Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Today I went to Saikai Ramen, a shop I have been to in three of the last four years. The first year, not really understanding what the difference was between ramen dishes, I told my sister-in-law, "I'll have what you recommend." That was this bowl, tonkotsu (I know again but I wanted to get this right) ramen with mountain vegetables and one slice of pork. That time we were at a branch of Saikai that is somewhere out in the sticks, actually it may not be that far but I had no concept of Tokyo geography at that point. It was memorable, so memorable in fact that two years later (last year) I asked if we could go there again and was told that there was a branch of Saikai in a local shopping center near Hashimoto. We went last year and when Chizuko, my sister-in-law suggested that we go again I jumped at the chance.
This time however I went with the chashu ramen. I know, many of the ramen we've seen so far have had chashu, but when you order "chashu ramen" you get extra. I hadn't had any breakfast to speak of so a little extra pork sounded just like what the doctor ordered, though not my doctor. What you can see nicely here is that this is a smaller piece of pork which is typically rolled and tied when it is braised. While we're on the subject of toppings, the green stuff has been identified as a seaweed by the family, but I'm not convinced, seemed a bit too hearty almost like a mustard green without the bitterness. There are also two slices of a variety of pickled ginger at center which are a variety I have only previously seen shredded. Some green onions, preserved bamboo shoots and toasted sesame seeds round it out. The chashu was good, but didn't have that soft-as-butter consistency I consider optimal, though it was not tough by any stretch.
The story in this case was the noodles. When Rumi asked if I wanted my noodles a little spicy or regular I assumed she was talking about the soup. Saikai however offers a "spicy noodle" something I have not seen until now. It was different to be sure, so I went for it. They were only slightly spicy, but the difference was noticeable and not just a gimmick. I have however a small criticism here, I ordered mine al-dente, they were past that. Actually in one case there was a small clump where they were stuck. The cook had obviously forgot the noodles in the pot. Sorry, you guys lose a point here.
The soup was wonderful, not too salty and I added just a bit of yusu-kosho, a blend of a citrus fruit and pepper and gave it another interesting layer. So good I drank it all.
I ate that last noodle too. I gave it 4 1/2 bowls, nobody else's noodles were overcooked.
Posted by Sean at 6:12 AM