Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ôita Hôraiken (大分宝来軒), Takadanobaba

What: Ramen (Tonkotsu)
Recommendation: Karami-tonkotsu (tonkotsu with chili miso paste)
Verdict: More than satisfactory (3.7)

(JR Takadanobaba station, Waseda exit: Head down Waseda dôri towards Waseda, and you'll find it on your left hand side after 100-150 meters. Map)

The story
None, really. Just felt hungry for ramen and was in the neighborhood. Had noticed this place, for its ambitious claim to serve "Japan's best tonkotsu ramen". So, somewhat skeptical, I entered.

The place
Cozy, Japan-retro-ish place with big, fat handwriting splattered all over the walls to create a genki sort of souther, Kyushu atmosphere. One thing which sets this place apart, is the fact that they bring you warm hand towels (o-shibori) when you sit down. Could get used to that

The noodles
Rich, full soup with thin, hoso-men noodles. Soup's very good; the mild, heavy tonkotsu broth balanced by spicy chili miso paste (if you order the kara-mi tonkotsu). Noodle texture is not quite top-notch but definitely ok. The hanjuku egg (which I ordered extra) was just the right, soft texture.

The verdict
Not quite a foodgasm, but plenty satisfaction. Oh, and it makes Ippûdô down the road taste like dishwashing water by comparison. Best tonkotsu in Baba so far.

But "Japan's best tonkotsu ramen"...?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Sumire (すみれ), Ikebukuro

What: Ramen (Miso)
Recommendation: Miso-ramen + egg (1000 yen)
Verdict: A treat (4/5)
 (JR Ikebukuro station, on the 12th floor of the Tobu department store in the station complex, near the west exit)

The Story
Thursday night, and a nice feeling of tiredness spreading through the body. You know it, that sickeningly healthy feeling of complacent tiredness after a good long day of work (which in my case is study). Only thing this day needs to top it off, is a good ramen excursion with a few beers afterwards.
- I'm sooo hung over, says Willow. Ok, scratch the beer, then. But dammit, I want ramen.

The Place
- HERE!? I exclaimed as Willow guided us in through the entrance of the Tobu department store in Ikebukuro.
- Well, yeah... on the twelfth floor, that is...
Ok, I'm an open-minded person. But the restaurant floor of a department store is not exactly my idea of the most likely place to find good ramen. Queasily streamlined Japanitalian restaurants, yes. Family restaurants, yes. Maybe even decent okonomi-yaki (like a huge, thick pancake with lots of cabbage and goodies, and not so much a pancake at all). But ramen?

Well, we find the place, and it doesn't look bad. A bit clean, perhaps, but I'm not that choosy. Choose your grease-laden poison on the vending machine in front, and duck in, to find an unusually female-dominated clientelle.

The noodles
But no time to look at the fillies, not for long anyway. The noodles arive, and glory, what a bowl of goodies. Rich, fullbodied miso soup which delivers a heavy punch to the taste palates, instant KO, I love these noodles. As it turns out, it's a bit too rich, at least if you drink the bowl dry, like I did. May have something to do with the layer (I jest not, it is a layer) of fat on top of the soup to keep its heat from evaporating.

The noodles, semi-thick and aromatic, had no reason to be ashamed either - great bite resistance, matches the soup well.

I did miss a good chunk of meat, though - the meat which was in, was only in small pieces which didn't quite satisfy.

Has the jury reached its verdict?
In spite of the high consentration of female customers, this is by no means girly ramen. High satisfaction rate, although the soup is a little on the heavy side. This said, it is the best miso ramen I've tried in Tokyo, along with Junren in Takadanobaba.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Kôryû (康 竜), Shinjuku

(Also in: Naka-Meguro, Akasaka, Ikebukuro, Ginza, Akihabara. Directions: JR Shinjuku Station, East Exit - see map)

What: ramen (tonkotsu)
Recommendation: jibun-shitate ramen (do-it-yourself ramen), 750 yen
Verdict: Nice (3.8/5)

The Story
Out on my weekly ramen excursion with Willow, this time we decided - or rather, I followed Willow's suggestion, to try the do-it-yourself ramen at Kôryû. Located near the East exit (Luminé Est and the Kôban). Didn't know much about the place, except what Willow told me: You get to put together your own ramen - that is, the topping.

The Place
Fairly standard, cozy retro-ish dark wooden panelling, only counter seats on the first floor, which would be ok, if there'd been a little more leg room - they certainly didn't have us gaijin guys in mind when they furnished the place.

The Noodles
Ok, rather than the noodles, it's the topping that's the thing here. For 750 yen, you get to choose four different toppings - I went for extra pork (kaku-ni), fried garlic (age-ninniku), the half-boiled egg (hanjuku-tamago) and the bamboo sprouts (menma).

The noodles are of thin hoso-men type, and they are thin indeed. I don't mind that in itself, but it makes it even more important that they're not overcooked. In this case, they could do with a little more bite - in this sense, I prefer Ippûdô's system where you can choose the al dente-degree of the noodles.

The soup, though, was full and rich, a treat in itself.

Has the jury reached its verdict?
All in all a good ramen experience. Excellent soup, loads of goodies on top. Shame the noodles weren't quite up there with the rest. Can definitely recommend it if you're in the area.