Tuesday, October 03, 2006

★★ 喜楽 (Kirauku) - Tokyo

Kiraku is an old style ramen house in Shibuya, located about 7 minutes walking distance west of the Shibuya train station. The store was filled with older business men, suprising since Shibuya is always filled with young people. I ordered the 中華麺 (chuka-men), or Chinese noodles.

The Soup - is a soy sauce based chicken and pork based clear soup, flavored with fried green onions. Somewhat similar to the soup used in traditional Taiwanese noodles like Dan-zai noodles.

The Noodles - are really good. These thick hand made noodles are springy, chewy and delicious.

The Toppings - are lots of boiled bean sprouts, cha-shu pork and a boiled egg. The cha-shu and hard boiled egg were just average.

Overall - I wasn't that impressed with Kiraku ramen, though their noodles were very good. Kiraku has been around for more than 50 years and has always gotten good reviews from the local ramen fans. This place tasted a lot like the noodles I had in Taiwan, not what I am looking for in ramen in Japan.


Sunday, October 01, 2006

★★ Takohachi - Seattle

Takohachi is a hole in the wall in Seattle's International District, its interior is like a diner from the 40's that has never been remodeled. Not exactly the place I expect to get some authentic Japanese ramen, but what I found pleasantly surprised me. I tried their Miso ramen.

The Soup - was rich, quite delicious, and was actually an authentic miso soup! While the flavor wasn't especially sophisticated, it had depth to it that clearly wasn't instance soup flavoring (what most other places in Seattle taste like).

The Noodles - were regular thickness curly noodles cooked on the soft side. Most likely factory made and not fresh, something that is unavoidable with ramen in the Seattle area. At least they weren't over cooked or soggy.

The Toppings - were pretty decent, all the regular toppings are there. Cha-shu pork wasn't especially tender but tasted okay, the spring onions, wakame seaweed, corn and boiled egg were all average.

Overall - not a bad bowl of ramen. Takohachi reminds me of the regular ramen shop back in Tokyo, just the average ramen down the street where you wouldn't go out of your way to visit, but you'd drop in every once in a while when you are hungry and too lazy to cook for that night. For one thing, this place at least tasted like authentic ramen! which is saying a lot compared to the many other seattle area Japanese ramen.

Takohachi: 610 S Jackson, Seattle 682-1828

★★★ 家常面 (Home Style Noodles) - Chengdu

During my trips Asia I like to try the very "local" ramen places just to see what the average folks eat. In China this can become a hard task since I really have no clue what an "average" restaurant is like. In Chendgu alone, I've had ramen that's prices range from $0.40 cents to $12.00 a bowl; I was walking around the neighborhood near the Sheraton in Chengdu during when I found this noodle place called "Home Style Noodles", just the place I was looking for. I ordered their first item on the menu, a 0.60 cent 素椒炸酱面 (sujiao zhajiang mian) or spicy zha-jian noodles.

The Sauce - was an innocent looking brown sauce, but after the first few bites the spiciness quickly overwhelmed me. There was only a little red chili oil in the sauce but it was more potent than anything that I've had in Chengdu so far. The mouth numbing 花椒粉 Sichuan peppers also started to kick in early. 1/4 through the noodles it got so spicy that I figured I couldn't finish this bowl of noodles, but as my mouth started numbing up the spiciness become less and less noticeable, it was only then that I could finally taste the flavor of the sauce. The simple pork sauce became quite addictive after the numbingly spicy experience, I actually finished the whole bowl. As I walked away from the store my mouth was so numb it felt like I just visited a dentist.

The Noodles - were simple medium thin straight noodles cooked soft. If these noodles were cooked any firmer or chewier I would've given up after the third bite because of the spiciness.

The Toppings - were some cooked ground pork. No seasoning.

Overall - a great bowl of noodles. Finally something as spicy as I imagined in Sichuan! I wonder if all the other restaurants I visited so far are more catered to tourist and hence have the spiciness toned down. The store decor is very minimalistic so it's ont for everyone, but give this place a try if you want to give authentic spicy Sichuan noodles a try. Eat at your own risk.

This place is across the street from the front entrance of Sheraton Hotel in Chengdu.