Thursday, December 10, 2009

Otemachi Ramen, Otemachi (duh)

There is good news and bad news in today's post. To the good, I have reconfirmed that, by bicycle, one can get practically anywhere on the east side of Tokyo in 20 minutes. Today I went from the office to Kappabashi (Christmas present shopping, I think you know what I mean), faffed around on the way back, ate ramen, and it only took 70 minutes.

The bad news is that through indecision and some poor choices of turning (the Bakurocho neighborhood is kinda neat - wall-to-wall clothing stores, never been there before although I've heard of it - but not big on restaurants), I ended up all the way back at the office without having eaten.

More good news: This Otemachi Ramen place, a Hakata-style emporium wedge in under the train tracks with a view of the underside of a highway (seriously, could you find a crappier location? It's the only shop there.) is much, much better than I expected. Which is to say "hey, pretty good!" Now that I'm building up more understanding of ramen (and inches of waistline), I tend to find that most places have one good element only. Here, it was the noodles - Hakata-style thin and straight, but barely dipped in the water before serving, so they're really firm at first, then the soup in the bowl softens then up. The changing texture over the course of the bowl is terrific. The soup was about a half-good; I mean, I actually liked it. It seemed like "that's how a normal bowl of ramen is supposed to taste." The chashu and egg were iffy; the menma weren't menma, but some other, crunchier preparation whose name I don't know.

Good news and bad news: If you go late in the day, they'll offer you 'service'. This is either a bowl of rice or else kaedama (替玉). The good news, I have now permanently etched the special Hakata ramen phrase 'kaedama' in my memory. Nothing to do with modified eggs, it means "a second batch of noodles to put in your remaining soup. The bad news, I'm about to hurl after two serrrrrrvings of those (excellent) noodles. Arrrrh!

Hey, pretty good!

Other things I have unnecessarily etched in my memory this week are the special, poetic names for Japanese knives, like "willow blade" and "octopus puller". And those are just the sushi knives...

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