Tuesday, August 25, 2015

らーめん桑嶋 Kuwajima: permanent nobara

Back to Shimokitazawa, our favorite place in Tokyo, food and entertainment morning til night in a culinarily diverse and multicultural environment. Kuwajima is brand spanking new, having moved in to a location that has been occupied by three different ramen shops in the last three years.

Apparently the master had a small shop in the Meguro area, but this time has gotten serious about chicken. Nothing but tori paitan and chicken-dashi bowls here. Lots of flowers outside and customers usually means good things for a new shop. I immediately became disappointed, thinking, "Oh, I should have come here before word got out." Sad feelings didn't remain for long.

Keikotsu ramen (800yen)

The paitan is rich but smooth. This is the new direction of tori paitan - no gamey or oily aftertaste, just creamy chicken essence. The thicker noodles paired well with this broth. Hearts kept looking over with Bambi eyes, so I had to devour it quickly. 

The yuzu shio was lighter, with strong a strong amount of yuzu kosho pepper mixed in. I like the shop's style of topping bowls with lots of leafy greens

Yuzu shio ramen (750yen)

Thinner noodles and a broth that's a little on the salty side. This is probably a good bowl after drinking, as its soothing and clean. Both bowls are topped with lean, smoked chicken breast.

These are simple bowls with a lot of soul. When we started slurping the soup, the master tried reading our faces, and when we thanked him, he smiled back and said he looked forward to serving us again. Strangely enough, this kind of warmth in a ramen shop is rare, so we hope Kuwajima sticks around.

Tokyo, Setagaya-ku, Daita 6-3-26
Closest stn: Shimokitazawa

Open from 1130am-230pm and 6pm-130am (closed Tuesdays)


Friday, August 14, 2015

Ramen Burger Tokyo: montage

So much internet ink has been spilled on Keizo Shimamoto's Ramen Burger, arguing for its merits as ramen and/or burger, that there is little for us here to add to the mix. Having never tried the Ramen Burger in New York (but having sampled its gestation in Tokyo), we also can't compare it to the real thing. Instead, and in honor of the Ramen Burger's move from Nakano to its permanent outpost in Fussa, here's a wordless montage of the Tokyo Ramen Burger in all its glory when it first debuted this year.

Ramen Burger with cheese (900yen)

The Works (1100yen)

We'll make sure to head to Fussa soon to try the "American" shop, though we'll have to take a workday off since apparently it's closed on weekends. Go Ramen, Ramen Burger, and Keizo, who currently seems to be doing ever crazier things over at his new yatai-like Ramen Shack.

Tokyo, Nakano-ku, Nakano 2-28-8
→Tokyo, Fussa City, Fussa 867-7
Closest stn: Fussa

Open from 11am-3pm (closed weekends)


Monday, August 10, 2015

MENSHO TOKYO: lamb on the run

It's been remarkably, deadly hot (rather than the usual burning hot) in Tokyo, but we still can't resist eating ramen. Hot days require us to hit up a shop quick and run before the sweat starts to sink into our shirts. Today marks our visit to the final shop of Tomoharu Shono's quintet of ramen labs.

We had been to Shono-san's Mensho on a couple other occasions for special events, but his shop is easy to find, right by Korakuen station, and perfect for those of us who lose all our energy after being exposed more than 10 seconds to the sun. The outside of the shop is made of polished, paneled wood slats, and smells like Japanese modern art, with a chandelier made from dried bonito, beautiful wooden tables, and ambient lighting inside.

Mensho is notable for yet another wild variant on a tried-and-true formula: the lamb tonkotsu, a mix of pork and lamb bone broth.

Ramen (750yen)

This is unquestionably one of the finest tonkotsu in Tokyo and, maybe, ever. Lamb has a funky smell and gamey taste, but Shono-san incorporates it into the broth for a pure, rich, milky soup with a hint of graininess. He even adds a slice of sudachi citrus to add some freshness to the pond of liquid gold. Gold, Jerry. Gold!

The lamb and niboshi bowl is also a winner, with strong, smoky bonito dashi and a hint of yuzu citrus mixing with the lamb and pork for a more savory bowl.

Lamb Niboshi Chukasoba (790yen)

The noodles, as always, are made in house through a noodle-making lab. They are fresh and excellent.

Not settling only for the ramen, we also tried the special lamb mazemen. Divine!

Maze hitsuji (900yen)

I couldn't imagine what lamb ramen would taste like, but this was simply wonderful. Not only did these bowls taste great, but care was put into the balance of their visual presentation, and service was quick and friendly. Eating at a Shono shop stimulates all the senses. Shono-san's now heading to San Francisco to spread his genius, and despite having five of his shops in Tokyo, I'm jealous of Bay Area Ramen Lovers who get to try his latest invention.

Tokyo, Bunkyo-ku, 1-15-9
Closest stn: Korakuen

Open from 11am-11pm (closed Tuesdays)


Monday, August 3, 2015

麺屋花形 Hanagata: star of the giants

Way out in the sticks of Kashiwa, with nary an ocean in sight, lies a big shop that specializes in fishy soup.

Hanagata's signature bowl is a triple fish blend shoyu.

Gyokai shoyu ramen (780yen)

This is a bold bowl with thick, curly noodles that sop up the strong, smoky broth...

...which tastes and looks like a grungier Taishoken.

Lots of people were ordering the mazesoba, but if you're looking for a "healthier" option, there's a vegetable ramen as well.

Seabura yasai ramen (850yen)

As usual for "vegetable ramen," this one is filled with pork in a fat-laden miso broth. There are probably only a handful of vegan ramens in Japan, and this ain't one of them. Definitely opt for extra chashu - it's lean, smoked, and has great char flavor.

Hanagata is another Chiba shop that's most accessible by car or bike, especially in this heat. It's also another shoyu that packs a punch. It's worth the drive.

Chiba, Kashiwa City, Shin-Kashiwa 4-10-5
Closest stn: Shin-Kashiwa (about a 15 min walk)

Open from 11am-9pm (closed Tuesdays and 3-530pm on weekdays)