Saturday, July 11, 2009

Local Knowledge

When I told some friends we were visiting about my blog, they said then you must try Toride Ramen which is near their home in Shibuya. Happy to take any tips I can get, we set out on an afternoon walk to eat and visit the national TV studio where they make some kids shows Hana loves.

Toride was pleasant inside, not too harried of an environment, but not fancy either. Ramen shops shouldn't be fancy, this is after all essentially fast food. As I tried to look at the menu, I realized how hopeless this was, all Japanese and very few pictures. What I did notice right away were the prices. Though there was something that told me right away that this was going to be a better bowl than a had tasted thus far on this trip, what Rumi told me said "House Ramen" was only 700 yen. Seven bucks! Or more accurately $7.51 by yesterday's exchange rate. I ordered the "House" with nori and marinated half-boiled egg. They offered two different types of noodles cooked to seven different specifications.

Take a look at the goods ladies and gentlemen, this
is as good as it gets so far. Notice first of all what is a departure from what we have seen, this is again tonkotsu, a pork bone broth, but notice the color and texture. It has a white or cloudy color and a smooth almost silky texture. Enough salt this time, though not too much. If you look closely, you will see what look like bubbles, but are, rather, beads of oil from the pork that are present, while not a Valdize sized slick across the surface of the soup. I believe this is known as Hakata Ramen, though I'm not sure. I do know that I drank the whole thing.

The toppings again, decent though I do like more green onions, I'll need to specify in the future. Additionally, you will see peeking out from under the nori thin brown strips. These are kikurage, a wood ear mushroom preserved which have and almost crunchy texture. The egg in this case has been soaked in in a marinade that turns the whites brownish on the outside. Again the yolk is soft enough to dip, but does not run. I gave Rumi half of mine again, Dr. Lombardo would be proud.

The real story here though was the noodles. This is the first time that we have been to a restaurant that offers different types of noodles. These are the thinner variety which one companion likened to somen noodles. In addition to a choice of noodle, the menu offered seven different levels of doneness to which they could be cooked ranging from a mere dip in the boiling water to I suppose mush? I ordered my firm and they were cooked just that way. It was hard to resist the option to add more noodles for 150 yen, but I need to show some restraint.

Additionally, this is the first ramen shop on this trip to offer additional toppings on the table, pickled ginger and a blend of red pepper and something green that makes the soup spicy (in the black cup to the left of the soup). I chose to add just a bit of this, I like a kick.

The chashu was absolutely perfect in every respect. Free from overbearing sweetness, sliced thin but not skimpy. Soft as butter it was not even necessary to chew, and would quite literally melt when pressed between the tongue and the roof of the mouth. I regret not ordering the chashu ramen which would have come with ten or twelve slices rather than two. Lucky for me one magically appeared in my bowl when Rumi started getting full.

This was far and away the best ramen so far on this trip, nothing in New York that I have had to date can come close to this. If there had been just a bit more in the way of toppings, I could have granted a perfect score, but as it stands this was very very good. Overall rating: 4 bowls.

1 comment:

  1. This one looks the best to me so far, icluding the one at Jangara. I think it's because it's the most traditional sounding at least. The only thing in there I wouldn't have wanted was the egg. Other than that I haven't eaten since breakfast today and that soup looks awesome!!! I have to say, I am also very impressed with the descriptive writing of the blog. Nice work. You should find a way to make a bound book after the trip for posterity. Keep me posted on today's eats...