Sunday, April 22, 2012

Kisshokichi - Kobe Beef Ramen (神戸牛らーめん 吉祥吉)

This week's ramen adventure brings me to Kobe, where I happen to be doing some regional visits.

The first thing that come to mind for Kobe is of course, Kobe beef.
And something came to my mind... are there any ramen shops that offers Kobe beef ramen?

I did some search on the internet, and I found one in the Sanchika underground mall, near the Sannomiya station of Kobe!

There is a trend of having "ramen avenues" inside shopping or underground mall over Japan. The Sanchika underground mall opened its "Ramen Road (麺ロード)" in Nov 2011. It is not that big with only 4 shops, but they are said to be the selected ones from Kobe.

Sanchika Men Road
The stall offering Kobe Beef Ramen is called Kisshokichi (吉祥吉). Kisshokichi is a restaurant that offers Kobe beef are reasonable prices. It has 6 restaurants in Kobe serving Kobe beef is different styles such as steak, shabu-shabu and buns, and this ramen concept is a new addition in the group.


I order the Kobe Beef Ramen (850 yen), the standard recommendation of the stall.


So, where are the Kobe beef elements in this ramen? It is used in 3 parts:

- Soup. The soup is made from Kobe beef bones. High-end beef bouillon! 
- Slices of Kobe beef 
- Minced spicy kobe beef miso

The soup and ingredients has relatively strong flavours, so I think spring onions and bean sprouts are added to balance the tastes.

It was an interesting bowl of ramen because the tastes are beef-based, rather than the usual pork, chicken or seafood flavours. However, it is hard to tell that  the grade of the beef or how "kobe beef" made the ramen exceptional. Overall, it is not bad but not exceptionally great.

If you happen to be in Kobe and would like to try something different, this will be something interesting!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Menya Sou (麺屋 宗) - Special Uma Shio Soba + Sakura!

It is the sakura season now in Japan! Personally I think that it is one of the most beautiful moments of the year. I visited the Meguro river and took a stroll along the bank lined by sakura. Beautiful!

Sakura at Meguro river
It was nearly lunchtime and I was looking for something to eat. 

And just when I was looking around, I spotted this signboard of a ramen store! What a coincidence. 

Following the signboard, I reached Menya Sou (麺屋 宗). Situated along Yamate Dori near the Nakameguro station, it is a small ramen joint with only about 10 counter seats. The main outlet of Menya Sou is at Takadanobaba, and this Nakameguro outlet is its 2nd one.


The note on the left of the picture shows the opening hours of the store. But the information that is more important is the number of servings that they serve per session. Over lunch, there is a limit of only 50 servings, and 100 for dinner!

Menya Sou is an award-winning ramen joint - It was selected by the readers of magazine "Tokyo Weekly" as the ramen of the year in 2007 and 2008, among other awards. Its specialties are shio ramen and tsukemen (dipped ramen)

I ordered the shop's recommendation, Special Uma Shio Soba (980 yen)


The ramen is topped with a whole tamago, bamboo shoot, 3 pieces of char siew, mizuna, spring onion and shredded chili. The char siew is grilled over charcoal before it is served, and I guess it is thinly sliced to suit the simple shio soup. The menma is hand-shredded, so it is much longer than the usual menma served. Something special. 

The soup is a combination of clear chicken soup and seafood stock, together with 2 types of salts. It was tasty and light, matching the toppings that are also simple.

Menya Sou also prepared 3 types condiments for us to add to the ramen and play with the flavours - pepper, plum vinegar and its original "sou space". In particular, the plum vinegar (the red one in the center) is for the shio ramen. I added some to my soup - it made the soup more refreshing and even more drinkable. I finished the soup until its last drop!

Pepper, Plum Vinegar and Sou Spice

Another thing that I noticed was the ramen bowl. The bowl used seems to be more sophisticated than those used in other ramen shops.

It was only later that I found out why. The owner of Menya Sou is Yanagi Munenori (柳 宗紀), who is the grand nephew of Yanagi Sori (柳 宗理), one of the iconic industrial designer in Japan and was passionate about promotion of local crafts. The shop uses designs of Yanagi Sori, which include some kitchenware as well. No wonder the bowls look good!

A bowl of ramen that I will recommend for those who like shio ramen. I will try to visit their main store in Takadanobaba next time!



Ramen Data - Menya Sou NakameguroAddress: 3-5-55 Nakameguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo
Types: Shio ramen, Tsuke-men
Rating: 9/10

Saturday, April 7, 2012

AFURI Harajuku - Yuzu Shoyu Noodle

Visited one of my favourite ramens in Tokyo again for this week's ramen fix.

AFURI has 2 outlets in Tokyo, one in Ebisu and another in Harajuku. I visited the one in Harajuku, which is about 3-4 minutes walk from the JR Harajuku station. There was a short queue outside, and I waited for about 10 mins before managing to get in.

Clean and simple shop
One of the specialty of Afuri is its char siew, which is charcoal grilled before it is served. This gives the char siew a nice smoky fragrance, and some burnt on the surface that makes it look good.

The shop only has counter seats, so I can see my char siew grilling right in front of me. Smells good!

Grilling...
Afuri's standard is its Yuzu Shio Ramen, but I ordered the Yuzu Shoyu Ramen for a change. There are also 2 types of noodle to choose - the normal narrow noodles and a special "shinku hirauchi" noodles. The latter has more texture and is more chewy.


The presentation was mouth-watering. What I like about them is also that its a bowl that is simple yet flavoursome, unlike some others that while it is delicious their richness made you feel full halfway eating them.

Since harajuku is a often-visited tourist area, it will be easy to drop by too. Some ramen shops are really difficult to find!




Ramen Data - AFURI HarajukuAddress: 3-63-1 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Types: Yuzu shio noodle, shoyu shio noodle, tsuke-men
Rating: 9/10

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Menya Musashi opening in Singapore!

I was in Singapore for a short visit and happened to walk past Raffle City.

And guess what? 

I just about Menya Musashi Kanzan in my last post, and there I saw near the taxi stand announcement that a Menya Musashi will be opening in Raffles City! What a coincidence.

The opening date is still not clear, and I couldn't find any trace of the news on the internet yet. The website of Menya Musashi is quite basic and it might be the style of the owner to remain low profile.

I would like to share some history about Musashi to prepare everyone for their entry.

Menya Musashi is one of the legendary ramen brand in Japan. Its owner, Yamada Takeshi, together with Ippudo's Kawahara Shigemi and Nanttsutei's Furuya Ichiro are said to be icons of the ramen industry that led to its popularity now.

It is interesting to note that we are going to have all these 3 in Singapore soon! Maybe it is a reflection that we are growing into a culinary capital of the world.

Yamada had an interesting background. According to what others have written about him, he was originally from the apparel industry. After graduating from high school, he started his own apparel company and grew to become an entrepreneur. However, the company went under after the burst of the Japanese economic bubble, and he was debt-ridden. As he was thinking about starting a small push-cart hawker business to earn a living, a conversation with his friend led him to explore using dried saury (秋刀魚 or サンマ, a type of narrow and long fish that is typically in season in autumn) to make ramen soup. This eventually became the signature of Musashi's ramen.

Musashi's flagship outlet is in Shinjuku, about 4 minutes from the JR Shinjuku west exit. In addition, it has 10 more "noren-wake" outlets in Tokyo by Yamada's disciples, each with its own unique characteristics while maintaining the tradition of its roots.


I'm not sure will the Musashi in Singapore be serving what is available in the Shinjuku outlet, but the key characteristics of Musashi are:

Soup: Animal + Seafood Double Soup. The soup is made from a mix of 2 types of soup: Animal-based soup made from chicken and pork bones, and seafood-based soup, made from dried saury and other ingredients such as kelp  and prawn oil.

Noodles: medium-thick flat noodles, which are suitable for shoyu ramen.

Chic Japanese Interior: Attention is paid to the interior of the shop, which is mostly in a strong Japanese theme in dark colors. This might be due to his background in the apparel industry.

Looking forward to see the response of Musashi's opening in Singapore! Meanwhile I'll go and try out a few of its outlets here in Japan.

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