Friday, July 14, 2006

★★★★ 一風堂 (Ippuudou) - Tokyo

Ippuudou is a Hakata style ramen chain that has stores all over Japan. I've been to three of their stores so far and all were spacious, nicely decorated, and had great service, something you don't find with most Hakata style ramen places in Tokyo. I recently visited a store in Roppongi where I ordered the 赤丸新味 (akamaru shin-aji) or the "New flavor Akamaru".

The Soup - a rich, smooth tonkotsu soup that is delicious and very easy to eat. Their soup is a blend of tonkotsu (pork bone) broth and regular pork based soup, both are cooked separately with different methods and at different heat levels, then blended right before being served. There is a thin layer of brown oil on the soup that is made from blending different types of oil and infusing it with the flavor of different vegetables and spices.

The Noodles - are the very thin and straight ramen noodles that is a great match to the soup. When ordering the ramen you need to specify how firm you want the noodles cooked. There are 5 levels of firmness: はりがね (harigane) is what I always order, it's the hardest and means "steel beam", ばりかた (barikata) is very hard, かため (katame) is firm, ふつう (futsuu) is regular, and やわらかめ (yawarakame) is soft. Try the "katame" firm noodles if you are new to Hakata style ramen.

The Toppings - are simple, a few slice of cha-shu pork, some kikurage mushrooms and a lot of spring onions. The cha-shu is tender and flavorful. There is also a drop of spicy red sauce that you can blend with the soup or cha-shu as you eat, adding an occasional twist to the flavor.

Overall - one of the best tonkotsu ramen I've had. Highly recommend it especially to those new to ramen in general. The flavor of this ramen is actually quite different than regular Hakata style tonkotsu, it turns out that Ippuudou actually has another ramen on their menu called 白丸元味 (shiromaru moto-aji) that is closer to the original flavor of Hakata style though I have yet to try it. Ippuudou can be found near key train stations in the Tokyo area: Ebisu, Takadanobaba, Roppongi, etc.


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