How could I have lived in Japan and have a food blog without dedicating at least one post to ramen? I can’t. So here is my spiel on these delicious Japanese noodles. When I first arrived in Tokyo I had ramen for dinner almost every night. Then my friend told me that a bowl of ramen has the same amount of fat, calories, and sodium as a big mac, so I had to cut back a little. There are ramen shops on just about every block in Tokyo, but not all ramen shops are created equal. Below is a photo of just a mediocre bowl of ramen I had near my house.
Ippudo in Gotanda is one of the most famous shops, probably because there is also one in New York City that is amazing. There are many blogs solely dedicated to ramen. The New York Times featured an article about ramen in Tokyo in which it referenced a blog called Ramenate!. http://travel.nytimes.com/2010/01/31/travel/31ramen.html One of the ramen shops blogged about on Ramenate! was only a few blocks from where I lived in Tokyo. http://www.ramenate.com/2009/10/ramen-jiro-mita-honten.html The shop, called Ramen Jiro Mita Honten, is a mecca of over-sized portions of ramen. Ramenate! does a much better job than I can describing the ramen there, so I recommend that you read it. Jiro Mita Honton is only open from 10:00 to 4:00 Monday to Friday, but if you want to eat, better get there early. A line starts forming around 9:30 and wraps around the block by noon. There are only about 15 bar stools but the patrons wolf down their enormous bowls of ramen with heaping mounds of pork on top at baffling speeds.
The line at 11:00 am
The massive bowl of ramen. I couldn’t finish it – which is saying something coming from me. It ain’t pretty, but it sure was tasty. And the chef loaded garlic on to it, which is rare in Tokyo but extra delicious.
My first dining experience in Gotanda (a residential neighborhood in Tokyo) was a comedy of errors due to a vast language barrier, but in the end we were fed and had a tasty meal. The restaurant looks like a regular local izakaya but it specialized in hot pot. It took almost an hour to order because the staff didn’t speak any English. They tried avoiding us at first, and then ended up calling some one on the phone and writing down a choice of broth flavors in English for us. My friend and I ordered a seafood assortment hot pot to share. We weren’t sure exactly how to cook all the items on the platter, which included whole scallops, shrimp, muscles, and fish, but our waiter helped us out with cooking most of it. One of the best parts was drinking the broth that everything was cooked in at the end. Below is a picture of my confusion.
One of the nicest dining experiences I’ve had in Tokyo this semester was at an oyster bar in Gotanda aptly named “Tokyo Oyster Bar”, and it went without any communication breakdowns (a rarity for me) due to the wonderful English skills of our waiter. I looooove oysters and this place did them right. It wasn’t cheap, but for oysters, it was a good deal. We also splurged on a decent bottle of wine that was super drinkable. Tokyo Oyster Bar has an extensive wine list, with many coming from Washington. The first dish we had was just raw oysters from Japan, and then we had oyster bibimbap in a hot stone bowl and jumbo fried oysters, which was actually several oysters fried together in a ball. YUMMY
In order to appease my sweet-tooth, and to purchase another less expensive bottle of wine, we left the oyster bar to go to an izakaya down the street. We successfully found a bottle of red wine for under ten bucks and the only communication error ended up being in our benefit – we meant to order one chocolate brownie/berry/ice cream dessert, but instead we received two. I was okay with that.
My most recent time eating in Gotanda was at amazing ramen shop that my friend introduced me to. This place puts dumplings in the ramen!! How wonderfully excessive!! They also provide these spectacular dried onion bits to garnish to ramen with. The portion is huge (I got a tummy ache from finishing my entire bowl), but it also more pricey than the average bowl of ramen. It is so worth it, though. Freaking delicious.