Monday, May 08, 2006

★★★ 桂花 (Keika) - Tokyo

Keika is a ramen chain from Kamakura that first debuted in Tokyo back in 1968. For almost 40 years Keika has been serving the same style of Tonkotsu ramen to busy commuters going through Tokyo and Shinjuku station. Today with many newer styles of tonkotsu such as Ichi-ran and Ippudou dominating the ramen scene Keika hasn't been getting much attention as of late. But there are many ramen fans who had their first tonkotsu ramen at Keika back in the old days, including me. I went back to Keika again recently and tried their most popular ramen 太肉麺 (ta-ro-men), ta-ro meaning tender cooked pork.

The Soup - is a less refined tonkotsu that has a bit of the signature tonkotsu smell. The white soup is topped off with a few drops of マー油 (ma-yu) or a special sesame oil. There is quite a strong accent with the soup here and might turn some people away.

The Noodles - are very firm, what I expect from a kyushu area ramen, but the noodles here are medium thickness which goes against the other tonkotsu ramen.

The Toppings - the ta-ro pork were very tender, the konbu seaweed and raw cabbage were very crunchy. The raw cabbage and ramen is still an odd combination for me, there's just a little too much variety in textures for me.

Overall - go to Higomonzu if you are new to tonkotsu or Kumamoto style ramen. Try this place out if you want to adventure a little with your ramen experience. On the wall in the ramen store is an old, hand written sign that says: "please visit us at least three times", claiming the flavor is something that will grow on you. It worked for me.


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