor as expected. Nagi uses two types of noodles - a thick and curly noodle...

and a flat, softer noodle that is similar in texture to a wonton soup shell and is excellent.

Their ramen is good, though Hearts claims the Golden Gai shop is much better. I couldn't tell, because my tongue was numbed from the spicy bowl.

Nagi started in 2004 in Shinjuku as a small shop, but they are now a great small chain. They are only getting bigger and more famous, but thankfully their quality is still high overall. I expect the Nagi revolution in the coming years.

Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 3-7-2
Closest stn: Shibuya

Open from 11am-1am (closes from 330-5pm and at 9pm on Sundays)