Archive for March, 2010

Ramen Jiro, Shinjuku, Tokyo

Yes, there can be not great ramen in Japan. There’s a chain in Tokyo called Ramen Jiro, which apparently is a good way to start your ramen tour in Tokyo if you’re trying to find the best ramen. I’d like to point out we first heard about this on a NY Times article about ramen (thanks Asta!). This article highlights finding the best (or local favorite) places for ramen. There are apparently blogs and serious ramen scholars dedicated to finding that perfect noodle. This article took some of those finds.

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The ramen place is on the corner of a small alley, and is actually near some other fast food restaurants we like (Mos Burger, anyone?).

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Like most ramen places, you go to the machine, put in some money, and get a ticket. We randomly picked (again) and got our tickets. This place is famous for using lots of garlic, and we hoped we bought stuff with garlic. We then sat at the counter, which was tiny. They actually had a couple booths but they reserved those for large parties of business men. By the way, the guy who took our tickets was a complete jackass. Yes, you heard it from my mouth – JACKASS. He completely ignored us, and took at least five other people’s tickets first. I was so upset.

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The chef was much more mild, and sometimes smiled. Whereas the jackass didn’t.

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This was Kyung’s. I have no idea what it was, other than it was a large size. I think it was pretty much mine, except with more noodles, while mine was smaller but had more meat. weird.

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Here’s mine. The final consensus? The broth is thick and really savory, but after like three spoonfuls of it you’ve pretty much eaten your entire meal. The meat was tough and flavorless, the noodles thick and almost too heavy in your stomach, and everything was covered in inches of sprouts. And this is supposed to be good ramen?

I think if I were drunk, and wandering the streets of Shinjuku with no shoes, I’d eat here. But otherwise, not so much.

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Daiwa Sushi, Tsujiki Fish market, Tokyo

Can you imagine waking up at 5 am and stumbling into what just happens to be one of the two most famous sushi restaurants at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo? Yeah, I’d be speechless too.

The first time we were in Tokyo, we happened to stumble into the other famous one (purely by luck, we followed a well dressed couple that was walking purposefully within the fish market). This second time, our dumb luck led us to this one too. We had no idea where we were going, so we just sort of wandered til we found the alley that had the first sushi restaurant, and went into the one next door. No line! We went in, and the chef said omakase, so we just nodded and said ok.

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This is a very tiny restaurant. Small bar that probably housed 15 max, minimal walking room, minimal seating. You’re basically rubbing shoulders with the folks next to you. Which is, in fact, how we found out this restaurant was so famous; as luck would have it, we were sitting next to two girls from SoCal, who mentioned this was one of two famous restaurants, with the other one being the one next door that we had previously eaten at. Wow. How random is that!

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The food here wasn’t as stellar as the other famous one (have we gotten spoiled?). We had a lot of ‘filler’ pieces so to speak.

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The octopus was meh. Chewy, not flavorful, I don’t know why they considered this an appropriate starter. The toro was good. I don’t like eating rice with my sushi (I prefer sashimi) so I didn’t bother eating the rice. The six piece rolls are actually 3 different types of rolls (roe, and spicy tuna, and other things). I didn’t eat the one with roe, but I tried the others (decent). I didn’t eat the uni, I traded for Kyung’s tamago. hah! The tamago was good =) I’ve seen a lot of tamago shops around the fish market, must be a regional speciality.

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This is what I mean by filler pieces – ebi and unagi. They were delicious, don’t get me wrong, but not exactly high end.

Overall the place was solidly good, but the other place was a lot better I think. It probably also explains why the long was like 3 rows deep while we walked out of this one with only a handful of people in line.

Take the Oedo line (if you’re coming from Shinjuku) on the Tokyo Metro, and pop out at the Tsukiji exit *the name is slightly longer than Tsukiji, but if you ask anyone they can tell you. As soon as you pop out, go left, then turn left at the light into the warehouse area of the fish market. Walk until you see the small rows of shops, it’s about the third one from the warehouse area to the left.

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Kouryu Ramen, Akihabara, Tokyo

Yes, we went back to Japan! Our 8 day trip has just concluded. Today is day 1 back in the States and already I’m missing good curry, ramen, and the miles of walking and subways. Kyung and I had falafels today and we were discussing how it felt so weird to not be eating a katsu or something. We also wondered if we brought falafels to Japan, would we make it big? We decided no, because one thing we’ve noticed is how homogenous the food tends to be.

Anyway, the first time we went to Tokyo, we found a ramen place in Akihabara which we really loved. It was raining that day, and it was a haven for us from the wet. We went back again this time to see if it was a fluke but it wasn’t, we actually loved it! Kouryu is like a typical ramen shop – vending machine outside with various ramen options, toppings, and sides, and you enter your yen and receive a little ticket for each dish, side, or topping you order. Then you head inside, find a seat at the counter, and hand your tickets to the staff. People are in and out under 15 minutes. And I also found that most people in ramen shops are men. Very often I’ve been the only girl at a counter full of businessmen or teen boys. Kind of weird.

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I have no idea what I ordered, since I just randomly picked based on the picture. But – once you order your bowl of ramen, before they prepare it, they give you a sheet where you fill out things like how much oil do you want in your broth, if you want thick or thin noodles, etc. They had an English version of that luckily, so while I can’t tell you what soup base I had, I can tell you it had little oil, thin noodles, thick slices of soft pork, green onion, and a boiled egg. I also ordered a side of chicken fried rice (it was only 100 yen, which is a little over a dollar). The broth was delicious – light and savory, and it complemented the hearty pork with the thin and firm noodles. The rice was great!

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Kyung customized his noodles with thin as well, lots of pork, spicy sauce, and more oily sauce. He loved his ramen and was very glad that it was just as good as the first time. He also ordered a roe rice, but he said it was just ok. Oh well, I think it was like 200 yen (cheap!).

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If for some reason you run out of noodles, or want more sides, you can order it by placing some coins into this machine. They’ll then bring it to your counterspace so you can slurp up more things happily.

We rounded out our scrumptious meal with my favorite – glass bottle Cokes.

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I don’t know the address but if you exit the Akihabara station, it’s near one of the exits. It’s very small, so you may need to keep an eye out. Or you can ask the JR station staff. They’re usually very friendly and understanding if you don’t speak Japanese.

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