Thursday, July 29, 2010

Matoi ramen, Jimbocho (まとい)

Do you think a little thing like pouring rain is going to stop lunch from happening? nnnnnnno, it's not.
It will produce some concessions though. If you go underground, you can can get from the office to the subway without seeing sky, and then you can take the train one stop north to Awajicho, which is that same damn neighborhood with all the fun old places, and all the great ramen, and all the great everything. Tokyo's best neighborhood? No, that would be Monzen Nakacho. But good in its own way, and all the better for being the home of Matoi.
This is right around the corner from Tsujita, the main Tsujita, the one that always has people waiting (10, in the rain, today). Do you really need to go there when there's a place mere steps away whose clean exterior and tidy curtain proclaim that inside is going to be a youngish master who works hard to get everything right? nnnnnnno, you don't. 
The interior seems to exemplify serious-ramen chic - not quite as clean and fancy and decorative as Ippudo, not as stylish as Keisuke...not really catering to anyone except serious ramen eaters. Ramen chefs are usually a blur of activity, but perhaps Tsujita sucks up most of the available light in the local universe, leaving this guy with a bit of time on his hands. Or his hands on his hips.
This is the miso chashu, and the most applicable term here is probably AWESOME. The appearance is enough of a tip-off, but the flavor of the soup (always start with the soup) was great. The noodles were straight, chewy, eggy ones from Kaikarou, which is another sign the master is serious even if he's not quite nutty enough to make his own. The chashu seemed to be home-made - at any rate, he took a loaf out of a regular plastic shopping bag to cut off these slices. In short, yes, awesome.  nnnnnnnno? Yes.
The style is confusing - the pork soup, the straight noodles, the layer of oil on top...doesn't seem aligned. Weirder, these condiments are more what you'd expect for Kyushu ramen (garlic, spicy pickled greens...). Maybe the master has just decided to make what he likes? Bless him for it. He also makes his own gyoza.
The best that the dictionary could come up with for the name was 'target shooting', which could be an apt metaphor about trying to perfect a bowl of noodles. But a matoi is actually one of those standing poles with the black and white ribbons on top that Edo fire brigades used to carry. Those seemed like a pointless demonstration of pride - they're really heavy, and why have an able-bodied guy carrying this big ornamental pole when he could be, y'know, carrying water to throw on the fire? Is the master implying that his ramen deserves to be hoisted atop a pole and twirled so that noodles fly out to all sides? Probably not.

You won't be let down by this place. I bet it would be even better if you went to a certain fantastic sake izakaya in the neighborhood first.  

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