Friday, April 16, 2010

Santoka Ramen, Nihonbashi (山頭火、八重洲)

Everything came up aces today - I was carrying my camera in anticipation of dinner with the Peafowl, and decided that You was the kind of guy who wouldn't make a big deal out of it if I started taking pictures of noodles. The ramen, in the Asahigawa style from Hokkaido, turned out to be pretty good. The only downer was that it's f'in freezing outside considering it's mid-April, and this place is far away. We walked through the stations on the way back since it also started raining. What's up with the weather this year?

Here's a funny thing about this place - considering that it's ramen, and a heavy pork-and-miso type of ramen at that, it's very friendly to women. 3 of 4 staff were women (all the cooks! The man was the server.) and You and I realized at the end that they had a second floor when a party of 8 women left at the same time. Other than that, it's just a normal, tiny ramen place (with the obligatory big signs out front. I think it's a self-esteem issue for ramen shops.).

You don't get a lot of choices, but anyway you wouldn't want anything other than the normal pork soup with miso mixed in, would you? I was impressed by the size of this, because it wasn't too big. In an era of big bowls (cf the Jiro-and-beyond places that make a big deal of piling stuff on top, up and out of the bowl. I saw a magazine article one time that measured the above-rim height attained at various shops, and I'm talking like 4-5 inches of extra meat, bean sprouts and other toppings), it's always nice to see a shop just trying to make a good bowl of noodles in a specific and traditional style.

The noodles were quite eggy, I guess normal thickness (I'm getting used to Hakata noodles after eating at Fuu Ryu again this week, but those are on the extra-thin side), a little curly, and good 'n' chewy. The soup is quite heavy; the fat's not emulsified, and there's a really nice edge from what's clearly the country-style miso that they use. I love that kinda miso. I got the chashu, which was very soft, unrolled belly; really heavy pork flavor, not bad. They also have a 'toro buta' option; the implication is that it's more fatty than what I got, which is frankly terrifying. I think it would be like lardo or something, pure fat.

Nothing wrong, then, and actually plenty of things done right. Unfortunately our conversation came back at least 4 times to something like 'Tsujita is really good, isn't it?' (You went earlier this week on my strong recommendation. In fact, he had a different ramen all 5 days this week.) We'll be there together next week.

Nantoka, santoka. I'll be damned, they have a bunch of branches in America, mostly in Mitsuwa shopping centers like Edgewater, NJ and Arlington Heights, IL.


  1. Coming to you live from the branch in Arlington Heights, IL, almost three years later. It's about as described above and even looked the same. Even the staff are Japanese. The soup isn't tonkotsu though, where i coulda sworn the above was. Very possible that i had no idea...