Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Miyata Menji

All the time the world is blessed with the birth of a new ramen shop.  Other times we must bow our heads in sadness as a ramen shop disappears.  Miyata Menji, one of the first shops I ever visited in Osaka, has had its time come.

Miyata Menji was founded by a Japanese comedian, Miyata Tetsuji.  He wanted to show the world how delicious wheat flour in noodles could be, so he had them made for Miyata Menji.  After about two years of operation, Miyata felt that his duty was complete, and had the place shut down.  And what spookier day to say goodbye to a ramen shop than Halloween?  I came straight from work so sadly I was not in costume.

Miyata Menji typically has three different kinds of noodles available, but for the final night they had only one type of noodle available: the T2G Final.

1-13-5 Higashishinsaibashi

The Bowl
Miyata Menji is all about the noodles, but they offered a pretty solid broth too.  It was a sweet gyokai tonkotsu, with a strange-but-fitting tomato taste.  The noodles were good on their own and in the broth; they were very chewy and covered in little bits of wheat flour.  There was an extra-chewy large noodle sheet, too.  In addition to the pork, menma, and egg, which were all good, there were some vegetable chips with the noodles.  I've never had anything like that in ramen before, but they went pretty well.

Would I Go Again?
I would.  But alas, it is no more.

Should You Go?
Yes, but you can't.

R.I.P. Miyata Menji.

Monday, October 29, 2012


Another rare second-time visit!  Avid fans of this blog may remember that about a year ago I visited a branch of Mannen in Umeda, checking out their curry tsukemen.  This time, a friend invited me to grab a bowl in the Shinsaibashi area, and she took me to Mannen.

They didn't have curry tsukemen at this branch, and I was tempted to get something wacky, but my friend advised that I try the standard tonkotsu ramen.  So tonkotsu it was.

らーめん餃子専門店 まんねん
3-6-4 Minamisenba

The Bowl
Creamy, rich, classic tonkotsu broth.  I've been having a lot of these recently.  The noodles were thin as you'd expect, though fairly soft even though I asked for them hard.  The chashu was pretty decent as well.

Would I Go Again?
A solid bowl of tonkotsu.  Nothing to complain about, but also no reason to go back.

Should You Go?
Not when you could go to Zundoya instead.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


A while back, a friend told me about a new campaign Yahoo started running called the Ramen Ambassadors.  They were recruiting foreigners in Japan who have a passion for ramen.  Well, I applied and I got in!  I've advertised on facebook already, but check it out if you haven't already!

One of my duties as Osaka's ambassador was to make a video as a promotion.  As Osaka's ambassador (most of the others are up in Tokyo), I decided to go around Osaka and Kyoto and show off different landmarks and nearby ramen shops.  Of course this meant that I had to stop somewhere to eat ramen too.

It had been a long time since I ate in Kyoto Station's Ramen Koji.  Since this was for the video, I decided the best place to go was Kyoto's famous chain Masutani.  They are famous for their shoyu broth with a chicken soup base.

I'll post details below, but check out my promotional video here!

901 Higashishiokōjichō

The Bowl
The soup was a fatty, oily shoyu.  It was a little garlicky, and generally reminiscent of the Jiro-style.  The thing about Jiro-style bowls, is that they are usually more about quality than about quantity.  Without the quantity, Masutani felt like a fairly generic chain-y bowl.  The noodles were thin, straight, and springy, and the chashu was pretty mediocre.

Would I Go Again?
No way.  There are better places in Kyoto Station and better representatives of Kyoto.

Should You Go?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Jinrui Mina Menrui

As many of these posts begin, I decided to meet with a friend of mine for ramen.  This is the same friend of mine I went to Tokiya with, which meant we were heading over to Nishinakajimaminamigata (yes, its as annoying to say in Japanese as it is in English).  It's a bit out of the way so I don't get around there much, but there are actually quite a few ramen shops in the area.  A famous shio shop called Shiogensui is there, but on this night we decided to hit up popular, new Jinrui Mina Menrui.

1-12-15 Nishinakajima

The Bowl
Jinrui Mina Menrui offers a shoyu broth, and is known for their ridiculously thick pieces of chashu.  Just look at that photo above.  That's thicker than a slice of bread!  If ramen wasn't already grossly unhealthy I might feel about about eating it.  The broth was pretty standard but decent, and the noodles were short, fat, and straight.  The menma and chashu were both thick, and pretty good.

Would I Go Again?
Everything about this place was solid, but nothing was better than that.  The chashu was good, but not so good to make me want to come back.  Besides, I still need to go to Shiogensui.

Should You Go?
There are better shoyu bowls closer to town, and better other kinds of bowls over there.  Only go if you're really into giant pieces of chashu.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Ramen School

Time for a very special edition of Friends in Ramen!  Brian over at Ramen Adventures had been speaking with a ramen master who runs a school in Osaka.  The master runs an expensive several-week course aimed at professionals who want to open up their own ramen shop.  Recently, though, he had become interested in running a more affordable one day ramen course for foreigners.  He hired an interpreter, and Brian decided to come down to Osaka to talk about the details.  Of course, to make sure it would be OK, he also needed to have a trial run of the course itself.  So, gracious as I am, I volunteered to join in, and Brian and I went to become ramen students.

The school is actually just a tiny shop on the road to Kinki University.  The main part is a ramen shop and counter, in the back is a kitchen, and there's a small room upstairs where we were able to sit down and talk, and where a number of noodle-making machines were placed.  We started talking upstairs about what our day would be like, and then got straight into the guts.

Literally, we started with the guts.  Pieces of pork and chicken, as raw as you can get.  That red piece is a pig's skull, and the stripe of meat is pork back fat.  Still hungry?

We smashed some of the bones and cleaned the chicken feet to prepare them to make the soup, and then into the pressure cooker they went.

That hose there filled the cooker with water, where we let it sit for a few hours.  A normal pressure cooker would take over ten hours to cook, but this beast could do it in just a couple.  Next up was the chashu!

Wow, a big hunk of bacon.  The master cut some pieces from this slab and we tied them tightly together with twine.

These babies look ready to cook.  The master showed us how to put together a simple soy-sauce based marinade, we let it heat up, and then dropped the pieces of pork in.

It was almost lunch time and most of the good stuff was cooking for dinner, so the master showed us how to make a simpler ramen broth out of meat that you can get in a supermarket.

We started out by taking a ton of ground meat, pouring in some water, mixing, and throwing some spices on top.

We let the broth cook for a while, and then threw out all of the now-tasteless meat, leaving left the very meaty-flavored soup.  Of course, we needed some flavoring for the soup, so we made a simple sauce - called the "tare", out of soy sauce, seaweed and fish.

We used some noodles that the master had already prepared, combined them with the soup and the tare, and voila, a bowl of ramen for lunch.

Light, simple, and delicious.  A short break and a quick walk around the campus of Kinki University, then we came back to continue our lesson.  It was time to make the tare for that night's ramen, but first we went to check on the broth.

Quite a bit murkier than when we had started.  It smelled really strongly too.

For the tare, like the lunch ramen's tare, it was based with soy sauce, complemented by a ton of seaweed and niboshi.

Looks rich and delicious.  We drained the soup from the pressure cooker, and poured some of it into a bowl.

Wow, cloudy but oh so white.  It's a big change from how it originally started.  It tasted creamy, almost milky, and with a strong meat flavor.  Interesting, but inedible on its own without the tare.

Next it was back upstairs to make noodles.  A lot of shops buy their noodles from one of a number of noodle companies, but the truly hardcore make their own.

This giant contraption takes in flour and water, mixes it together, and then rolls out sheets of noodle.

I'd be curious to try eating ramen with sheets of noodle.  Or just taking a bite out of this sheet.  We had to feed the sheet back into the machine several times to make sure it was properly pressed.  After that, we attached a slicer to the end, which shredded the noodles into their more familiar form.

We put our noodles away to be stored for later.  Unfortunately, noodles are best left for a little while before using them, so the actual noodles that went into our dinner ramen were not the ones we pressed and cut.

It had been a few hours, and the chashu had been cooked in its marinade.  It was looking a lot less raw and a lot more tasty.

And it was more tasty.  Fatty, juicy, and delicious.  We saved some to put in the ramen, of course, but we couldn't help ourselves to a little bit of our newly marinated, oily creation.

With broth, noodles, tare, and pork, we were ready to serve up our ramen.  We had earlier split the soup into two containers, one with cloudy soup, and the other with clear soup.

The clear soup was light and easy to drink.

The cloudy soup made for a saltier and richer bowl.

The only thing we were missing was an audience.  Ramen is a dish that is meant to be enjoyed by the masses, and what better masses than local college students.  Brian and I went outside and asked some passers-by to help taste-test our masterpiece.  As you may have expected, it's not very hard to convince college kids to accept a free meal.

They enjoyed it!  Brian posed with our first customers as a friendly American sign of good will.

You can check out the details of the ramen school on Brian's page here.  Sign up, and enter the world of ramen creation!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Menya Sakamoto Top Wo Nerae!

In Japan, celebrities are a lot like Paris Hilton.  They become famous for one reason or another, and then they start to bleed into music, or acting, or entrepreneurship, and you start to forget how they even got to that point.  So even on a normal night going to eat ramen in Namba, you might find yourself eating at a restaurant created by a celebrity.  Menya Sakamoto Top Wo Nerae! (that last part means "aim for the top!" is one of those restaurants.

Sakamoto is a new ramen shop produced by celebrity Garigarigarikuson.  I don't know much about him, but that he worked as the manager of a couple of ramen shops, so it especially made sense for him to open this shop.  Sakamoto specializes in chicken ramen, offering a kotteri chicken soba, and a lighter gyokai chicken soba.  I went for the kotteri one.

麺屋 坂本 トップをねらえ!
1-3-14 Nanba

The Bowl
Kotteri is what I asked for and kotteri is what I got.  The broth was rich, creamy, and a little frothy.  It was a thick chicken soup that almost seemed liked the kind of soup you'd get with tsukemen.  It reminded me a lot of Men Life Taku.  The noodles were curly, springy, and thin.  The menma and egg were both pretty good, but the chashu was tough and a little bland.

Would I Go Again?
Sakamoto was pretty good and in a really convenient location.  Maybe I'll try the assari gyokai chicken soba next time.

Should You Go?
I would say go to Men Life Taku or Menya Taku over this, but this place is good and in a better location.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Regular readers of Friends in Ramen will remember a few months ago when I visited the Ramen Gekijo.  Well, one of the shops that used to be in the rotating "ramen theater" succeeded and started its own shop, not too far away from the Gekijo.

Aozora offers four different kinds of ramen: Hakata-style tonkotsu, Shin-Nara ramen, Tokyo tonkotsu tsukemen, and Naniwa white shoyu ramen.  I was really curious about the Shin-Nara or Naniwa ramen, but all the signs recommended the standard Hakata tonkotsu bowl, so that's what I went with.

麺屋 青空
3-2-26 Kōzu

The Bowl
A classic Hakata-style tonkotsu, through and through.  Cloudy and creamy pork broth, long and thin noodles, though a bit softer than I would have liked.  The toppings were OK, and the chashu was decent, but nothing special.

Would I Go Again?
It's not too far out of the way, and I'm curious about the other bowls, so maybe.

Should You Go?
The bowl was solid, but there are so many other tonkotsu bowls you can choose from, you don't need to.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Menya Katsu

Japan, at least recently, has only two seasons.  The long winter, and the long summer.  In between those two, you are rewarded with short stop-gap periods of nice weather, three-week long periods that are normally called "spring" and "autumn".  It's during this time especially that you have to take advantage of the fact that the outdoors is as pleasant as it will ever be.

That of course means a ramen walk.  A walk to Fukushima, home of many ramen shops.  This time the goal was Mitsuboshi Seimenjo.  Unfortunately, my poor timing put me there just as it closed.  There were people inside enjoying their thick, fishy ramen, and there I was outside in front of the "we're sorry, but we've already taken the last order" sign.  That means it's time to wander around and look for another place.

Menya Katsu is right next to Fukushima Station; I wondered how I had never seen it before.  It's because it just opened six months ago.  Abura soba is a rare treat in Osaka, so I went in and ordered the standard shoyu abura soba.

麺や 克
7-6-23 Fukushima

The Bowl
Abura soba bowls can really go either way based on the toppings.  A normal bowl with only the basic boring toppings like vinegar and chili oil tastes fairly generic.  Katsu offered a whole variety of free and premium toppings, so in addition to the toppings you can see in the picture, I added diced onions, spicy miso, and takana, a kind mustard greens.  They had apple vinegar on the side, too, which was pretty good and I threw on in small quantities.  The toppings really added a lot of variety, though, to be honest, the light shoyu flavor of the firm noodles was pretty good on its own.  A good flavor and a solid bowl.

Would I Go Again?
Yeah, there's no other place I know of in Osaka to get abura soba now that Menji Abura closed.

Should You Go?
Yeah, try some of the soup-less goodness.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


I walk home from work a lot, which means crossing through the center of Osaka.  I vary up my routes, which means I randomly stumble upon interesting bars, cafes, restaurants, and of course, ramen shops.  Enisi is a shop that I found a while ago, had forgotten about, and then found again.

Enisi offers a soup made with pork bone, collagen, and dries sardines.  You can choose if you want the paitan (thick) or chintan (thin) soup, and shoyu or shio.  When I asked for a recommendation, he said that for people who like thick soups, go with the paitan, which I did.

出稼げば大富豪ラーメン えにし
3-6-13 Kawaramachi

The Bowl
The broth, being shio, was light, but creamy.  There was a clear visible layer of fat you can see even in the photo, and it tasted very strongly of the dried sardines that made up the soup.  The noodles were medium thickness and straight, and tasted good with the soup.  The menma was dark, and that, the jelly-like egg, and the chashu were all pretty good.

Would I Go Again?
Yeah, this place made a mean, creamy shio.  Maybe I'll try the thin soup next time.

Should You Go?
Yeah, I'd definitely say go there if you're looking for a place in the Honmachi area, or if you're a shio fan.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


I was just in Tokyo visiting a couple of shops that I had gone to long ago, and now it's time for one more.  Mitaseimenjo, much like the other tsukemen shop Yasube, is a chain from Tokyo.  There has been a shop in Umeda that I've been too lazy to go to, and now there is a shop in Namba too.  I'd been to the one in Ebisu in Tokyo, and remembered it being solid.  How will it taste in Namba?

They offer a choice between tsukemen and spicy tsukemen, so obviously I chose the spicy.

つけ麺専門店 三田製麺所
2-11-3 Sennichimae

The Bowl
I think I may have forgotten how good Tokyo-style gyokai tonkotsu tsukemen is.  You can find some good ones in Osaka, but Mitaseimenjo still stands out as being very good.  Thick broth that's tingly-spicy.  Fat, firm noodles.  The menma and chunks of chashu in the soup were soft and very flavorful.  The wari-soup that topped it off was light and refreshing.

Would I Go Again?
I might.  Maybe I'll hit up the Umeda one next time.

Should You Go?
Yeah, it's a good gyokai tonkotsu tsukemen in a really convenient location.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


Takaida.  What was an old bus stop, is now a subway stop, and will forever remain an Osakan style of ramen.  Takaida-kei ramen is a classic chuka soba, simple shoyu ramen.  What makes it stand out is that the broth is a much darker, richer, soy sauce, and that the noodles are fat and straight.  This style is not famous at all, but as an Osakan ramen amateur, it's come across my radar a number of times.  I've tried the most famous chain, Kinguemon, but I've always wanted to try one of the original places.

Koyoken was one of the first, having been established in 1953.  I walked all the way out to Fuse, expecting that a place of lore like this would have a huge line all day long.  Nope, there was only one other customer in the shop when I got there, and no one else came while I ate.

3-20 Fukaeminami

The Bowl
Something tasted very "raw" about this shoyu broth.  It wasn't as dark as the other Takaida-kei shops I had been to.  It was much saltier, though, and therefore harder to drink.  It kind of tasted like what would happen if you took the sauce of some Chinese stir-fry dish and turned it into a soup.  The noodles were a bit better, being fat and straight they absorbed the flavor of the broth and just the right amount of salt.  The menma was alright, and the chashu was standard.

Would I Go Again?
I'm glad I tried it but I can understand why people flock to the newer shops.  I'd like to go back to Takaida, but I think I'll hit one of the other classic shops.

Should You Go?
Eh, it's far.  I'm curious about the other shops in the area, but you'd be better off heading to Kinguemon or Marujoe in town.