Thursday, December 25, 2014

銀笹 Ginsasa: ramen so fancy

Shimbashi is bustling with big Japanese firms like Dentsu, Softbank, and ANA. There, Ginzasa stands quietly in between the hulking skyscrapers like an old-fashioned Japanese sushi bar.

But the shop's interior is dark and black, like a sleek and modern izakaya. There are a lot of salarymen and office ladies in here during lunch. You might need to compromise by squeezing in next to someone. I personally don't like sitting this close to people at the counter; someone slurped some soup into my UGG boot. Ugh...

Unlike most shops which use niboshi or katsuo, Ginsasa makes their broth from sea bream.

Ginzasa Shio Ramen (850yen)

When the bowl arrived, wafts of sea bream softly filled my nose. The clear soup is beautiful, and is something that would be served in a nice washoku restaurant; in other words, this is a bowl that fits its location. Even the noodles are silky and their thinness matches the soup.

The tsumire, or "fish ball," is soft and a little crunchy, with a beautiful pink color. It reminds me of Kaijinn in Shinjuku, which also serves a fish-based shio ramen.

Unfortunately, the sea bream's smell is stronger than its taste. I really wanted this bowl to have more impact and bring out the flavors of the fish. Maybe the sea bream on rice would do that if you have the appetite for it.

Ginza is a world-class area of Tokyo, but I'm not sure it's the best place to eat ramen. I couldn't feel relaxed the entire time I was here. For those who want a sleek scene, Ginsasa might be your place.

Tokyo, Chuo-ku, Ginza 8-15-2
Closest stn: Ginza

Open from 1130am-3pm and 530-10pm (closed Sundays)


Friday, December 12, 2014

つけ麺 道 Michi: kochira kameari ramen

I was way out in Kameari, home to the longest running manga ever, Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Koen Mae Hashutsujo, or Kochikame, for short (the title translates, literally, to "The Local Police Station in Front of Kameari Park in the Katsushika Ward). Kameari is also home to one of the highest ranked tsukemen shops in the country, which only opens for lunch. It's probably getting too cold for tsukemen, but Michi calls for an exception.

The lines here are long, and I was seriously tempted by the bento shop next door selling bentos for a ridiculous 220 yen. I think with today's exchange rates that's less than $2!

Unlike most places that overload their tsukemen with ingredients, Michi has the option of a so-tsukemen: a simple bowl with just noodles, soup, scallions, and a little "seasoning."

So-tsukemen (550yen)

The seasoning changes all the time, and this week featured a tangy yuzu kosho - spice flavored with yuzu citrus. Put a little on each bit of noodle, dip into the broth, and slurp.

The toppings looked good, too, but getting the basic version lets you savor the excellent noodles...

...and near-perfect broth, which is very similar to Menya Kisso in its smoothness. Michi's broth is frothy, and I think has a little more character and meaty gumption.

Not eating a giant bowl will also leave you room for dessert. Most ramen shops don't bother with sweets, but Michi serves a restaurant-quality creme brulee! This was the perfect after-ramen treat.

Ryo-san says you need to go to Michi, stat!

Tokyo, Katsushika-ku, Kameari 5-28-17
Closest stn: Kameari

Open from 1130am to whenever soup runs out


Friday, December 5, 2014

満来 Manrai: city lights

On my birthday, Hearts treated me to a fancy French dinner...just kidding! We went to eat ramen, of course. He understands my needs.

I had been longing to go to Manrai for a while. It's located in busy Shinjuku, but the shop stands quietly, like a beacon of light in the crowd of passersby. While there are lines, the shop is so efficient that they move very quickly.

Though the tsukemen looked amazing, it was cold, so we both ordered the ramen.

Ramen (900yen)

The standard bowl comes brimming with toppings: a lot of spinach, bamboo shots, and a giant slab of chashu (which was a little tough and chewy). It's pricey, but I can say the cost is appropriate to the value.

The soup is tender and mild, and the noodles are a great match. Elastic and silky, they have a bright, whiter color than normal ramen noodles. The flavor is subdued, so the draw for this bowl is the easy slurpability of lots and lots of noodles, like a cross between ramen and soba.

That being said, this is a lot of food, and I probably couldn't have finished the bowl without Hearts' help. Ladies, you might want to adjust the noodle portion when taking an order. Just tell the master: Men, sukuname de onegaishimasu.

Manrai isn't extraordinary, but somehow, it's hard to stop slurping. This is nostalgic ramen for all kinds of people, and it showed in the shop's demographics: women, businessmen, families, and couples were all part of the clientele when we ate. This means that they've likely been serving the same taste, quality, and service for generations.

Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 1-4-10
Closest stn: Shinjuku

Open from 11am-10pm