Tag Archives: Ramen

Mensho Ramen, San Francisco

27 Feb


Excellent ramen– Tori Paitan– savory-umami rich broth from chicken bones with some fermented flavors, with pork and duck chashu and good toothy noodles. The Suntory Premium Malts on tap was good company. Worth waiting in line an hour.

A Tale of Three Ramens, Tokyo

24 Nov

Striking a few ramen spots around Tokyo opportunistically on the first and last days of the trip (and at the end of the trip finding one amazing one whose name I still don’t know, in Southeastern Tokyo near the Daimon station).

Many major train stations have a nearby food alley, and I heard Shinagawa station had a “ramen alley” Shinatatsu. After landing at Narita but before hopping a shinkansen to another part of Japan (Shinagawa’s conveniently one of the shinkansen connection points), I dragged my suitcase out the West exit and then South along a dark sidewalk. It felt like I was in the wrong place– an industrial sidewalk  hugging the station wall, with no business or signs of life, and cars rushing by to my right. But just two blocks later, a glowing entrance beckoned me to step down to a wooden boardwalk below street level lined with 7 or 8 ramen shops.


I squeezed my way into Tetsu, which I’d read about as one of the pioneers of the tsukemen ramen style.

As at all ramen shops I’ve been to here, before you sit down you choose your ramen and toppings from a vending machine which prints out a ticket– you then hand that ticket to the waiter. Some of these vending machines also have photos of each dish on the buttons, but this one didn’t.


Fortunately, even though I can’t read any kanji, I had brushed up on the two phoentic alphabets (there are various hiragana/katajana smartphone flash card apps these days, and with a week of study before the trip I had them reasonably well memorized– I recommend this as you can sound out a surprising number of street signs and menus this way– or at least keep a cheat sheet). For example, the top left small button on the machine is all phoenetic and spells out Tsu-ke-me-n, and the button in row 4 column 3 spells out me-n-ma (bamboo shoots).

Then the ramen arrived, and it was what I thought I’d ordered! Whew. The tsukemen style is “dipping ramen” — you get a bowl of ramen in a plain broth along with a bowl of heated, strongly-flavored sauce, and you dip and eat.

It was a rich, slightly oily, sweet, and nutty sauce, almost like a gravy, and a very different ramen experience. The noodles themselves were very good– springy and firm, and it hit the spot and transformed me from grumpy and low on sleep to relaxed and low on sleep (enough to at least make it through the few hours of additional travel), but overall it was too rich and not my favorite ramen style– it mirrors how I feel about deep dish pizza compared to thin-crust.


At the end of the trip, a morning bowl of ramen. Decent, and a good deal at $6, but nothing special.


And then, the last night in Tokyo with a friend, after not having a hotel lined up at 11pm and scrambling to find one, everything fell into place– and there was a ramen shop a block down the street that was amazingly good. I still think about it.


Watching the ramen be made was a production as well– the single fast-moving chef was pounding something(?) in a gigantic (floor-to-waist high) pot with a large wooden post, into a white paste he strained and ladeled into each bowl. He also had bowls of some oil, broth, onions, soft-cooked eggs, and sliced pork to arrange. The noodles themselves were boiling in individual wire strainers in a large pot– as time passed he broke off a piece of noodle from each batch, squeezed it between two fingers to check texture, then bit off the end. When he was satisfied, he’d lift the strainer out of the water and with a single, sharp flinging motion down– sluice the water out onto the floor behind the bar. The whole time he made minimal eye contact but had a sly sliver of a smile on his lips as if he had his own private joke.

The noodles were so springy in texture, the soft eggs were like a rich pudding, and the broth was creamy (presumably a pork tonkotsu broth, not a salt/soy/miso broth) but with modest flavors beautifully in balance– like tuning in and out distance conversations, at any moment I could taste savory, salt, richness, or meat, with no individual flavor being especially strong (well, except for the bite of the green onions). And all of this for $8.50.

I wish I knew the name of this place so I could recommend it to others, and I couldn’t find anything matching it browsing Google Maps, Foursquare, or other location databases, but here’s the block it’s on (three and a half blocks west of the Daimon subway station) and the front awning looks like this:


With beer glasses so chilled there are chunks of ice on the rim. Japan does make me more open to crisp, light lagers.


Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen, Gardena

19 Jun

Life brought me to Carson, CA recently, so on a suggestion from a friend who saw my gmail chat status (who knew that would be useful?) I checked out the Shin-Sen-Gumi in Gardena for their Hakata-style ramen.

And am I ever glad I did– it was a delicious bowl of ramen.

I’d accidentally arrived half an hour before they opened, but within a few minutes there were already another few people waiting– so it’s good I didn’t show up right at 6. I got the base Hakata ramen of pork, ginger, and green onions (choosing the default levels of noodle firmness and broth strength), and added spinach, menma, and a delicious medium-cooked seasoned egg.

I loved the broth, though it wasn’t what I usually think of as ramen broth– it almost reminded me of a chai tea — not that I think it included milk, but it was rich without being oily in the same way that milk tea would be if you soaked a pork chop in it. It wasn’t too salty or strongly miso-flavored, the oil was evently distributed, and it was hearty and mild.

It’s definitely worth a visit if you find yourself anywhere in that region at the right time of day.

The gyoza and the sweet potato shochu (cut with hot water) were good as well, but the ramen was definitely the star.