Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tsukemen Dokoro Tsuboya

The other day one of my coworkers told me about a place in Kita with curry tsukemen.  My love of curry is well-documented, and so as soon as I got some free time, I decided to check it out.

Tsuboya is a chain of ramen shops in Osaka, and I'd been to the one in Nipponbashi before.  I had the spicy tsukemen, and it wasn't bad, but it was a little thin in both texture and flavor.

つけ麺処 つぼや
Ōsaka-fu, Ōsaka-shi, Kita-ku, Honjōhigashi, 2丁目1−23
Tsuboya is north of Tenjinbashi Rokuchome Station on the west side of the street.

The Bowl
The spicy tsukemen I had the last time I went to Tsuboya was thin, and it turned out the curry tsukemen would be no different.  Compared with other curry noodles I've had before, Tsuboya's bowl offered a much more subtle curry taste, with a little bit of fishiness.  There was a sign advertising the fat homemade noodles, which were good, but might have been better suited to a thicker broth.  The egg was quite good and the bowl was filled with sprouts and something that I couldn't quite put my finger on but tasted a bit like fried onions or garlic.  Opposite from usual, the wari-soup added a bit of flavor to the broth and made it a bit more balanced.

Would I Go Again?
The toppings and noodles were good, but the broth was pretty weak.  I don't think I'll be back, and if I go to another branch, I definitely would not get the curry tsukemen again.

Should You Go?
The spicy tsukemen wasn't too bad, so you wouldn't be wrong to come and order that.  But there are better shops.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tenbijio Ramen Iizumi

The other day my landlord yelled at me for writing a ramen blog in Osaka and not including any shio shops.  It's a good point, though most of the places I've found in Osaka don't specialize in shio.  One way or another, Ramen Walker helped me find one near Shinsaibashi and I stopped there on the way home.

天日塩らーめん いゝずみ
Ōsaka-fu Ōsaka-shi Chūō-ku Minamisenba 2丁目7−31
Iizumi is on one of the streets northeast of the big Shinsaibashi Tokyu Hands.

The Bowl
Light and refreshing.  Iizumi's shio ramen didn't make me super full like some of the thicker bowls I've had.  It had a clear soup that tasted very sesame and a bit oniony.  The noodles were thin and slippery, which made them very easy to slurp down.  The one slice of chashu was very tender; it had a stubtle taste that while very delicious, was not as in-your-face as the thick kakuni a lot of shops offer.  The egg, on the other hand, was very flavorful.

Would I Go Again?
I'm more of a kotteri guy and this is an assari place, but I would come back again if I'm not hungry enough to take down a full bowl of tsukemen or tonkotsu ramen.

Should You Go?
It's in a good location and it's a good shio bowl, so yeah.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Tsukemen Misawa

There's a lot of good ramen shops in Fukushima, and the area's been on my radar recently since the new issue of Ramen Walker has a whole page dedicated to it.  It's a bit out of the way, but my friend and I met in Umeda and were down for a walk.

We decided to try Taiyo no Tomato, but when we got there, it looked like there would be a wait, and we had somewhere to be so we gave up.  Next on our list was Ramen Jinsei JET, one I had been meaning to go to for a while since it's the 14th highest ranked shop in Osaka by ramendb, as of writing.  There was a line of maybe ten or twelve people, so it was on to the next shop.

One of the first places I tried in Osaka was the second branch of Misawa in Shinsaibashi.  I remember it being very good, and my friend hadn't tried it, so we headed for the main branch in Fukushima.  They serve gyokai tonkotsu tsukemen, with the option of getting umeboshi, or dried Japanese plum, on top of the noodles.  Of course I went for the one with the umeboshi.

つけ麺 みさわ
Ōsaka-fu Ōsaka-shi Fukushima-ku Fukushima5丁目6−11
Misawa is just south of Fukushima Station on the east side of Naniwa-suji.

As with some other tsukemen shops, Misawa has a recommended way to eat their tsukemen, as pictured above:
- First mix the onions into the broth to your liking
- After you've eaten one third of the noodles, squeeze the sudachi into the soup
- After you've eaten the next third of the noodles, put kuro-shichimi, the black spice pictured above, on your noodles to your liking
- When you're done with the noodles, pour in the wari-soup and ask for a yaki-ishi, a hot stone that reheats the remaining broth

The Bowl
The broth was a classic but delicious gyokai tonkotsu.  It was a bit sweeter than a number of other places I've been to, and dipping the noodles in the umeboshi before the broth made it even sweeter.  The flavor of the soup changed quite a bit as each of the ingredients was added; it went from oniony to citrusy, and finally to just a little bit spicy.  As you might have guessed, the final form was my favorite. Also inside the bowl was a fishcake, large, flavorful menma, some very good chashu, and interestingly enough, a shiso leaf.

Would I Go Again?
This was my third time to a Misawa branch and I'll likely be back.  It seems that there's a third branch now, so maybe I'll check that one out.

Should You Go?
With its unique tsukemen and it's great locations in Fukushima and Shinsaibashi, there's no reason not to.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ramen 3738

Another beautiful Sunday!  I woke up way too late, but I discovered from a friend that November 20th is Kansai Culture Day or something, which meant that a whole bunch of museums had free entrance.  I used this as an excuse to walk way south to Nagai Park, home of Osaka's Museum of National History.  After meeting my friend down there and exploring the park, we were hungry, and Ramen Walker knew a place nearby.

3738, pronounced "minamiya", had a giant menu of different ramen options, including ones with cheese and tons of garlic.  I followed the Walker suggestion and got the special spicy miso garlic ramen.

Ōsaka-fu Ōsaka-shi Sumiyoshi-ku Nagai2丁目12−14
3738 is on the northeast corner in a shopping arcade west of Nagai Station.

The Bowl
3738's ramen broth fits the image in my mind of spicy miso pretty well; the soup was rich, with enough spice to feel a little tingly.  The noodles were pretty firm and very hot.  As promised, there were slices of garlic in the bowl, which I enjoyed more than the normal crushed garlic that's mixed in.  There was a thick slice or two of chashu which left me wanting more.

Would I Go Again?
3738 doesn't beat my favorite miso shops back in Tokyo, but it was very solid.  I don't think I'll go out of my way to go back, but if I'm in Nagai Park again I may swing by.

Should You Go?
A good miso, which I haven't found a lot of so far in Osaka.  Why not see the autumn colors in the park and get some ramen, too?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Menji Abura

Bowl #200!  I think we all have things we like to eat a ridiculous amount of in life, and since I came to Japan, mine has been ramen.  Although I didn't realize it at the time, Menji Abura is officially my 200th bowl of ramen (or ramen-like noodles for those of you are being picky since this place serves abura soba).

It had been a long time since I'd been to an abura soba shop, and this one piqued my interest since I pass it all the time walking through Dotonbori.  Since I've never explained it before, abura soba (sometimes called maze soba or maze men) is ramen without the broth; noodles and toppings, but with a sauce or seasoning instead of soup.  You are meant to add some vinegar, ra-yu, shichimi, pepper, or other spices as you like and mix it all together.

Menji Abura had four different flavors to choose from, and as you might guess, I went for the spicy one.

麺爺 あぶら
Ōsaka-fu Ōsaka-shi Chūō-ku Dōtonbori1丁目10−1
Menji Abura on Dotonbori, right under the Lotteria, but will be changing location around Christmas 2011.

The Bowl
One of the things I like about ramen, and especially tsukemen, is that there is a thick broth that gives taste to everything around it - the noodles and the toppings.  Oppositely, abura soba, which is covered in spices and sometimes sauce, runs the risk of being a little bland.  Menji Abura's bowl had a little bit of this problem; the spicy sauce was good on the fat, curly noodles, but there was something missing.  The chashu also was hard and lacking in flavor.  This was partially made up for in the large number of spices available, which included the ones mentioned above, sansho, the numbing spice used on Chinese Sichuan dishes and a special sesame ra-yu.  The sesame ra-yu was especially good; I haven't had much like that before and it made the noodles taste a bit more like tan tan men.

Would I Go Again?
I'm a little curious about the other flavors, but I think I'd rather search out a new abura soba place.

Should You Go?
The sesame ra-yu was the most special thing this place had, so feel free to skip this one.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


It was a Sunday night with my friend in Namba, and we were looking for something to eat.  I took out the Ramen Walker and noticed a shop that I had been meaning to go to, but because of its closing time (8PM), I could never make it on a weekday.  Sunday though, was fine.  Marujoe does not have many options available, and the main one is it's Chuka soba.

中華そば ◯丈
Ōsaka-fu Ōsaka-shi Chūō-ku Nanbasennichimae6−16
Marujoe is in an alley in between Nankai Namba Station and Sakai-suji.

The Bowl
Marujoe offered a dark shoyu broth very similar to Toyama Black.  It tasted a bit like roasted soy sauce, with, as you can see if you look closely, a ton of black pepper and onions.  The noodles were medium sized and not too hard nor chewy, and the chashu was in thin slices that tasted mostly like the pepper they were covered in.

Would I Go Again?
I enjoyed the broth, but I don't think I'll get a huge craving for it and would rather just wait until I can find a closer alternative to Toyama Black.

Should You Go?
It's in a convenient location, and it might be interesting if you haven't tried this kind of soy sauce flavor before, but it's not a must-go.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ramen Jackson's

Has it been a year already?  Upon arriving in the train station from my trip to Mino to see the autumn colors, I noticed that there was a new set of travel and food guides on sale.  In particular, the new Ramen Walker had come out!

Well, I did the only thing one could do in that situation, and picked it up.  Later that evening, to christen it in, my friend and I hit up one of the new places which I had not yet heard of.

ラーメン Jackson's
Ōsaka-fu Ōsaka-shi Fukushima-ku Fukushima5丁目16−20
Jackson's is a little south of Fukushima Station, in an alley to the west.

The Bowl
Another day, another gyokai tonkotsu.  Jackson's was rich, thick, and syrupy.  It stuck to the large menma and thick, grainy noodles very well.  One of the more delicious parts of the bowl was that there were a couple different kinds of pork; a couple thick pieces of chashu and an ultra-rich piece of kakuni. I could have just eaten that kakuni and been happy.  The wari-soup at the end was a bit fishy, with a citrus note.

Would I Go Again?
Ramen Jackon's was one of the better gyokai tonkotsu places I've been to, but there are so many and it wasn't mind-blowing and there's other places in Fukushima, so it's hard to say I'll be back.

Should You Go?
It's a very good gyokai tonkotsu place up north, so it's worth checking out.  I'd say the same things I said about Monjiro, but Jackson's is better, so come here first.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


A couple months earlier I went to visit Tokushima, and my friend there told me that in Kyoto there was a place called Ramen Koji, a single place where there are branches of many favorite ramen shops, similar to Ramen Stadium in Fukuoka.  That alone made it my goal to go check it out.  Then he mentioned that his favorite ramen place was a Sapporo Miso chain called Sumire, that happened to have a shop in Ramen Koji.

Since then, I've always meant to go, but while Kyoto is fairly close to Osaka, it still takes about an hour each way, which along with last train makes it hard to go on a weekday.  Finally, though, a friend from Tokyo came to visit, which was a more than good enough excuse to go check out Kyoto, and stop for ramen before leaving.

They just added two places to Ramen Koji bringing the total to eight, and with this post I've been to but one of them.  I hope that number will increase as I write this blog.

Kyoto Station
Sumire is in Kyoto Station's Ramen Koji, on the tenth floor of the Isetan building.

The Bowl
It had been a while since I had a miso bowl.  For some reason everything I have had recently seems to be tonkotsu or shoyu...
I welcomed the change with Sumire's rich miso broth, which was a little grainy and held thin, springy noodles.  There were tons of toppings; crunchy menma, small cubes of chashu and ground pork that was interspersed with the noodles.  At the end the broth was a bit salty, but the left over pork and bean sprouts that added to the last drop's flavor more than made up for it.

Would I Go Again?
Yes, it was great, but I'd probably try one of the other seven shops in Ramen Koji first.

Should You Go?
Yes, it's right in Kyoto station and you really can't go wrong.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Marugen Ramen

Random day off!  Always a cause for excitement.  Unfortunately this one was not at the beginning or end of a week, so no three day weekend.  Some friends and I made a trip to Soni Kogen to see the pampas grass and to do some hiking.  After spending the afternoon there, we were left in the nearby town of Nabari to find food.  There's not a lot in Nabari, and even less if you're on foot.  We were left to choose between a chicken wing place and a ramen chain, and my friends chose the ramen chain.


Mie-ken Nabari-shi Natsumi3213−1

The Bowl
The broth was an oily, salty, shoyu; fatty, but thin and not that flavorful; it reminded me of Kappa Ramen.  The thin noodles were mediocre, and the bara-niku was OK, but not as good as the amount of fat on it would lead you to believe.  The one shining spot was the spicy daikon radish clump in the center; I haven't really had spicy radish like that and it helped make the soup taste a bit better.

Would I Go Again?
Not that I think I'll find myself in Nabari again soon, but I don't intend to go to another branch either.

Should You Go?
Simple no.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


One of the classic ramen chains, and also one of the first good shops I learned about is Ichiran.  Like Ippudo, it is a tonkotsu ramen chain, based in Fukuoka.  I had already been to Fukuoka a couple of months earlier, but I love Ichiran, and I was with a friend who had never been there.

Each branch of Ichiran has a similar layout: a series of narrow hallways with counters, but with little wall segments at each seat that prevent you from seeing your neighbors and the employees.  If you dare go to Ichiran with a friend, they can remove the blocker between just the two of you, so you can enjoy your meal together without having to bear the sight of anyone else.  You can also customize a number of parts of the bowl, such as the amount of garlic, the richness of the broth, or the spiciness.  Of course I went with rich broth, a little bit of extra garlic, and two times spiciness.

Ōsaka-fu Ōsaka-shi Chūō-ku Souemonchō7−18
This branch, sadly the only branch of Ichiran in Osaka, is located on the north side of the Dotonbori river, just east of Don Quixote.

The Bowl
As expected Ichiran delivered a salty, fatty, and oily but drinkable tonkotsu bowl.  The extra onions and spice added really shined through and made me love an already delicious bowl more.  The noodles were thin and hard in Fukuoka tonkotsu style, and it wasn't without a good helping of some thin slices of chashu.

Would I Go Again?
I love Ichiran.  The debate will go on forever, and as many others I think I like Ippudo more, but I'm sure I'll be back to both.

Should You Go?
Absolutely, it's great.  There's no way to know which you like better between Ippudo and Ichiran unless you go to both at least once!