Monday, January 29, 2007

Udatsu shokudô (うだつ食堂), Waseda/Tsurumakichô

(Arakawa Tramway Line, Waseda station: Walk down the Shin-Mejiro-dôri in the opposite direction of the tramway for about five minutes until you see it on your left-hand corner. Map)

What: ramen/tsukemen Recommendation: chûka-soba, zenbuiri (Shôyu-tonkotsu ramen with all topping) Verdict: possibly addictive (4/5)

The Story
- I've got this great ramen joint I wanna show you. I really think you'll like it, Rocky said enthusiastically. Well, he's always enthusiastic, so that in itself didn't really convince me.
- Uh... ok, I said. -What about Monday?
Monday came with Monday morning blues, took me ages to get out of my room, and when I got to Uni, I was nodding over the computer, half drooling onto my laptop keyboard. 12:30 came, and ok, yeah, time for the good old any-day-morning-blues cure in which all practitioners of the ramen school of medicine place their faith.

The Place
The place Rocky took me, looked nice enough. I was a little skeptical to see a mock-up of a train station signpost outside to add to its atmosphere, but it's nice enough. Headed inside and found myself face-to-face with the vending machine.
- Grab the zenbu iri (means you get all the different toppings), Rocky said, and I complied and paid the 900 yen (without extra topping, it's 650 yen)
We handed over our food tickets to the lady, and got the choice whether we wanted normal (nami) or large (Ômori) portions, and whether we wanted the eggs raw (nama) or half-boiled (han-juku).

As we sat down, I noticed, a bit surprised, that the interior was all tables, no counter. The walls had dark wood paneling and old posters from early in the Shôwa period, like an advertisement for the energy drink "oronamin C". Cozy nostalgia, in other words, if you're Japanese and over 50. If not, it's simply cozy.

The noodles
After a few minutes, in came the steaming bowl, loaded with goodies: two kinds of meat in abundant quantities, egg, leek, nori (crispy seaweed), moyashi (bean sprouts), menma (bamboo sprouts) and a piece of deep-fried squid. This last item surprised me somewhat, but Rocky explained that this was another nostalgia factor: Most Japanese, at least over 25, have fond memories of buying this stuff for snacks when they were kids, apparently.

Dipped the renge spoon in the broth, sipped, and lifted my eyebrows. Nice. The combination of the rich tonkotsu pork broth blends very nicely with the characteristic aroma of the shôyu (soy sauce), with a hint of sweetness to balance it all.
- This could become a habit, I instantly exclaimed?
- Right? right? Rocky nodded eagerly.
Definitely right - the noodles, which were medium thick (chû-goshi), were not amazing, but definitely good, and balanced the soup well. The grilled pork topping had good bite and was very good. A little disappointed to find that the "half-boiled" egg turned out to be merely poached, but I guess that's a matter of individual taste.

The deep-fried squid seems to be more a nostalgia thing than a taste thing, though.

Has the jury reached its verdict?
Great tasty ramen with lots of stuff (if you pay the 250 yen extra). The soup was memorable, and the noodles good. Potential for addiction.

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