Monday, August 28, 2006

★★ 坂内喜多方ラーメン (Ban-nai Kitakata ramen) - Tokyo

Ban-nai is a major ramen chain store that focuses on Kitakata ramen. Kitakata ramen is famous for its thick and wide noodles, it is also one of the three major ramen of Japan, the other two being the Sapporo miso ramen and Hakata tonkotsu ramen. Having tried so many Sapporo and Hakata ramen already I thought it was about time I tried some Kitakata ramen. At Ban-nai I tried their regular 喜多方ラーメン (Kitakata ramen).

The Soup - is a flavorful chicken and pork based soup that is simply seasoned with salt and some soy sauce. The soup is clear with just a few drops of oil. A light soup that was a nice departure from the heavy and oil ramen that has been so common in ramen in the Tokyo area.

The Noodles - are thicker, flat and wide noodles. These ramen noodles are also curly and cooked slightly firm, the texture is slippery, springy and very chewy as well. I've always heard that Kitakata ramen's main attraction are the noodles, these noodles don't dissapoint, though I would've prefered the noodles cooked even more firm.

The Toppings - are five thin slices of cha-shu pork, some menma bamboo and sliced spring onions. All lightly seasoned. The cha-shu pork was thin but very tender and flavorful, not much special seasoning in the cha-shu, just the simple natural flavor of the pork.

Overall - I'd recommend you give Ban-nai a try if you are in the Tokyo area. A simple ramen flavor wise with noodles that are a joy to eat. To be honest I haven't tried that many Kitakata style ramen yet, though the noodles here are noticeably different from the thin noodles in most places in Tokyo. Hopefully I will some day travel to Kitakata and report on the authentic ramen from that area.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

★★★ 梅子餐廰 (Mei-Zhi Restaurant) - Taipei

Mei-Zhi Restaurant is located in the older part of Taipei of LingSen North Road, established in the 1960's, it is famous for its traditional Taiwanese cuisine. The store is popular among the entertainment industry in Taiwan with lots of celebrity photos decorating the walls, I even saw a few Japanese celebrities as well. Unfortunately I didn't get to try their variety of Taiwanese dishes, but I did try their 台南担仔麺 (Tainan Dan-Zai Noodles).

The Soup - is an unseasoned soup, actually it tastes so thin that I wonder if it is even a soup. The soy sauce and flavoring of the 肉燥 (ground pork sauce) blends with the soup to give it a brownish color.

The Noodles - are thicker straight noodles that are cooked on the soft side.

The Toppings - are distinctly Taiwanese. 肉燥 (rou-zao) is ground pork stir fried with chopped shiitake mushrooms, fried shallots, onions, and seasoned with rice wine, black pepper and Chinese five spice. The ground pork sauce is a great match with 香菜 (Chinese coriander) which is used in a lot of Taiwanese cuisine. The sauce is on the salty side but meant to be mixed in with the soup and noodles.

Overall - a really authentic and delicious Taiwanese ramen, the noodles are simply a great match with the ground pork sauce and coriander. Come here for the ramen as well as the large variety of Taiwanese cuisine and seafood it offers. Mei-zhi is open until 1am from Monday to Saturday and is perfect for a late night snack. The portions for dan-zai are small and perfect keeping enough room for trying out many different Taiwanese dishes. Although this is a really nice restaurant it is located in an older, dirtier part of Taiwan, try taking a taxi directly there rather than the subway and walking.

No 1 Alley 107 LinSen North Road Taipei, 台北市林森北路107巷1號
Japanese site -
Chinese site -

Sunday, August 20, 2006

★★ 中田兄弟 (Nakata Brothers) -Tokyo

Nakata Brothers is a ramen shop just a minutes walk away from Meidai-mae train station on the Keio line. Having grown tired of the heavy tonkotsu ramen, I heard about this store from a ramen friend of mine and decided to make the short trip from Shinjuku to try out this Japanese style ramen. I ordered their 味玉ラーメン (ramen with flavored boiled egg).

The Soup - was a light chicken broth blended with a dried bonito based soup. The soup's flavor is distinctly Japanese without going overboard on the fish flavor. However if you enjoy the typical Japanese style ramen then the flavor for Nakata Brothers ramen might feel a little thin.

The Noodles - are medium thickness curly noodles cooked to regular firmness. A rather springy ramen that didn't seem to match the soup that well.

The Toppings - were cha-shu pork, menma bamboo, nori dried seaweed, and flavored boiled egg. The cha-shu pork was cut so thin though tasty. menma was a little sweet. Boiled egg was great though uncooked in the middle.

Overall - a pretty good ramen that just seems to be a couple steps short from being great. The soup lacks the punch on the aroma side compared to other Japanese style ramen, while the noodles are just average. If Meidai-mae is on your daily travel commute then come try this place out. Otherwise don't go out of your way to come to Meidai-mae.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

★★ らあめん花月 (Kagetsu) - Narita Airport

Kagetsu is a large ramen chain store with over 100 stores all over Japan. Recently they opened a shop in Narita International Airport. Located on the 5F of terminal one, if you are flying out of Narita to North America then you could give Kagetsu a try. I ordered their most popular dish the ニンニクげんこつラーメン (garlic pork bone ramen).

The Soup - is a very rich pork bone soup, mixed a broth from shiitake mushrooms and other vegetables. The soup is flavorful with little of the strong pork bone smell. A simple, less sophisticated version of tonkotsu (pork bone) soup, but still delicious none the less. The soup is quite oily, which is quite normal when compared to other tonkotsu soups.

The Noodles - are thin straight noodles cooked firm.

The Toppings - as standard as they get. Cha-shu pork, menma bamboo, nori dried seaweed, diced spring onions and an boiled egg. Nothing outstanding, but not bad for a large chain store, and really quite good for airport food!

Overall - I would recommend this place to people who haven't tried a lot of Hakata style tonkotsu ramen. Hakata ramen can have the strong smell in the soup or ultra firm, hard noodles that can turn some people away. Kagetsu's ramen is a pretty reserved version, maybe they had to in order to appeal to a wider audience. Kagetsu has over 100 chain stores in Japan so they must be doing something right.

Give them a try before your next flight! Just keep in mind that you might be sitting in a plane for over 10 hours after eating the bowl of ramen...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

★ 夏面馆 (Xia Noodle House) - Shanghai

Xia Noodle House is a restaurant chain that specializes in SuJou style ramen. This is one of the fancier noodle shop in Shanghai where the store is clean, brightly lit and well decorated. When you enter the store it feels like walking into the streets of SuJou 100 years ago, complete with old style furniture and classical Chinese paintings. The service is very nice as well where the waitress patiently explained to us each item on the menu. After careful consideration I ordered one of their famous ramen dishes 虾爆鳝面 (shrimp and river eel noodles).

The Soup - is a rich, cloudy chicken soup, lightly seasoned with salt and not much else. I must admit that the soup here is much more flavorful than most other ramen soup that I've tried in Shanghai, but compared to some other places such as 沧浪亭 (CangLangTing) or 老半斋酒楼 (LaoBanZai), the soup seemed flat and one dimensional.

The Noodles - are thin, straight noodles cooked firm. The noodles are like Hakata style noodles, firm and chewy but tend to turn soggy pretty quickly as well. The noodles were delicious, much better than the soup.

The Toppings - were frightening looking strands of cooked eel that were floating on the soup in a way that made them look like they're still alive. There were also stir fried shrimp in the soup. The eel are lightly seasoned, slightly sweet, with the flavor of the fish being a little too strong. The shrimp were baby shrimp that didn't match the ramen either in its texture or flavor.

Overall - a dissapointment for me. After reading so many positive reviews on Chinese websites I had very high hopes for this place. While the noodles were good and the toppings okay, the soup simply came out flat for me. Not worth the $24RMB (about $2.50 US), which seems like a bargain but is about 3-4 times the prices of an average bowl of ramen in Shanghai. Xia Noodle House does have a lot of other Chinese dishes that are quite good though.

Later on during my trip I tried a few more ramen shops in Shanghai that were really good, as I mentioned 沧浪亭 (CangLangTing) is one of those places. I hope to write about this place in the next week or so.

徐汇区肇嘉浜路798号 (798 ZhaoJiaBang Road)
静安区南京西路1266号 (1266 Nanjing West Road)

Monday, August 14, 2006

★ 狮子林面馆 (ShiZiLin Noodle House) - Shanghai

ShiZiLin Noodle House is conveniently located across the street from the Shanghai Grand Hyatt which I was staying at during my last visit. It is a authentic SuJou style noodle chain store with various locations available in the city. ShiZiLin literally mean "Lion Forest", it is one of the four major gardens in the city of SuJou located further inland from the city of Shanghai. During my first visit I ordered the first item on their menu, the 辣肉面 (spicy meat noodles).

The Soup - is a very thin, very lightly flavored soy sauce flavored soup. Surprising since the soup's dark brown color made it look saltier than it actually is. I'm so used to the ramen from Japan, Taiwan and SE Asia where the soup is packed with complex flavors, compared to that this soup almost tasted like water. The oil on the soup is most likely from the spicy meat and not the soup.

The Noodles - are thin straight nooldes cooked firm. This is one area that Shanghai noodles never seems to fail, the noodles are firm and chewy, while they don't pack a lot of flavors if you eat them with the spicy meat it's just right.

The Toppings - are spicy meat, that's it. Spicy meat are small pieces of pork, marinated in a sweet soy sauce and cooked with red chile oil. Not a whole lot of spices are used and it tastes very simple. More than being spicy, the meat tastes very sweet, which I found out is a signature of Shanghai cuisine.

Overall - a very simple noodle soup that is a good representation of what Shanghai ramen is like. Lightly flavored soup with toppings that are on the sweet side. For $9RMB (about $2.25) this ramen is slightly on the expensive side, but the portions are quite large. Located in PuDong area, across the street from JingMao Tower where the Grand Hyatt Shanghai hotel is located.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

★★★ 欣葉 (XinYe) - Taipei

XinYe is a higher end restaurant in Taipei that serves some of the best authentic Taiwanese food including many dishes commonly served at food stands. XinYe is the place to go if the common Taiwanese night market is a little too chaotic for you. Try all the best dishes Taiwanese food stands have to offer in an air conditioned, clean and bright environment, with prices at twice the what you would otherwise pay for. Kind of worth it after spending a long day in hot and humid Taipei. I will introduce some of the popular Taiwanese dishes here, but my main goal was to try the ramen only served in Taiwan, the 漂香切仔麺 or "CheZai mian" in Mandarin, "ChiGa Mi" in Taiwanese, or "チェアミィ麺" in Japan.

The Soup - is a clear, light broth made of chicken and pork bone. There's not a lot of oil in the soup and the seasoning is very simple, some salt, some deep fried shallots, but the soup packs a lot of flavor and is very delicious. Unlike the Japanese style tonkotsu (pork bone) soup, they don't break the pork bones when cooking the ChiGa Mi soup, it is also cooked at a much lower temperature.

The Noodles - are straight, slight curly egg noodles, cooked on the soft side. I usually complain about noodles being cooked too soft, but I make an exception here. The noodles are a good match for the soup which is quite gentle and reserved.

GuaBao - a sample of the food stand foods available hereThe Toppings - are a few slices of pork, also lightly seasoned with soy sauce and some herbs.

Overall - A small and simple Taiwanese ramen that you have to try when visiting XinYe. The ChiGa Mi served here is a little more sophisticated than what you get outside in real food stands, but the basic flavor undoubtedly authentic. ChiGa mi is usually 1/3 the size of a normal bowl of ramen, the small serving size allows people to try the noodles without filling up and still have room for the other dishes.

Japanese site -
Chinese site -

Friday, August 11, 2006

★★★ 程班長牛肉麺 (ChengBanZhang) - Taipei

ChengBanZhang (which literally means "class president Cheng") is a noodle food stand in the RaoHe night market in Taipei, Taiwan. Even though it is just an open air food stand ChengBanZhang has already appeared on TV and magazines being introduced as one of the must tries in this night market. I tried the first item on their menu 三合一牛肉麺 (The three in one beef noodles soup).

The Soup - is a thick and rich braised beef broth that despite its appearance is not too salty. There are the usual Chinese spices here but much less than the other local beef noodle soups. Also absent is the hot and spiciness that I've become so used to with Taiwanese beef noodle soup. Basically a soup that is heavy on the beef flavor and easy on the exotic Chinese spices.

The Noodles - are thick, hand made noodles, almost the size of udon noodles. They are cooked slightly on the soft side, but that's okay since the noodles are so thick that they are still very chewy.

The Toppings - finally we get to why its called "three in one beef noodle soup". The toppings are big slices of tender beef, big chunks of beef tendon, and 牛雑 (beef miscellaneous) or beef tripe. Three different textures, three slightly different flavors, all very delicious. I'm suprised that more places don't serve the three in one noodle soup. Oh, and there's bean sprouts and 酸菜 (Chinese pickled collard greens) as well.

Overall - a bold, less sophisticated beef noodle soup that I thoroughly enjoyed. If you can get over the locale and the environment and only focus on the food then I'd say give ChengBanZhang a try. If you can't deal with sitting in a crowded, busy night market, eating on tables with paint peeling off and dining out of cheap styrophone bowls then go eat at a real restaurant. For me it all feel just like home. Plus you can't beat the price, all this for TW$110, about $3.50 US dollars, and people here complain that's it's priced too high.

Just tell the taxi driver to take you to RaoHe night market, or write this down: 饒河街夜市

Thursday, August 10, 2006

★★★ 永康牛肉麺 (YongKang Beef Noodle Soup) - Taipei

YongKang Beef Noodle Soup is an old time beef ramen shop in Taipei, also located on the famous YongKang road right next to another famous beef noodles restaurant LaoZhang. YongKang started out as a food stand in the near by park, but even as a decent sized restaurant today it still has the same signature beef noodles that made it so popular some 50 years ago. On my trip I ordered the 紅焼牛肉麺 (red roasted beef noodle soup).

The Soup - is a beef broth made from simmering both the meat and bone for a good half od the day with many standard Chinese herbs and spices. YongKang differs from other beef noodles because they use 豆瓣醤 (douban sauce) to add flavor and spiciness to the soup. Douban sauce (トウバンジャン in Japanese) is a Chinese red miso paste made from fermented fava beans mixed with chopped red chili peppers. There is also a few drops of chile oil on the soup but it isn't too spicy.

The Noodles - are thin straight noodles, cooked slightly on the soft side but still chewy and delicious.

The Toppings - are large, thick slices of tender cooked beef and a few slices of green onions. There is also a big bowl of 酸菜 (suan cai) Chinese pickled greens on every table for you to pile as much as you want onto your noodles. The pickled greens are sour and salty and go really well with the soup.

Overall - a very delicious beef noodle soup that I recommend to everybody. The soup is rich with flavor and aroma of the different spices without being to salty or heavy. I also think the balance of Chinese spices here is more accpetable for people from overseas. Though YongKang didn't score in the top three of the Beef Noodle Soup competition in Taiwan, it is still one of the best ramen experiences in Taiwan and worth checking out if you are in town.

17 Alley31 JinSan South Road sec 2, Taipei
In Chinese -
In Japanese -

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Kitakata Ramen - 喜多方ラーメン

The city of Kitakata is located in the North Eastern part of the main Honshu island in Fukushima prefecture. Kitakata ramen, along with Hokkaido ramen and Hakata ramen, are considered to be the threee major types of Japanese ramen.

The key difference for Kitakata ramen is its noodles. The noodles are made with a higher amount of water content when neading the dough, making the noodles springier and doesn't turn soggy as quickly when served in soup. The noodles are thin, wide curly noodles that are chewy and have a much stronger presence that most other ramen noodles.

The soup are usually simple, soy sauce flavored soup made from chicken, pork or occasionally seafood. The toppings are usually thin sliced cha-shu pork, menma bamboo and sliced spring onions.

★★ 坂内喜多方ラーメン (Ban-nai Kitakata ramen) - Tokyo

★ 蔵太鼓 (Kura-daiko) - Tokyo

★ 蜂屋 (Hachiya) - Shin Yokohama

Ko-MurasakiHachiya is the second place I visited during my last trip to the Ramen Museum in Shin Yokohama. Hachiya is quite out of the ordinary, being a rare ramen that combines 焦がし (burnt flavor) with Asahikawa style ramen in one bowl. I gave this 蜂屋ラーメン (Hachiya ramen) a try.

The Soup - is a tonkotsu based soup blended with a seafood soup. It is also covered in the dark brown oil which gets its color from carefully burnt oil that also gives the soup a strong bitter smokey smell. The burnt oil is much stronger than any other burnt flavored ramen that I've tried, covering most of the subtle flavor of the blended soup.

Once an ice-cream shop that sold honey flavored treats, later converted to a ramen shop, hence the name Hachiya - Bee HouseThe Noodles - are medium thin slightly curly noodles cooked to medium firmness. They needed ramen noodles with a strong presence to compete with this soup. If they had thicker noodles it might have matched up better.

The Toppings - are cha-shu pork, menma bamboo and sliced spring onions. The store recommends adding freshly ground raw garlic to the ramen, I tried it but it still didn't help subdue the strong bitter burnt taste.

Overall - it is safe to say that no other ramen shop will taste like Hachiya's ramen. The taste of the bitter burnt oil was a little too much, almost made me wonder if the chef made a mistake. But I always believed that ramen is about finding the one bowl of noodles that you personally like and not conforming to what is popular. I do hear that Hachiya has some die hard fans, just don't count me as one of them.

There are many other burnt flavored ramen places that I would strongly recommend: Nantsuttei, Go-gyou in Tokyo are both excellent while Chichi in Sapporo Hokkaido is pretty good too.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

★★★★ 老張牛肉麺店 (LaoZhang Beef Noodle Soup) - Taipei

LaoZhang Beef Noodle Soup is an old time favorite noodle shop in Taipei, it's located near YongKang street which is famous for its collection of ramen restaurants. LaoZhang recently won 2nd place at the Taipei beef noodle festival and has attracted numerous celebreties to dine here including recently Jackie Chan. During my visit I ordered the 辣味肉筋麵 (spicy beef and tendon noodles).

The Soup - is a dark brown soup flavored with numerous Chinese spices. Besides the flavor of the beef broth there is a stronger presence of seasonings such as star anise, cloves, cassia cinnamon and ginger root. There is a generous amount of red chile oil on top of the soup but it isn't too spicy, just enough to waken your taste buds. I was hoping that there would be more beef flavor in the soup, though the complex mix of flavors and aromas from all the spices was very addicting as I completely finished the ramen.

Help yourself to a plate of appetizers while you wait for the noodlesThe Noodles - are medium thin straight noodles cooked to regular firmness.

The Toppings - are pieces of cooked beef, beef tendon, and slices of green onion. The beef is tender but the tendon practically melts in your mouth. To my surprise there were no free 酸菜 (pickled mustard greens) on the table, which usually come standard with beef noodle soup.

Overall - LaoZhang is a very delicious Taiwanese style ramen that I highly recommend. For those who have never had a Taiwanese style beef noodle soup before here's a warning, this ramen is overloaded with spices and might be a bit overwhelming to those with little exposure to Chinese food. As an alternative there is another beef noodle place next door called YongKang beef noodle soup which is also delicious but uses less exotic spices.

19 Alley31 JinSan South Road sec 2, Taipei

Sunday, August 06, 2006

★★★ こむらさき (Ko-Murasaki) - Shin Yokohama

Ko-MurasakiKo-Murasaki is a popular local Kumamoto ramen store that has been around for more than 50 years. In the early 90's Ko-Murasaki made its debut in the Kantou area by opening shop in the ramen museum in Shin Yokohama. I tried the first item on their menu 王様ラーメン (King ramen).

The Soup - is a tonkotsu based broth cooked with various vegetables and blended with a chicken based soup. The soup is void of the tonkotsu smell and has little oil, yet manages to maintain the rich flavor of tonkotsu. Compared to its Kyushu Hakata style ramen cousin, this soup seems much healthier. The soup is topped with a lot of freshly ground black pepper which didn't seem to compliment the soup that well.

The Noodles - are thin ramen noodles, slightly thicker than Hakata style ramen, cooked medium firm. Slightly springier than normal Kumamoto ramen, the flavor and texture seems to match the soup real well.

The Toppings - include tender, flavorful cha-shu pork, crunchy kikurage mushrooms and menma bamboo shoots, plus bean sprouts and diced spring onions; A unique topping that Ko-Murasaki has is the garlic chips, where thinly sliced garlic is carefuly raosted to bring out the aroma that gives this ramen its character. Where raw garlic might be too strong for this tonkotsu ramen, these garlic chips compliments it just right.

Overall - a Kumamoto style ramen with a few added twists on the aroma side. The garlic chips does give it a nice garlic aroma to it but Ko-Murasaki still doesn't compare to Natsuttei or Higomonzu as far as pure flavor of the soup and ramen.

I waited in line for Ko-Murasaki because it had the longest line, after waiting 40 minutes I wans't too dissapointed. But then I noticed that stores that had no lines an hour ago suddenly were lined up for 30 minute waits or more. It seems that the lines being formed were happening at random. So basically, check out all the ramen stores before you visit here and decide what region's ramen you want to try out.

Friday, August 04, 2006

ラーメン博物館 (Ramen Museum) - Shin Yokohama

Shin Yokohama's Ramen Museum is a "ramen theme park" where you can learn the history of ramen, experience life in Tokyo as it was back in 1958 (the year that instant ramen was invented), and try out many local ramen from all over Japan.

Old Tokyo frozen in time
When you enter the museum there is an entrance that resembles an old subway entrance that leads to the basement of the museum. As you walk down the stairs you are transported back in time to Tokyo's shita-machi downtown in the late 1950's. Here the city is frozen in time right as the sun is about to set in the evening, just as the ramen shops and street merchants are at their busiest.

Here, among the retro style store fronts and food stands, you will find the actual ramen shops where they serve the latest trendy dishes from all over Japan. There are usually long lines for most of the stores, requiring anywhere from 10-40 minute waits.

Childhood memories revisited
Within this replica of 1950's Tokyo are old alley ways filled with artifacts from that period. Hidden within the old buildings and props are actual shops that sell snacks and toys from that period.

駄菓子や (Dagashi-ya) are shops that sell cheap candies and toys that were popular back in the 50's and 60's. Some of the candies that were popular at these stores were ふ菓子 (fugashi) which is deep fried o-fu dipped in syrup. 麦チョコ (mugi-choco) little pieces of wheat dipped in chocolate. 酢いか (su-ika) dried vinager squid. The toys we used to buy in these stores included paper balloons, styrophone airplanes to super balls.

Old School Lunch
Back in the US flavored milk pretty much came in 2 varieties: chocolate and strawberry. Back in the 70's when I went to Japan I was shocked when I found that in their schools they had neither. Instead they had coffee flavored, fruit flavored and apple flavored milk. Fruit flavored milk is almost like someone blended juicy fruit gum with milk, while the apple flavored milk was sweet and sour and down right nasty. Guess what? you can try them all at the ramen museum where they have the classic school lunches available that only reflect half of inflation prices.

Oh, and there's ramen too!
Ko-MurasakiSo I did manage to try out two ramen shops during my last trip to the ramen museum. One was Ko-Murasaki, a Kumamoto style ramen shop.

HachiyaThe other shop that I tried was a Asahikawa style ramen called Hachiya.

★★★ 七重の味の店 めじろ (Meijiro) - Tokyo

Mejiro, the full name of this restuarant is "七重の味の店 めじろ" which can be translated to (Mejiro, the store with seven layers of flavor). They serve a large variety of Japanese shoyu style ramen here, from 煮干しら~めん (dried sardine ramen) to 鰺塩ら~めん (mackerel ramen). On my first trip here (which was more than 2 months ago) I tried their standard ら~めん (ramen).

The Soup - packs a strong punch of Japanese seafood aroma and flavors. The soup is also blended with just the right amount of chicken/pork based broth to give the flavor more depth. Then there is the flavored oil on top of the soup giving it another layer of aroma.

The Noodles - are medium thin, slightly curly noodles that are cooked quite firm. The oil and the soup wraps around the ramen quite nicely, the flavor of the noodles is also a very nice match with the soup.

The Toppings - include a big slice of cha-shu pork, menma bamboo, chopped spring onions, fried green onions, and a slice of nori seaweed. The cha-shu here is very tender and slightly sweet flavored. The variety of onions add yet more complex aromas to the ramen. I think I can easily count more than seven layers of flavors in this ramen.

Overall - the flavor of the dried seafood dominates this ramen. If you like this type of ramen then you will like Mejiro since this is a very well balanced ramen that combines the flavors and aromas of may different delicious ingredients. When it comes to this type of ramen I prefer Setagaya over Mejiro. With Mejiro and Musashi being close seconds.

Mejiro is located near Yoyogi station on the Yamanote line. Mejiro is only open in the evenings from 6pm-10pm, they are not open on weekends or holidays either.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

★ 赤坂ラーメン (Akasaka-ramen) - Tokyo

Akasaka ramen started out as a food stand in the early 80's before becoming a restaurant in Roppongi in '93. I remember seeing Akasaka's owner appearing in the TV show "TV Champion" trying to sell ramen from a food stand in the US, I think that show was aired at least 10 years ago. I visited their newer store in Roppongi which is located right next to the number 5 exit from the Roppongi subway station. During this trip I ordered the 赤坂小町ラーメン (Akasaka komachi ramen).

The Soup - is a thick salt flavored tonkotsu soup, they claim that the soup uses a special soy sauce from Shoudo shima island but I didn't notice any special shoyu aroma or flavor. Overall the soup was a little on the salty side but still delicious.

The Noodles - were slightly on the thicker side, curly noodles cooked firm. You can request the noodles firmness when you order.

The Toppings - the cha-shu that was tender, flavorful and very good. The menma and fully cooked boiled egg was nothing special. The bitter kaiware daikon sprouts were a terrible match with the ramen.

Overall - An average tonkotsu ramen that didn't have much personality that sets itself apart from the wide variety of tonkotsu ramen in the Tokyo area. However the Akasaka komachi is not as oily or smelly as the standard tonkotsu and for those who have shunned tonkotsu ramen might find this place a nice alternative. Akasaka has many other types of ramen from miso to the very spicy type, all tonkotsu based.

Akasaka ramen's main store is in Akasaka (duh), with chain stores in Shibuya and Komasawa as well. Akasaka also has more stores located overseas than in Japan. Maybe someday I will try out their store in Taiwan, or China and see how it compares to the flavor in Japan.