Tuesday, November 29, 2016

博多ラーメン ばりこて Barikote: porco rosso

How have I not come here before? Barikote is among the handful of best Hakata ramen shops in Tokyo. On a rain-soaked typhoon night, this was the perfect post-drinking ramen.

Hakata ramen (650yen)

Appropriately priced, this is Hakata ramen at its finest - cheap, quick, stinky soul food. Barikote's broth is cloudy and white, made from 100% pork bones boiled for over 16 hours. No cheating with fish soup, chicken, or vegetables here. Surprisingly, this broth is mellow and easy to drink, packing all of the punch of a thick pork stew with none of the heaviness.

The noodles are fantastic, handmade and shipped in from the main shop in Nagahama, Kyushu every single day.

I recommend eating the noodles and drinking only a minimal amount of the soup. Then, order a half or full kaedama 替え玉 (extra portion of noodles) for a mere 50 or a 100 yen more. Trick out your second helping with the standard spicy takana greens, pickled pink ginger, and copious amounts of grated garlic and sesame seeds.

Maybe shops like this are a dime a dozen in Hakata, but Barikote's pure, piggy, and fulfilling tonkotsu is a rarer beast in Tokyo.

Tokyo, Suginami-ku, Koenji Minami 1-30-15
Closest stn: Higashi-Koenji

Open from 1130am-3pm and 530pm-2am (closed Mondays)


Saturday, November 5, 2016

らぁ麺 やまぐち辣式 Yamaguchi Ratsushiki: salt n' pepper

Sometimes, I'm tempted not to blog about my favorite ramen shops, lest they become overrun by tourists. Yamaguchi's latest shop falls under such consideration. This is Yamaguchi's second shop after his shoyu shop in Takadanobaba, one of Hearts two or three favorites in the city.

"Ratsushiki" is difficult to translate exactly into English, but might best be defined as "sharp style." This is ramen with bite. They only serve a mapotofu-inspired mazesoba...

Mara mazesoba with small rice (800yen)

...and a shio ramen (always get the wontons).

Shio ramen with shrimp wontons (930yen)

First off, the shio. This is not a side endeavor for Yamaguchi-san. The soup - beautiful and golden - has an addictive quality that makes one not want to put the ladle down. You could call this ramen "crack style." The flavor of the ingredients used to derive the dashi - seaweed, scallops - is very strong, but work in harmony. This soup could be served in an expensive Japanese kappo dinner. I doubt I'll taste a better ramen than this one in 2016.

The mara mazesoba was a totally different beast. Yamaguchi-san told us that he loves mapotofu and was inspired to make a ramen out of it. Lots of Chinese-style diners serve mabo ramen, but he found that the tofu made the bowl too watery, so his mabo mazemen eliminates the tofu for a pure umami experience. The spicy paste, numbing pepper, and combination of ground and chopped pork provides a counterpunch to the refined shio. Despite being spicy, the flavor is never overwhelming, and you can taste the quality of the bowl until the very last slurp. For those who want a less intense and more creamy experience, add the onsen tamago soft-cooked egg. Definitely order a side of white rice to make sop up the last remaining bits of sauce.

I thought Yamaguchi-san only made shoyu ramen, but his expanded offerings blew my mind. The only thing I wish is that his shops were closer to my home and work.

Tokyo, Koto-ku, Toyocho 4-6-3
Closest stn: Toyocho

Open from 1130am-3pm and 530-9pm (closed Thursdays)