Tuesday, March 29, 2016

麺屋 六感堂 RockanDo: how green was my valley

Ramen battleground Ikebukuro has been changing over the past several years. Before, many shops served rich and creamy bowls, but recently more ramen chefs are creating bowls with distinctive flavors or concepts. RockanDo is one of them. Don't be fooled by the meat-intensive restaurant next door which often has a line outside and wafts delicious smells out the door towards passersby.

Yuzu mitsuba shio green-men (800yen)

The unique noodles here contain euglena, a bright green, protein-rich, algae type food. Of course, the color of the handmade noodles is green as well, fitting for their trademark "green shio ramen." This one is topped with mitsuba and yuzu for an extra-healthy kick. The noodles are thin but al dente. And refreshing. You might feel your tongue turning green after every bite. The smell is reminiscent of macha green tea (which the shop stocks in abundance), and nicely matches with the shio bowls. The soup is very simple and light, but also tender and a little sweet.

Lum got the shoyu.

Shoyu with ajitama (850yen)

At the bottom of every bowl are the fulfilling kanji kansha (感謝), which means "appreciation" but also thank you (ありがとうございます).

Besides the ramen, the entire interior is unified by hints of green. The waiting bench, water jars, salt and pepper bins, even the towels in the restroom are green. I like this idea of a "green theme," and I hope more shops expand on this kind of sensual concept, rather than just solely on ingredients.

Of course, RockanDo experiments with those too.

We went for a special event and were served a fantastic uni and caviar mazemen, with a light but umami-rich oyster-dashi dipping broth.

One of the best seasonal bowls we've ever had, from one of the great new shops on the Ikebukuro scene.

Tokyo, Toshima-ku, Higashi-Ikebukuro 2-57-2
Closest stn: Ikebukuro

Open from 11am-9pm


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

塩元帥 Shiogensui: the natural

Spending a little time in Osaka before heading back to Tokyo, we wanted to try out one of the most recognized shops in the area, but were turned away as the shop proprietors were away for some kind of staff training. So we went for a walk.

Tennen shio ramen (700yen)

Shiogensui seems to be a pretty popular place among the locals. There are shops all over Osaka, though we were going to the honten (main branch), which almost always has a better reputation than its offshoots. It's one of those larger shops you find outside of Tokyo that cater to families, with lots of tables and space inside. This one was run like a factory-line, with lots of shouting and moving of bodies. Also a bunch of chefs in the kitchen, though the relaxed vibe meant that people weren't coming in and out as fast as the typical Tokyo lunch counter.

The shop claims to make a "natural ramen," with a tare comprised of over 40 different ingredients. The noodles are also homemade, with natural kansui. The taste is overall light and refreshing, with nice hints of yuzu citrus. A bit lacking in oomph, with a possible side effect being a slightly overly salted bowl.

Maybe the more memorable items were the sides. Kimchi and garlic are all-you-can-eat, and the bowls, such as this mayo-streaked chashu, are great for only an extra hundred yen.

Osaka doesn't seem to have any single local style, with many of the most popular shops running the gamut from shoyu to tonkotsu. Shiogensui is similar to a lot of shio bowls available in Tokyo, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Osaka, Yodogawa-ku, Kikawahigachi 3-6-24
Closest stn: Minamikata

Open from 11am-midnight