Burnt Miso Ramen? Because it’s Japan!

Good to be back here.  Business school and travel have taken over my life these past few months.  People from back home have been visiting and it’s just been a blast touring them all over Japan. This could be work if they paid me! But it was a lot of fun.

Being a ramen fan, I am always on the lookout for my next bowl.  I was with my girlfriend’s dad and brother when we stumbled upon Kyoto Gogyo (https://www.ramendining-gogyo.com/kyoto-menu), just off a turn from Nishiki Market.  Having talked to people there, Gogyo is owned by the same company that holds Ippudo, another fantastic ramen chain.

Gogyo’s specialty is their Burnt Miso ramen.  They have an English menu where they will show a “special” and a regular.  In addition, they also have a free upsize on the servings which was truly awesome.  We opted for the Burnt Miso in regular (which meant fewer toppings) and an upsize.  We were expecting fewer toppings but when it came in a large black bowl, we were surprised at how adequate they were.  But the upsize was so big so beware if you are not that hungry.  The Japanese hate wasted food.  It was topped with nori, 2 thick slices of chashu, salted egg, and squid.  The highlight here was the really, really thick and black soup.  It oozed with umami and the thickness meant that cholesterol levels were going to shoot up immediately upon taste.  I could literally taste that the soup was burnt but in a salty, umami-ish kind if way.  It was sort of sweet at the beginning and then it was all umami after that.  The chashu slices were really tender and complemented the broth well.  ¥890 that was well spent.  

The ambience of the place was surprisingly fantastic as well.  When I entered the place, it felt more like a hotel lounge than a ramen place. It had subdued lighting and the seats were comfortable and wide.  It could even easily pass for a romantic ramen date or something.  The place also has a bar in sight for the thirsty ones.  

I highly recommend this place if you want a different kind of ramen experience from the usual shio and tonkotsu ramen variants that are abundant in Japan.  Gogyo has them as well, but you have to try the Burnt Miso one.  It is worth it.  

Burnt Miso Ramen! Look at how thick the broth is!
Get counter seats for a more Japanese experience.

Kamukura: The Sleeper Ramen

Every once in a while, you encounter a sleeper – someone/something that looks ordinary but is actually very extraordinary.  

I went to Osaka last week to buy some stuff and get a breather from school.  After a couple of hours running around, I was super hungry.  And no one likes to walk around hungry.

Ramen is always my go-to food and Ichiran is my go-to place in Osaka.  But the lines were just too long and I was too hungry.  Alas! I found Kamukura, a shoyu ramen specialist.  Funny thing: it was right in front of Ichiran!

Shoyu ramen is essentially ramen with a soy sauce base in the English language.  I’ve always preferred shoyu over shio (salt), but both them share a special place in my tummy’s heart.

First off, buy a meal ticket if you want to save time during lunch.  Just punch in 700 -800 Yen and select a teishoku (lunch set).  My hunger level was peaking so I opted for the largest set, which included rice and gyoza.  The other large set was with rice and fried chicken nuggets.

The ramen is unbelievably big!  It’s one of those rare moments when the food is as big as its plate.  I always hate eating small amounts of food in obnoxious and huge plates.  Your face can probably fit in the bowl.  There’s also a tremendous amount of roasted pork and cabbage in it (which I love).  Looking back, I didn’t even need the gyoza and rice.  Don’t let the size fool you.

This is some great tasting shoyu ramen and is quite different from what I have tasted before!

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Tokyo Drift! A Fast and Furious Journey (Part 3)

I suddenly remembered that I have to write about the last leg of my quick Tokyo trip!

In case you missed out on the earlier posts, here’s Part 1 and Part 2

The last part of our trip covered most of Central and Western areas of Tokyo: Akihabara, Harajuku, and Shinjuku.  These are the busiest places in Tokyo (probably in Japan) and offer a lot in terms of things to do.

We started by visiting Tokyo Imperial Palace.  The palace grounds alone will take you about 30 – 45 minutes to circumnavigate.  One can really feel that this is the epicenter of the Japanese empire just by walking around.  The attention given to the plants, flowers, trees, and structures cordially dial in majesty.

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Behold!  The almighty castle walls!
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How big were horse-drawn carriages in Japan back then?  Because this street is so wide!
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The trees are just perfectly manicured.  Not a leaf out of line.
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We were really lucky because these were not supposed to be in bloom until 3 days later.

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From there, we took the subway bound for Yoyogi Park.  This is a massive and beautiful park that ends at Harajuku.  At the middle, you can drop by Meiji Jingu to get a breather.  It felt like a stretch of 2.5 kms. of gravel.IMG_1676

If you followed our route, this is what you should see:IMG_1678

We went crazy with all the shops from Harajuku to Roppongi.  There were a lot of foreigners living here too.  This area will gladly take your money.  Name a brand and chances are, a flagship store will be in this area.  So bring a lot of dough.  Or don’t.IMG_1679

If you go left from here, you will arrive at another famous shopping destination, Takeshita Street where you could get a shot at one of the graffiti-lined walls.  Each of us just had to take one.

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According to my sister, this street is mostly kawaii girls stuff.  But she was able to find this store, Monki.  There’s a cool dessert place beside it if ever you are a guy shopping with a female.

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The iconic Hachiko just near Shibuya Crossing!IMG_1689

Maybe it is just because off-season but I think Dotombori in Osaka is much busier than this one.  If you are thinking about getting a nice view from the Starbucks joint you see in this picture, good luck getting in.  The upper floors of the train station and malls are the best places to get a nice shot.  I just wished I was into time lapse photography when I went here.  IMG_1693

We had to double back to our hostel to get our bags and got lost.  All the subway-switching can get really confusing.  It really pays to know some kanji especially when the nearest map looks like this:

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We had a great bowl of Seaweed Shio ramen after an exhausting day.  Unfortunately, I forgot the name of this ramen place in Shinjuku.

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While waiting for our midnight bus back to Kyoto, we checked our watches and realized that we had about 4 hours to kill.  Luckily, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is still open!  It has 2 observation decks: North (9:30-23:00) and South (9:30-17:30).  It gives you a stunning 360-view of Tokyo for free!  The elevator line might be long during the day so going at night is better (the night view is better too, I think).  Oddly, the observation deck has a toy store and a coffee shop at the top.  It even has complimentary Wi-Fi! IMG_1702

That’s all, folks!  This series is done!  I can’t wait to go back to Tokyo!

Here’s a video of the entire trip!  I’m very sorry that the camera is shaky, the gimbal is broken. 😦

Ramen Sen No Kaze: Kyoto’s Best Bowl

Kyoto has a lot of ramen joints.  I’ve blogged earlier about Ichiran.  Ippudo‘s here.  Kyoto Gogyo‘s here.  Even Kyoto Station’s 10th floor is solely devoted to ramen!

Let’s face it.  All of them are very good.  But some ramen bowls are just made to be better than the rest.  Enter Ramen Sen No Kaze.

I found the place by accident while I was going around Teramachi and Shinyogoku.  It can be found in a really narrow street parallel to Shinyogoku.  If you see someone shouting and carrying a huge poster, the place is in front of that.

The place is very small and gets very packed during lunch and dinner hours.  Seating capacity is just around 15-20 people.  On multiple times, me and my friends must have waited an average of 30-45 minutes.  On a bad day, an hour.

A family of three (father, mother, daughter) runs the place.  My bet is they keep the secret to themselves.  No questions about quality control here.  Even the music is a collection of American classics.

They specialize in Shio ramen which means it is white and has a salt-based soup.  They offer it in three sets: ramen only, ramen and gyoza, ramen, gyoza, and rice.  It is topped with some Chashu pork cutlets (stewed pork, I believe) which are very, very tender.  The gyoza is cooked as you order and is served as an appetizer if ever you are getting that set.  I highly suggest getting the ramn with gyoza set because the gyoza happens to be one of the best in Kyoto as well.  The set is without fault.

The set in the picture is the ramen + gyoza set and costs 1000 Yen.  Very reasonable considering the high quality.  The wooden soup spoon has a very classy feel to it and enriches the experience even more.

The sake was there was provided by my friend.  We had a tough week in school before eating here.

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Ichiran Osaka: Because You Deserve A Customized Bowl

Ichiran arguably makes the greatest mass-produced ramen in the world.

My first encounter was back in Osaka around September 2014.  Yes, this was the one near the bridge by the riverbank.  And yes, this is the one where troops line up for hours. Being so, I gave up and settled for somewhere forgettable.

Now that I live here, Ichiran is part of my regular ramen rotation.  In Kyoto, there is one in Shijo. In Osaka, there are 2 in the Namba/Dotombori area (shhh, the 2nd one is a secret).

The sole resonating point of why you should eat at Ichiran is customization.  After popping 790 yen for the basic ramen, the staff should hand you a white paper with a lot of options.  Some include: amount of spring onions, noodle firmness, pork cutlet option, amount of Ichiran sauce (i think this ranges from 1-infinity), and so on.  It’s like one of those painting stalls you can find in malls. You can buy a pre-designed canvas and go crazy painting over it.  There must be thousands of combinations for an Ichiran bowl of ramen.  I have been there more than 10x already and I swear that I have tried different sets every time.  You can even have noodle refills for an additional fee!

I recommend getting seats in the bar-like area.  It just creates an atmosphere unlike any other ramen joint.

If there’s one thing about lining up for food in Japan that I have learned: it is worth it every time.