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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

JAPAN 2012 PART 4: Tokyo Ramen

I left the last Japan post for all the different types of ramen we had in Tokyo. Before doing research for the trip, I had NO idea how many different kinds of ramen there are... Soooo many options and so little time. :(

We tried a variety of ramen in different areas of Tokyo. None of them were the same.

First up, Yasube Ramen. They have many locations and we went to the one in Shinjuku. It's a tiny little shop with a bar with maybe 12 seats. We got there 10 minutes after they opened and there were already 4 people in front of us waiting in line. The place is very efficient. They get the food out and people eat quickly and the turnaround is very fast. We didn't wait very long at all. It was a cool experience.
They are known for tsukemen, where the noodles and soup are served separately and you dip the noodles into the soup a few bites at a time. The broth tends to be thicker, more like a dipping sauce and heavier in flavor. Also, at Yasube you can choose the amount of noodle 220g, 330g, 440g all for the same price. We both selected the 330g.

- Spicy Miso Tsukemen 720Yen~ Huge pile of noodles... wow. Cooked to perfection. I love that tsukemen has thicker, chewier noodles, which I definitely prefer more. I liked the soup. It wasn't really that spicy but you can definitely still taste the spices. A great start to the ramen tour!
- Soy Sauce Tsukemen 720Yen~ We actually had no idea what we ordered since the vending machine was all in Japanese. haha. So this is what we got. I didn't like the flavor of the broth as much as the spicy one. I noticed their soups both had a slight sweetness to it. It was very interesting and different than any ramen I've ever had. I absolutely LOVED the noodles and I liked dipping it so it's not constantly soaked in the soup. The only thing we both didn't like was that the noodles made the soup cold after dipping in it constantly. If only the soup could stay hot then it would've been even better.

That night, we hit up Nagi Ramen in Shibuya. They also have several different locations. The interesting part about Nagi is that after you make your order at the vending machine, they give you another form (they have English version! :) where you can designate how thick you want the broth, amount of oil/garlic/spicy, and noodle texture and other options.
- Buta King Ramen (Pork bone based soup) 700Yen~ This was my bf's choice. Nagi uses the thin noodles, which I'm not a fan of. But it was cooked perfectly and had good texture. I'm just missing that chewiness from the thicker noodles. The broth was super flavorful and creamy.
- I got the Red King Ramen 850Yen~ Of course I had to go for the spicy red one. hehe. It had the same noodles. The broth is extremely thick and rich with flavor. A little bit too salty though. I think that was my doing because I wasn't really sure what spices and add-ons I checked on the form. haha. Even though it was in English, we still weren't quite sure what we were ordering. The flavor was good, just too salty.
- Butao Rice (pork over rice) 150Yen~ My bf also ordered this. There was a ton of pork on top which is awesome. But it wasn't the normal grilled pork belly like other places. I didn't like the pork as much. Flavor was good though.

The next night we went to Gogyo Ramen in Roppongi. **NOTE: make sure you search for "Gogyo Ramen" in google maps. We made the mistake of typing just Gogyo and ended walking about 25 minutes in the opposite direction. There's another restaurant just called "Gogyo" within walking distance from the Roppongi station. haha...**
Gogyo Ramen caught my attention because they are known for their burnt miso ramen, where the broth is almost black! How interesting!

- Kogashi Miso (burnt miso ramen) 850Yen~ Of course we had to try this. The soup was indeed super dark. They also used skinny noodles. D'oh! The soup had so much flavor, a bit too heavy... The style actually reminded us of Ippudo when we went in NYC. I wasn't a fan really...
- Shio-Men (special blends of salt soup) 850Yen~ I got with half noodles which was -200Yen~ It was pretty standard. I wasn't super impressed.
- Bowl of Rice with Roast Pork 350Yen~ This is like a staple side for us. Had to try it. Unlike Nagi, it didn't have much pork in it at all. :( Still tasty though. I'd say this was my least favorite of the bunch.

Last day in Tokyo, before heading to the airport, we hit up Ramen Street in Tokyo Station. They have 6-7 different ramen places in one area. They all looked soo good. It was hard choosing which one to try. We ended up at Junk Garage x Media Ramen because of all the posters of their ramen outside the shop... Epic bowls of noodles piled sky high. We HAD to try this. It's our last day...gotta go out with a BANG!
Their specialty is that their ramen portions are massive and not for the calorie watching types. haha. They also ask you if you want extra garlic, pork, oil, etc...
- I got one of the Tsukemen (with 2 dipping soups) 1,000Yen~ There was no English so we basically based our choices off of the pictures. You can choose 4 different levels of vegetable toppings. I went with Level 2. Their noodles were even thicker than Yasube. Again, cooked perfectly...the texture was amazing! The 2 soups were basically dipping sauces. They were similar, yet different. I can't really describe the flavors. Plus after eating one bite of one and then the other, all the flavors blended together. haha. I also loved all the veggies on top. That was one thing about ramen is that they usually don't have enough veggies for me. This was great!
- My bf chose one of the Ramens 920Yen~ He went with Level 3 Vegetable toppings.
O.M.G. It was like a mountain of bean sprouts on his bowl. I'm impressed it didn't topple all over the place! Can you believe that there's ANOTHER level more than this one?!? It took him a long time to make it to the actual soup. hahaha. He also loved the noodles. The broth was super flavorful. The pork slices were super thick and fatty. And yes... they put lard (pork fat - white stuff under the bean sprouts) in the bowl to add extra richness and pork fattiness.
Delicious!!!! I normally watch what I eat, but hey, we're on vacation and it's our last day! haha. This was definitely the most memorable ramen place. EPIC!!! And you know what? We both finished ALL OF IT.

Ramen in Japan is amazing. So many different choices, styles and flavors. Everyone keeps asking me which was the best and I tell them I really can't say. They were all so different... I would actually take elements from each one and put together my favorites from each. But actually, the best noodle dish from the entire trip was the cold noodle in Hi-Hi Town in Osaka. haha. But everything was good. I enjoyed it all. And I had the extra weight in my belly to prove it. :P

Japan was such a great place. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The food was fantastic and so many different options. The people were super nice (unlike most other Asian countries...haha) which was a great surprise. And so many interesting things to see. I will definitely go back...hopefully sooner than later! :)


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