Saturday, March 6, 2010

Ranman, Nakano (らんまん)

No joke, after Okajouki we needed something more satisfying. (Nuts, did I really just write something that stupid? Well, you know the rules - no edits.) Ranman was it. In our party (which enlarged at this point) there was general agreement that this is one of the best pure izakayas ever. EVER! In the history of the WORLD!

One of the characteristics of great, great, super-awesome izakayas is that they look very normal from the outside. Ranman has been here for 75 years (the building dates to Taisho 11, if I remember correctly what mama said, and they opened soon after). In a really wonderful twist of events, the confused-looking foreigner outside was looking for us, and we all got acquainted in short order. With any luck he'll show up in future posts, and I have it on good authority that his nickname shall be Big Bird.

Another great characteristic, or perhaps just attribute, is when the place feels a lot like someone's living room. As this did - that cheerful clutter, the small counter, barely enough room to squeeze behind the customers to get to the 10-person horikotatsu that takes up the rest of the room, delightfully pleasant and cheerful waitress receiving food over the counter from what one hopes are her parents, the rosy-cheeked kid with the cloth cap and backpack who stopped in for a hug from mom....That all works for me, in a very Showa-nostalgic way. Not that I was in Japan or even alive then, but let's let that one through to the keeper, shall we?

Wasting no time, we ordered up sake. I think they had 5 varieties or so, including Shimeharitsuru's junmai ginjo (#1! #1!) and Matsu no Tsukasa. These are very acceptable bevvies, reasonably priced.  The chips, incidentally, are kuwai, an odd root vegetable that I had for the first time at La Bombance (where the master actually gave me some to take home). Based on my description, the staff didn't believe I had seen them before. Sad face.

This review, I fear, isn't going to capture the magnificence of Ranman. I know what you're thinking - green beans with ginger and soy sauce? What happened to exotic food! However, this is well and good. Please stay well away from here so that there's a seat next time I go well back.

Astute readers who actually attended the dinner will remember that this dish of cold seli with katsuobushi was served to us gratis, at the fin of the meal...but I'm throwing it in here because it would have made more sense to order in this sequence. I did a bad job of managing the flow. Sorry guys.
Oh, the veg was crunchy, cold, bitter, salty...nice, as expected.

This is not what you think it is. Whatever you think it is. It's cooked buri eggs! Thing is, after I ate them, I felt like I must have had them before. They're nice.

The atmosphere is nice too. Like a total maroon, I forgot to get a picture of the kotatsu where we sat. But if you look at the Excellent Izakaya Guide, you'll find it there...meantime, here's the counter. I'm friends with all these guys, so it's cool to post their pix. It was empty by the time we left, around 9, but they're open until 12.

Should you look at Ranman on Tabelog, you'll see this picture in a dozen slightly-different shapes. The snapper on the left is their particular specialty, but I'm not one to go past a pickled mackerel. Very good fish, cut in a specific way. Actually the tai was really great now that I think about it. And the wasabi was excellent. Guess what the little black-and-gray pile next to the wasabi is. Go on. Think about it. I'll be waiting.

Snapper skin. Much better than fugu skin. Much MUCH better.

You'll see this picture a lot in reviews too. It's kohada, a little silver fish that's usually lightly pickled, like this one, but never cut up and rearranged as cleverly as this. Very good, too.

Moving on to hot things (I lie about the order, but never mind), we had some eggplants. Steamy but normal.

Yow, these are yuba rolls filled with mountain vegetables and koya tofu (freeze dried tofu, and to me the best form of commercially-made tofu). You would love these. Or I would never speak to you again. Excellent.

In theory we finished off with a soothing bowl of oden (in reality this was much farther up the page, and I did a lame-o job of menu wrangling). You may recognize on the left the Japanese specialty called 'eggs'; after that there's the dark-brown gobo maki (fish product with gobo in the middle), another fish product called chikuwabu (top), and ganmo (tofu and vegetables fried in patty form). Good oden, but obviously the fish is the heart of matters. We didn't get into the more exotic things, like dried kinki.

I have certainly done an inadequate job of expressing how nice this place was. And for that I am profoundly grateful. I'm not going to re-read and edit to make it sound better. Please conclude that Ranman is ordinary, and stay well clear.



  1. seems to be a great place. Have to check it out soon!


  2. Wow, this place sounds quite nice. Love the presentation with their sashimi. The first thing that piqued my curiosity was the green beans though. Karashi daikonoroshi with the beans? Or is it mentaiko?

  3. As for the beans, shouga oroshi with shoyu. Nothing fancy. Very healthy as far as tsumami goes though, ne?

    As far as attendance, Tobias and Rinshi, you should both come out and say hello!