Friday, July 17, 2009

It's A Family Affair

When I first had the idea to write this, I thought that my in laws would think it all a bit troublesome that not only do I still not speak Japanese, but now I need to eat ramen everyday. Instead, they seem to have embraced the idea and have come along a few times on tastings. Today when Rumi and her sister went to get a haircut, they were reading a magazine article about a local ramen shop. It was decided that we would all have dinner there, and boy did they find a winner. Murataya ramen was billed as a very good shop, where there was frequently a long wait to get in. Like most good shops, it is small with just a few four-tops and a counter. We decided to be there first, which leads me to revise an earlier piece of advice on lines. When there's a line, be first. We were, they were still cleaning up out front when we arrived ten minutes before opening. There were fourteen people on line behind us by the time they opened the doors.

The place was this busy within three minutes of opening. That's my nephew in the corner. We had a bit of trouble with a 5000 yen bill that wouldn't go into the machine and had to ask for change, the people behind us seemed to be losing patience. Rumi said they were known for their negi (spring onion or scallion) ramen. But this was dinner, I went for the negi-chashu to get a little more protien, to hell with my arteries. The server came over and asked how we wanted the noodles, and did we want garlic oil. I did of course!

Feast your eyes on perfection my loyal reader. For this, while I don't believe in THE perfect bowl of ramen, was certainly A perfect bowl. Simply to die for. When it came, it was gorgeous. Eight slices of juicy chashu, a mountain of fresh spring onion, toasted sesame seeds and a single slice of crisp nori bending over the pork as if to protect it from its inevitable fate. Sorry porky, you've and I have had this date for a long time.

There was a different aroma too, the broth at this place is flavored primarily with katsuo (bonito or skipjack) and pork, of course. Add to this garlic oil and you have a soup that smelled good enough to bathe in. I wanted to take some time, enjoy the view, but I knew the noodles would get soft if I waited too long, and I had a monkey on my back that wouldn't let me resist diving in for another second.

Below the surface there was yet another surprise, the noodles were exceptionally thin, almost an angelhair, and white. They were divine. The soup was rich and had an almost creamy texture. I was actually eating the soup so fast at the beginning that I was depleting the volume at a rate that would have left me with a bowl of noodles and no broth. I stepped back a second, contemplated the chashu, and then tasted a pork so yummy that I ate three slices in succession. I downed the entire bowl in about five or seven minutes. There was not a thing that I would have changed.

Needless to say, I ate the whole thing. By then the baby was fed up with the back seat, so I went outside for a few minutes to let the rest of the party finish eating in peace. There were people waiting already. When Rumi came out she said, "This is the best so far," and "You like katsuo right?" She is right on both counts. This had a slight edge on the others on all counts and is proof of the fact that when it comes to food, simple good flavors make for an enjoyable meal. All the toppings in the world couldn't make up for this broth. Sheer perfection, 5 Bowls.

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