Thursday, September 29, 2016

煮干しつけ麺 宮本 Miyamoto: high fidelity

Rounding out our tsukemen September is one of the brightest new shops that opened last year. Miyamoto is yet another high-quality tonkotsu-gyokai, this one coming from a master who trained at the highly regarded Itto.

Gokuko (ultra thick) niboshi tsukemen (830yen)

The signature tsukemen is a broth of rich and briny sludge. What separates Miyamoto from other refined tsukemen is the concentration on gyokai over tonkotsu. Some people might not go for it, but this is a nice alternative to the pork-intensive dipping soups of most Tokyo bowls. The broth is intensely dense, maybe the thickest standard tsukemen broth we've ever had, but surprisingly slurpable due to the lack of meat concentration.

The noodles, supplied by Itto, are immaculate. With great bite and thickness, these are maybe the best thick-cut tsukemen noodles outside of only a couple of those shops mentioned above. The only downside here is you need to order a larger portion, as the standard 200g is less than your average tsukemen noodle pile. This was one of the rare times I wanted more noodles to sop up the thick broth.

Miyamoto also serves up a couple of regular ramen, with a light option for those looking for a less intense bowl. The chukasoba is also niboshi-heavy, though without any pork bone broth to cut the fish, the broth is a little too sour.

Gokujo (ultra quality) niboshi soba (780yen)

Great thin noodles are a nice match for the lighter soup, but you should really get the tsukemen.

One thing that must be mentioned is that the chefs and staff really know how to turn over a counter. There were maybe 10 people ahead of us, but we waited only about 20 minutes to get seated and served. Despite that, we didn't feel rushed and the staff greeted us on the way in and out.

Very good bowls enhanced by a professional operation makes it easy to see why Miyamoto made so many best-of lists in 2015, despite being out in Kamata (also the hometown of Ishii Isami, mangaka of 750 Rider!).

Tokyo, Ota-ku, Nishi-Kamata 7-8-1
Closest stn: Kamata

Open from 11am-230pm and 6-9pm (closed Wednesdays)


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

つけ麺 竹川 Takekawa: the unexpected men

We love walking around Setagaya, and when we are starving, we walk to nearby ramen shops unconsciously. We wanted to try Washo, a highly regarded Taishoken clone, but gave up once we saw the insanely long line. Instead, we went to an alternative shop specializing in tori paitan tsukemen.

Tsukemen (850yen)

I like tori paitan, but sometimes it's a little sticky or stinky because of the richness of the soup. Takekawa's soup looks really rich, and my worry kicked into hyperdrive, but it wasn't sticky or smelly at all. With the first bite, I tapped Hearts' shoulder with much excitement because I wanted to tell him how good it was.

Like camino, Takekawa also serves their tsukemen with vegetables. Where the veggies are the star in camino, they are more like colorful supporting actors here. Tomatoes, zucchini, radish, carrots - all of them organic - gave me a good impression that this shop is considerate of their female clientele.

Takekawa is small, but the warm ramen master and wooden decor made me feel relaxed. Setagaya is a fierce ramen district, so the shop isn't currently as highly regarded as some of the others in the area, but it should be far more popular than it is.

Tokyo, Setagaya-ku, Taishido 2-1-1
Closest stn: Sangenjaya

Open from 12-3pm and 630-11pm (closed Wednesdays)


Friday, September 2, 2016

麺屋一燈 Itto: second best?

Itto is one of the highest ranked tsukemen shops in the country. Among Tokyo shops, it comes in second on food-ranking site Tabelog (Japan's version of Yelp) right after Tomita. We had it a few years back at the Grand Tsukehaku Fest, but the OG shop is always the better bowl. Be prepared to wait well over an hour.

Hearts got the tsukemen...

Chashu noko gyokai tsukemen (1100yen)

...while Lum got the ramen.

Ajitama noko gyokai ramen (900yen)

These are tonkotsu gyokai exemplars. The tsukemen stands out for the noodles: thick and udon-like, with great bite and chew. All noodles are made in house.

The shop serves side pork chashu rice bowls, but you might as well add extra pork and chicken chashu on your tsukemen. This stuff is sliced thicker and larger than most any other tsukemen shop, and is prepared using a special steaming process that leaves the meat tender and pink, but cooked throughout.

Itto is known for a milder, smoother soup than gutsier bowls like Tomita or Seitoku. I prefer the former, but ladies tend to prefer the latter. It's great broth, made from top quality ingredients (sourced soy sauce, salt, French chickens, blends of dried sardines), though we remember it having more umami when we tried it at the Tsukehaku a few years back. Apparently, like many top shops, they underwent a "food renovation" and completely redid their recipe earlier this year.

The chicken meatballs, the shop's trademark topping, are still fantastic.

All ladies are given a sherbet dessert. Men are given the finger. Or an indifferent glance. I forget which one.

Itto is well-deserving of its stellar reputation, though I'm not sure any shop is worth waiting for several hours. Especially in a typhoon.

Tokyo, Katsushika-ku, Higashi Shin-Koiwa 1-4-17
Closest stn: Shin-Koiwa

Open from 11am-3pm and 6-10pm