Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Danbo Ramen, Kanda ()

Even as far back as, ooooh, 2006, I had concluded that Hakata ramen was my favorite. This was based on trips to Ippudo, when I didn't even know that Ippudo was Hakata ramen, and thought the spicy pickles on the table were just a snack while you waited. (You put them in the soup. Along with the raw garlic. And the sesame. And the pepper. And the chili. And the love.)  More recently, I've gotten really fond of the Wind Dragon, with a bunch of outlets around Tokyo to fill you up (free noodle refills).
Danbo is a bit more alluring than that - it's from Fukuoka, where they have 5 stores including a Nakasu branch (gotta have it for cred, I bet), and the only other places you can get it are Okinawa and Kanda. Gol durn it, Kanda's jus so cool!
So Danbo is a weird place inside. The walls are black and close, the seats are padded swivel chairs set too close to each other, and the customers are male and sullen. To save space on the narrow counter, the tissues are affixed to the wall behind the seats, above the coat rack. The staff is quite punk, but excrutiatingly polite and energetic.
Danbo has so much cred that they charge more for their ramen than other Hakata-style places (Y700 for this basic bowl) and they charge for noodle refills (which offends the heck out of real Kyushu people). The soup is perhaps a bit more traditional than I'm used to, being as it's milky with marrow but also a bit brown (again, presumably that's what the soup should look like when you boil pork bones all day), and I thought lacking a bit of depth on this day. If you don't know the smell of boiling pork bones, you'll learn it real quick here - it hits you in the face when you open the door - and you'll never forget it. Somehow though, the soup itself didn't quite hit me, either by itself or with a truckload of takana and a dollop of crushed garlic.
The noodles were nice, and I sorta like the way they eschew the specialist vocabulary that most Hakata places use to specify how you'd like your noodles ('hard as wires, please'; 'just wash off the powder') in favor of 'really hard', 'hard', 'normal' and 'soft'.  The waitress was careful to confirm three times that I wanted the 'really hard' style, but I did, and it was the right choice.

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