Thursday, December 29, 2011

Totto Ramen

I recently stopped by Tokyo on my way out of the country for the holidays, so it only makes sense that the next place I would end up eating ramen in was my home city of New York.  Now, like a true New Yorker, I usually savor my time at home with a bagel for brunch, pizza for lunch, and, let's be honest, pizza for dinner.  These days ramen has been getting popular in New York, so I felt it was my duty to try a bowl and see how it compares to ramen in Japan.

I did some research to figure out which place to check out.  I knew I didn't want to go to a shop that was originally from Japan - that feels like cheating, and I'd already been to the Ippudo in New York anyway.  More of the shops were Japanese chains than I thought: Rairaiken, Misoya, Hidechan are all from the mother country.  I narrowed it down to two places: Totto Ramen and Momofuku Noodle Bar.  I haven't been to any Momofuku, and I'd love to check out the noodle bar, but I thought that a comparison with a more classic ramen shop would be more appropriate.  Totto it was.

I headed over there with my brother and a couple friends, and not-so-surprisingly found a decently long line.  Waiting on line for ramen is nothing new to me, but I was shocked by how long the wait was.  We were there for a good hour and a half before being able to sit, albeit separately.  I think that's the longest I've ever waited for ramen, come to think of it.

Totto specializes in chicken-based ramen, and there are a number of different variations you can order.  After chatting with the waiter a little bit about ramen in Tokyo and Japan vs New York, I asked him for a recommendation and settled on the chicken miso ramen, forcing my brother to get the spicy chicken ramen so I could try some.

366 W 52nd St

The Bowl
The broth was a thin but rich chicken soup.  It got a bit thicker and grainier after I mixed the miso in, and while I've had better chicken ramen in Japan, it was still quite good.  The noodles were medium-thick curly yellow noodles, a bit firmer than I usually get in Japan.  They reminded me a bit of lo mein even.  The chashu was quite good; it was a little chewy and tasted like it was barbecued.  Otherwise in the bowl were bean sprouts, an egg, and scallions.

Would I Go Again?
I'm not in New York very often, so if I try ramen there again, I'll probably pick another place.

Should You Go?
Totto Ramen was quite good, and while I wouldn't put it at the same rank as my favorite places in Japan, it's easily worth a trip.  If you're in New York, and you have time to wait on line, go to Totto!

Friday, December 23, 2011


It was the end of the December, which meant that Christmas and New Years were coming up, and a winter break along with it.  I had plans to go back to New York, and the most convenient flight I could find was from Tokyo, not Osaka.  What that meant was a chance to catch up with some friends, and get some ramen in Tokyo Station.  I've been to a number of the shops in Tokyo Station's Ramen Street, so I chose a Hokkaido-style Miso shop I hadn't yet been to - Mutsumiya.

The menu had a ton of different variations, including a black version that my friend ordered.  Mutsumiya's standard bowl is the red or white miso ramen.  Each week they have a different one, and that week was red, which is what I went for.

らーめん むつみ屋
Tōkyō-to, Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi, 1丁目9−1
Mutsumiya is in Tokyo Ramen Street in Tokyo Station.

The Bowl
Before the bowl even arrived at the table, I could smell the miso in the air.  Nothing better to get a man salivating.  The broth was a very rich miso, and the noodles were thin but firm.  The egg was menma were chewy and the egg was alright, but nothing beat the chashu.  The chashu was a little smoky and very flavorful.  Generally the bowl reminded me a lot of the one I had at Sumire.

Would I Go Again?
It was pretty darn delicious.  I don't see myself in Tokyo soon, but even if I did, I would be forced to try somewhere different.  If there was one in Osaka, though, I would be there.

Should You Go?
Yeah, it was quite good.  There's a number of branches around Tokyo, but for fellow Kansai residents, you'll probably have to stick to one of the ones we have, such as the above-mentioned Sumire or Ramen 3738.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


I found out a few weeks ago that, like in Kyoto and Fukuoka, there is a recently opened set of ramen shop branches in Kobe all in one place, called Men Road (which means Noodle Road in Japanese).  I had never had ramen in Kobe before, and I needed to see this place, so a couple friends and I headed over there.

Men Road is pretty small, it's almost like a hallway, with counters at each of the four shops.  I hadn't heard of any of the shops, but Kisshokichi claimed to use Kobe beef in their ramen, so we went with that one.  My friends went with the shoyu bowl, and I went with the shio-based veggie soba.

Hyōgo-ken, Kōbe-shi, Chūō-ku, Sannomiyachō, 1丁目10−1
Kisshokichi is located in Men Road, which is across the street from Sannomiya Station, in the basement of the department store complex by Kobe Marui.

The Bowl
As advertised, the veggie soba was very light and had plenty of vegetables.  Peppers and onions littered the bowl.  The noodles were very thin, long, and tended to clump together - they reminded me more of pho noodles than standard ramen noodles.  I think the pieces of meat in the broth were alright but not what I would expect from Kobe beef.

Would I Go Again?
The veggie soba was an OK if simple bowl, and there are three other shops right next to Kisshokichi, so I'll be going to those before I even consider coming back here.

Should You Go?
Kisshokichi wasn't really anything special; the other places in Men Road may be, but you'll have to wait a little bit before you get reviews for those.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


After walking around and shopping in Umeda, my friend and I started looking for a place to eat.  I had noticed Menzanmai in the Ramen Walker, and since I'm a sucker for thick noodles and tsukemen, we went to check it out.

Ōsaka-fu, Ōsaka-shi, Kita-ku, Shibata, 1丁目3−15
Menzanmai is in one of the alleys the west of Hankyu Umeda Station, near a Coco Ichiban Curry and D.D. House.

The Bowl
As opposed to the thick broth I was expected, Menzanmei's broth was quite thin and murky, with a bit of a pork taste.  The noodles, on the other hand, were ridiculously thick - this is almost certainly the fattest noodles I've eaten with tsukemen.  Since the broth was so thin, though, the noodles were not able to pick up much of the broth, and the inside of the noodles was most unflavored.  The strips of chashu were pretty good, and the egg was very liquid-y and not bad.

Would I Go Again?
This was a real let-down.  The soup was low on flavor and the noodles were too thick for it.  I won't be back.

Should You Go?
There are better places in Umeda to go to than this one.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


There was an event called Candle Night in Umeda.  They placed candles artistically all around Chayamachi and turned the lights down.  I headed over there after work, met some friends, and checked it out.  We needed a place to eat, so we chose the nearby shio ramen restaurant Ichimonya.

らぁめん 一悶屋
Ōsaka-fu, Ōsaka-shi, Kita-ku, Nakazakinishi, 2丁目1−4
Ichimonya is northeast of Higashi Umeda Station, on the north side of Miyakojima Dori.

The Bowl
The broth was a relatively standard light shio, filled with sesame seeds and with the taste of bits of fried onions that were in the bowl.  The noodles were thin, curly, and chewy, and the menma was in thin, and crunchy strips.  The menma tasted different from usual, but in a good way.  The chashu was a little burn on the edges, but pretty good.  The white of the egg was a little tough, but the yolk was much better.

Would I Go Again?
Ichimonya was fairly standard, and while this was actually my second time there, I don't have much of a reason to go again.

Should You Go?
It's not in a bad location, there's even a free hot footbath nearby.  But I'd recommend other places I've been like Iizumi first.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ramen Zundoya

I was walking home and needed dinner, so I did a little bit of searching for a ramen shop that was not too far from Midosuji.  Ramen Zundoya came up, a shop that has a number of branches in Himeji, but only a few months ago opened its first and only Osaka branch.  It looked like it had a Hakata-style tonkotsu bowl, and it was right in the middle of Shinsaibashi, so I went to check it out.  I ordered the normal ramen with an egg.

ラー麺 ずんどう屋
Ōsaka-fu, Ōsaka-shi, Chūō-ku, Shinsaibashisuji, 1丁目5−7
Zundoya has its own giant plaza just a couple blocks southeast of Daimaru in Shinsaibashi.

The Bowl
Zundoya's ramen was a classic Hakata tonkotsu very similar to beloved Ippudo and Ichiran.  The broth was maybe a little salty, but quite rich.  They let you choose the amount of oil, the kind of noodles, and the hardness; I got the  normal amount of oil and started off with a set of hard curly noodles, and then added an extra set of hard thin noodles.  Both noodles were actually fairly thin, but while the curly noodles were soft and tender, the thin noodles were much firmer and more like what I would expect from a Hakata ramen shop.  The egg was alright, and the chashu, though it broke apart very easily, like the broth was extremely flavorful.

Would I Go Again?
I've always been a fan of shops like Ippudo and Ichiran, and Zundoya was comparable - maybe even better.  There was something about the broth that made it seem like it was a bit stronger than the other two, though to be honest it's hard to compare directly since it's been well over a month since I've last eaten at a shop like this.  I'd go here again.

Should You Go?
If you're looking for a place a little less well-known than Ippudo or Ichiran, stop by here.  Located in Shinsaibashi, it's one of the most accessible ramen shops in Osaka, is new and clean, and has a large menu full of options.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Men Life Taku

My friend and I met up on Sunday for some shopping and ramen.  We were in Namba and didn't have a lot of time, so we headed to a shop by JR Namba that I had been meaning to go to.  Men Life Taku offered tsukemen and W soup ramen.  The "W" is pronounced the same as "double" in Japanese, so "W soup" just means very rich soup.  Oh Japan.

Ōsaka-fu, Ōsaka-shi, Naniwa-ku, Inari, 1丁目7−30
Men Life Taku is just a couple blocks southwest of OCAT.

The Bowl
As guaranteed, the soup was extra-rich.  The broth wasn't super thick, but it was strongly flavored with gyokai and chicken, accompanied with thin, soft noodles.  The menma were cut thinly and were flavorful, as was the chashu, though the egg was fairly bland.  Mixing the onions and bonito flakes in a bit cut into the soup's richness a bit.

Would I Go Again?
This is one of the only times I've had such a flavorful chicken broth, and this may be the only time I've had a chicken-gyokai broth.  It was kotteri in a way that I like but was unique and still very drinkable.  I'll be back.

Should You Go?
This is a one-of-a-kind broth, so go check it out.  It's a little far from the center of Namba, but it's still in Namba.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Yosuko Ramen

I wasn't too hungry and didn't feel like going far, so I decided to hit up a light place near work in Umeda. Ramen Walker came to the rescue and brought me to Yosuko.  Yosuko didn't look fancy on the outside, and on the inside it resembled a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that you might find in the east coast of the US. Metal counters, menu on the wall only, and old ladies rushing to get everyone who was finished eating out.  It kind of felt like home.

Ōsaka-fu, Ōsaka-shi, Kita-ku, Kakudachō, 7−17
Yosuko is in an alleyway just south of HEP5.

The Bowl
I asked for a light bowl, and that is what I got.  The soup was a clear shio that tasted a lot like a thin chicken soup.  The noodles were thin and very soft.  The chashu came in slices that were not nearly as fatty as a lot of restaurants.  On the side was a container full of fried onions, which really flavored up the soup if you want to add something on top of the shio broth.

Would I Go Again?
It was easy to drink, which is what I wanted.  This is not the kind of place I'll come often, but if I want something cheap and I'm in the area, I could see stopping by.

Should You Go?
This is a good place to go if you're in Umeda and want ramen, but aren't ready to handle an oily bowl of something kotteri.  It's really cheap, too.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Taiyo no Tomato

Not too long ago, my friend and I attempted to make a trip to Taiyo no Tomato, a ramen shop that specializes in a rather unusual tomato broth ramen.  We failed and got to Tsukemen Misawa, which is hardly a failure at all.  Nonetheless, we were determined to get our tomato ramen, and so a return trip was in order.

We got there and saw that they were having an Evangelion-related campaign.  If you're unfamiliar, Evangelion is a Japanese animated TV show that came out over 15 years ago, and the country has been obsessed with (at least in small corners like pachinko parlors) ever since.  One of the main pieces of Evangelion merchandise you can pick up are figures of the two main girls, quiet, light-blue-haired Rei, and spunky red-haired Asuka.  At Taiyo no Tomato, the girls were celebrated with two bowls of ramen - a light soymilk ramen for Rei, and a slightly German-themed tomato ramen for Asuka (who is German, as you can undoubtedly tell by her name).  Along with an order of tomato gyoza, my friend ordered the Rei and I got the Asuka.

Ōsaka-fu, Ōsaka-shi, Fukushima-ku, Fukushima, 5丁目13−18
Taiyo no Tomato is in a side street just southwest of Fukushima Station.

The Bowl
Taiyo no Tomato dishes out ramen that's like none other.  In fact, it should sooner be compared to an Italian restaurant than a ramen shop.  The soup was a hot and oily tomato broth; a thinned down version of what you might find on a lot of pasta.  Similarly, the noodles were thin, and very similar to spaghetti.  The toppings found in the bowl included celery, onions, yellow pepper, eggplant, and in German tradition, sausage and potatoes.

Would I Go Again?
Taiyo no Tomato is not the only tomato ramen place, but it is a good one.  I would have liked the Asuka bowl better with cheese in it, but that just means I'll have to order cheese next time.

Should You Go?
You really can't go wrong.  This is good on a day when you feel like pasta, but want ramen anyway.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Dogamori Maccho

I had skipped lunch, so I was pretty hungry.  When I was thinking about where to go, it crossed my mind that I had not yet ever been to a Jiro-kei shop in Osaka.  In Tokyo, there is a famous chain of shops called Ramen Jiro.  They make a shoyu-based soup that is heavy on pork, garlic, and fat.  And when I say "heavy", I mean to the extent that it's in a giant pile on top of your bowl.  Finishing the contents of a Jiro bowl is very difficult, and drinking all the soup is stupid, if not impossible.

Ramen Jiro makes a unique and popular enough ramen that it has become a style in its own right, Jiro-kei.  You can usually choose how much garlic, fat, and vegetables (read: bean sprouts) you get, though even saying "normal" will get you a medium sized heap.  I'd been to a small handful of Jiro-kei restaurants in Tokyo, but never to one in Osaka.  I looked up a nearby Jiro-kei shop, Maccho, and as I always do with Jiro-kei, I set off with good intentions, knowing full well that in the end I would regret it.

Maccho had tsukemen and even abura soba, but I went for the ramen.  They say that the normal size has as many noodles as a large at other places, so I didn't try to be a hero and just stuck with that.

自家製太麺 ドカ盛 マッチョ
Ōsaka-fu, Ōsaka-shi, Chūō-ku, Nipponbashi, 2丁目7−22
Maccho is south of Nipponbashi Station, in one of the side streets west of Sakai-suji.

The Bowl
As you can see, they don't shy away from the toppings here, and yes, that small mound of yellow stuff on the top is raw garlic.  It would be two or three times as big if I had asked for extra.  The broth was extremely fatty and garlicky.  It was delicious for the first few sips, but there's a reason you're not expected to finish it.  The noodles were of medium thickness, and very greasy.  There were two or three big pieces of chashu which were brown, fatty, and more flavorful than I expected.

Would I Go Again?
It's been a while since I've been to a Jiro-kei and it will be a while until I go to one again.  That said, when I do, I'll probably see if I can find a different one.

Should You Go?
Everyone should try Jiro-kei once.  My favorite so far is probably one in Tokyo but Maccho was not bad, and the chashu was quite good.  If you live in Osaka, you wouldn't be wrong to make this your Jiro-kei trial.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Tonight's walk brought me through the heart of America Village, the area of Osaka that is meant to be somewhat modeling America.  It doesn't look anything like the US, not even in one of those ridiculous-mocking ways.  But it's a cool place to walk around, has a number of clothing shops, and even has some good ramen.

I found Menikkon in Ramen Walker.  It was advertised for having a rich katsuo (bonito) ramen and a good egg, so I ordered both.

Ōsaka-fu, Ōsaka-shi, Chūō-ku, Nishishinsaibashi, 1丁目7−2
Menikkon is in America Village, just a block north of the triangle park.

The Bowl
The soup base was a classic shoyu, but the soy sauce taste was overpowered by the fishiness of the katsuo.  Bowls this fishy I'm used to having as rich tsukemen, but this was comparatively quite light.  The noodles were thin, there were thins trips of menma and a fairly ordinary slice of chashu.  The thin onions stood out as being especially delicious, but my favorite topping was the egg.  After bursting it open with my chopsticks, the yolk poured out like the filling of a cream egg, and it tasted even better mixed with the soup.

Would I Go Again?
This was a very good shoyu bowl.  The closest I've had to it is the slightly fishy Rakunijin, but still Menikkon was a bit richer and more fishy.  I'd visit again.

Should You Go?
It's a good shoyu bowl in a great location.  You should go.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fujiyama 55

I saw a branch of this shop when I was in Nagoya a couple months ago, and though I knew nothing about it, it caught my eye.  When I got the new Ramen Walker, I looked through it and noticed that a branch had recently opened up in Osaka.  It was in Higashi Umeda, which is pretty convenient, so I decided to stop by.

Fujiyama 55 (pronounced "Fujiyama Gogo") had a large selection of tsukemen and ramen to choose from.  After staring at the ticket vending machine for a while and debating over whether or not to get the curry tsukemen, I went with one of the employee's recommendations: the thick tsukemen.

つけ麺・ラーメン フジヤマ55
Ōsaka-fu, Ōsaka-shi, Kita-ku, Dōyamachō, 10−4
Fujiyama 55 is in a shopping arcade just east of the fountain plaza inside the Whity underground mall.

The Bowl
Fujiyama 55's tsukemen began like many others I'd had recently; a rich gyokai tonkotsu.  It was ordinary-but-good as a lot of them are.  It had a medium-thick soup with fat, firm noodles, and decent menma and chashu.  But from the first couple mouthfuls on is where it changed.  There was a large selection of free toppings available, allowing you to customize your ramen any way you want.  Pickles, sesame seeds, ginger, bean sprouts - all the classics.  I threw some extra onions, bean sprouts, and pickles into my bowl.  I really liked the tiny bit of extra spice the bean sprouts added, so I chucked a whole bunch more in.
On top of all that, when you finish the noodles, instead of giving you wari-soup like most places, Fujiyama 55 offers cheese, rice, and an induction heater for you to make your very own ramen cheese risotto.  I've had risotto before, but never with gyokai tonkotsu soup as a base.  It was cheesy, hot, and delicious.

Would I Go Again?
A large menu, tons of toppings and crazy, cheesy ramen risotto?  More importantly, curry tsukemen.  I'll be back.

Should You Go?
It's good, weird, and centrally located.  Check it out.