Situated inside the alleyways of the Makishi Market in Naha, Okinawa is this amazing Soba restaurant.
It's been around for over 30 years and still costs less than 400 yen for a bowl of steaming, perfectly cooked noodles.
The old lady serving has a great personality and lots of locals cram in here at dinner and lunch time to enjoy this traditional spot.
Definitely worth tracking down.
Being part of a bomb-evacuation on the tiny Island of Ishigaki was a fun experience. Woken up in our capsule hotel by a Japanese lady with a sign in English saying PLEASE LEAVE HOTEL IMMEDIATELY. After the all-clear, we decided to head up to Kabira Bay for an afternoon of glass-bottom boat trips, lumbering around and finally a hankering for some Okinawa Soba.
This place came highly recommended and it tasted more complex than it appears. The noodles were the star, the meat secondary. A definitely pop-in place if you are over on the bay enjoying the spectacular scenery.
A late night spot in the dodgy area of Naha, where its normal to see punters asleep next to their half eaten bowl of Ramen. This is a definitely middle of the road place. However, if its 4 am and you are hungry to soak up some food to assuage the hangover, then pop on by and have a bowl.
The broth is nothing to write home about, the eggs are middle-of-the-road, the pork is unimaginative and the noodles are barely able to hold themselves together. Oh well, at 4am who's complaining....
There happen to be 2 branches of Koryu (Kouryu) Ramen in NAha. The first time we headed to the branch that was closest to our hotel, the second time we headed to this one.
What can be said about the ramen here. Its out of this world. You can customise it, you can get thicker noodles, more oil, spice, garlic chips, more greens, wood ear mushrooms, pork belly... and the service is done with a smile.
This is by far the greatest bowl of ramen I have ever had, and probably ever will have. I just don't see how it can be beaten, all things considered.
10/10 (Photo by Heidi Sand-Hart)
On a rainy day in Tokyo, we ended up randomly finding JBS (aka the Worlds Greatest Bar) and pulled up a stool to sip a whiskey and talk to Kobayashi. Since the weather was miserable and we had just arrived from Osaka on the Shinkansen, we asked him if he knew a good Ramen place nearby. Immediately his face lit up and he whispered "Kiraku!, Old style Ramen but OISHI!!!!".
Luckily for us it was 300 meters away down the road in Dogenzaka so we threw our backpacks into our capsule hotel and clambered up the narrow stairs to peruse the menu. The first thing that hit my eyes was the photos of the hard-boiled egg, a feature of ramen that I never really like (a 6 minute, soft, set yolk is always the best) however, Kobayashi had recommended it so we had to try. He mentioned that the Wonton-men was the best so all three of us ordered a bowl (800 yen) and a large bottle of Kirin and sat there waiting.
The old lady clambered up the stairs, and the bowls arrived via the dumbwaiter. Huge, steaming bowls of rich, dark, umami-bomb broth with wontons floating delicately on the surface, the aformentioned hard boiled egg, and some rather thick sliced, dry-looking pork. All our expectations were floored with the first taste of the broth. The deep fried shallots (or onions) adding that deep sweetness in a broth that resembled a rich French onion soup in some ways. Absolutely stunning. The highlight were the noodles. They hardly get better than this anywhere. Perfect thickness, chewy, able to soak up all that rich, unctuous broth. The pork and egg are secondary, the broth and noodles are the hero here so if you're looking for melt in your mouth Chashu, this is not the place.
If you're looking for tradition and perfection done right, affordable and slap bang in the middle of the red light district (which is strange and comical in the same light) then this is definitely the place for you. Fill your stomach and then head back to JBS or slip down to the basement of Beat Cafe and have a drink with Katoman.
10/10 (broth + noodles alone)
Open from 11:30am-8:30pm (but closed on Wednesdays)
After a small earthquake in Asagaya, we headed by train to Koenji to hunt down a couple of ramen places that had come highly recommended. The first one was closed for 2 weeks holiday, the 2nd we just couldn't find. Not defeated (after walking around at least 2 hours) we saw some guys hanging around in an art studio. I popped in and asked if any of them knew a good ramen spot nearby. Immediately he ushered me out of the studio and pointed frantically towards a couple blocks away.
We followed his directions and ended up at Tabushi's.
I ordered the Miso Ramen and sat back watching the chefs disciplined and clean, cooking their noodles and prepping the toppings. The bowl arrived, steaming and tempting. The fatty glisten of oily-miso on top and a scattering of cabbage, pork and bean sprouts along with a Tamago (egg).
As I learned years ago watching Tampopo/Tanpopo the master told his student in the ramen shop that after observing the bowl, the most important thing is to taste the broth first and let the flavours sink in. This was one of the best bowls of Miso Ramen I have ever had. Everything was perfect, except perhaps the pork was stringy and not the type I prefer. However, there can be no complaints at all. A fantastic recommendation, and a place I have already convinced a few friends to go who all came back with glowing reviews.
Ok, its a chain. They have them everywhere. However, if you are not a people person, then this is the best thing on earth. Private small "booths" where you don't even have to look at the person next to you OR the person who serves you. AMEN!!!
This isn't the best ramen you'll have in Japan, but it's a decent option if you are wandering around and can't find anything else and are shitfaced. The paper you fill out gives various options for how soft/hard you want your noodles, how mild/spicy your broth should be, how fatty/thin, etc. I always go for hard noodles, fatty, and pretty spicy. That makes a decent bowl of Ramen considering its a chain. This is by no means close to the top 100 ramens in Japan, but its the best choice between McDonalds and Ichiran at 4am.
Being a huge David Chang fan, I was eager to try Rokurinsha whilst in Tokyo on my second trip this year, since he had almost had a stroke at the texture of the noodles. I headed to Tokyo station and managed to get there around 2pm. I waited almost 60 minutes to get a spot at the counter, and ordered.
The food came and I tucked into what will go down as probably one of the best noodles I have ever eaten. Springy, thick, epically cooked. The only downside for me was the intense intense flavour of fish powder. I know its a favourite of the Japanese, but for me I try to push my palate at any given time but this was just a step too far. I ate the noodles and then left a lot of the broth even after asking to dilute it with the Yuzu stock (which definitely improved it) that they pour into everyones bowl.
Overall, i'd recommend anyone to go there if they want to taste some perfectly cooked noodles. Don't blame me if you can't handle the fishiness.
On a rare night alone, I wandered the streets of Okinawa and stumbled upon Danbo. I had read some articles about it but wasn't expecting the huge line outside (predominantly Chinese tourists) but it moved pretty fast. I sat at the far corner of the bar and ordered a Tonkotsu Ramen, Chashu, Tamago.
The broth was excellent, not quite on the level of Kouryu but pretty damn close. The egg wasn't amazing, but the pork was great and the nice hit of spice just set it up perfectly.
Can there be such a thing as TOO GOOD?
The answer in short: Yes.
After hearing about this place from a friend of ours (Scott Hatch), who recommended we try hunt it down in Tokyo after reading about the L.A. branch offering the peculiar addition of Tonkotsu Broth made from Pig Skulls. I was wary of the notion of creamy brains adding an extra level to the natural bone-broth's boiled for hours and hours, but curiosity got the better of us. After taking a while to find it, the taxi driver dropped us outside. There was a line. Of course. We waited around 20 minutes and were escorted to a table in the back of the restaurant after we had chosen our bowls from the machine.
10 minutes later, two big bowls of fatty Tonkotsu ramen arrived at the table.
First sip: ASTOUNDED.. both of us looked at each other and shouted "Holy shit". This was undeniably the best tasting ramen broth I had ever tasted. The Chashu was melt-in-your-mouth, the egg was perfect. You couldn't fault a single thing. Until you ate more......
From the heights of euphoria at having found potentially the greatest bowl of ramen on earth, we started hitting the half-way part of the bowl. I began to get nauseous. That feeling you get after eating too much Christmas Dinner but also a deep, deep fatty feeling of having had too much richness. We struggled to politely finish most of the bowl before leaving the restaurant complimenting the chefs (since it was delicious) and walking straight over to a bush in case I needed to "evacuate". Willy thankfully had 2 small bottles of Aquavit (Norwegian liquor) in his bag so we downed them, but literally continued walking around Shinjuku with the most nauseous feeling on earth.
The best, but also the worst bowl I ever ate.
On a side-note: We actually cancelled our flights to Fukuoka after that because the thought of eating Tonkotsu ever again was not on the horizon. We ended up going down to Okinawa and eating Sashimi instead. I must say, it was the wisest of decisions. It took almost 2 months to feel like eating Tonkotsu again. Try it if you dare, but the repercussions are real.
10/10 but also 1/10
If you've been sipping away the night at JBS, then escaped as soon as the throngs of hipster asshole descend on there (not even knowing what Jazz is), and you hurtle off to Blen Blen Blen or Beat Cafe, soon after midnight the hunger pangs kick in. Kiraku is closed, and the world seems an empty and vacant place. There is nothing really great within walking distance unless you want to head down to the Tower Records and wait in line for Ichiran (which is passable).
100 meters from Beat is Shinbusakiya. A small ramen joint that is open late, always a sight for sore eyes from the rambling salarymen and tipsy students.
The ramen here is not amazing but it is far from poor. I love the addition of bean sprouts always. The egg is decent, but everything else is a little above average at best. Solid companionships to the bleary eyes of beer, not nothing that would awake saudade in the sober customer.
The quest to find a decent bowl of ramen in every country on earth.