Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Two Shams of a Mockery of a Sham
Finally, everyone feeling ok after the flight and it's time to get out into the neighborhood and find some quality noodles. I'd seen reports elsewhere that there was a street with several ramen shops located at the east exit of the JR Ikebukuro station. We headed in that direction figuring that several shops on the same street should breed competition and a free market should kill off the weak.
After a few minutes of walking around, we found Shitennou Ramen, which seemed to be just what the doctor ordered. It was a shop where you put your money in a machine, push a button and get a ticket. I selected Miso ramen, hit the wrong button for Rumi's ticket selecting shio (salt) flavor instead of shoyu (soy sauce) flavor for her. She was a good sport about it though; lucky for me she happens to like shio.
Being early, it took the cook a few minutes to get the order together, but at last steamy smells and finally soup.
Right off the bat, something just wasn't right. There were way too few scallions on top. Kind of as if they had been an afterthought, or were just added to contrast the red bowl the noodles came in. I decided to hold off judgement on the toppings, perhaps the cook thought it so good, so rich in flavor that less would in the end prove to be more. However, first taste revealed the presence of a second topping, also inadequately represented, moyashi (bean sprouts). Now this is a shame. I love me some bean sprouts and there must have been about eight total. Again they seemed an afterthought.
Approriate consideration however should be given to the noodles here. Cooked to perfection they were neither too hard nor too soft, but at the perfect consistancy for retaining their own flavor as well as that of the broth. Something akin to al dente with pasta, but perhaps just slightly beyond. These were a straighter variety, nothing like the curlique mess of last night's instant surprise, but noodles that were essentially straight but for the occasional kink. Slightly yellow in color, but not egg noodles for sure. (Although I do love me some egg noodles aside a plate of pot roast).
The egg. For a moment here, though just for a moment, I thought they gentleman might redeem himself. The egg was absolutely perfect. An egg so good it pained me to give half to Rumi, but hey she is tolerating this foolishness and I did screw up her order. Boiled to the point where the yolk begins to congeal, but not harden. It won't run, but you can dip your chopsticks into it to a degree. And something I'd not seen before, it was cut with a knife that finished the sliced edge with a crinkle cut which allowed it to hold some soup on the surface as it floated on top. Poor egg. It deserved to hold something better.
The soup was where they really lost me. The menu boasted the variety of soup gaining the bulk of its flavor from the slow cooking of pork bones, tonkotsu. A standard to be sure, but this was off. Way off. The flavor was neither bold nor clear and the soup was devoid of the everpresent little fat drops that usually dot the surface when it's good. A real letdown. Not gross, just not special.
Finally, and perhaps this is partly the reason for the broth's lack of appeal, the pork. Two slices of chasu (braised pork shoulder or loin). Cut thin and somehow tough. Not the tender soft slices that one tastes and tries to make last for the duration of the bowl, just dry maybe even roasted slices of meat. These were almost bad, but they were pork so bad is a tough level to achieve.
Overall folks, a tease. A mere suggestion of what a bowl of ramen could be. The components under-represented and failing to flatter what were actually good noodles.
Overall, two bowls. Thank the egg.