Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Wagura ramen, Kanda (わ蔵)

Frankly, being in a new neighborhood is confusing these days. I've spent so much time wandering a few blocks of Kanda that it feels like home, and it's disconcerting to visit streets that have the same faceless similarity of most of Tokyo...but aren't the same. And that's cool! I was standing on a corner, dithering about which way to go, when I saw the familiar characters "Hakata" leaping off a small sign, and that sealed the deal. It had been after all, a good 2 days since I last had Kyushu-style ramen.
This very utilitarian interior is no problem, as long as they cook the food up real good. What IS a problem is the absence of spicky pickles among the condiments. When did that become optional for Hakata ramen? It didn't, blasphemers. Fortunately they had garlic, which was better than Yamagoya could muster.
They also had a helpful chart showing you how many seconds they'll boil the noodles at each of their 'firmness' levels. Yes folks, at the hardest level they're threatening to 'knock the powder off', as the expression goes, by boiling for all of 2 seconds. The counter guy said "How do you want your noodles. Do you understand 'noodles'?"  I think he was enquiring after my liguistic ability, but I was struck by the multi-level depth of the question. After trying mentally to formulate a clever answer that showed my deep humility as a student of noodles, and my acute recognition of my lack of true understanding thereof, for who can really understand noodles, I gave up and said "hard".
Since it was pretty much the same as Sunday at Yamagoya, this must be a recognized sub-species of Hakata ramen (though without the pervasive pork-bone stink of the most authentic places). The soup is a little heavy and has a brownish tint; they go one farther by adding some fat chunks to float meancingly on top. The pork is also very rich, so the thinness of the slices helps.
Honestly, this was just serviceable. It was the noodles that didn't quite work - somehow they were a bit mealy. Naturally the first bowl was followed by a kaedama (because you haven't really eaten Hakata ramen unless you've had a kaedama; note: chargeable at Y100), but it wasn't a given.
Update (OK, I just looked it up before publishing this, so it's not really an update): Yamagoya describes their ramen as Chikuho style, where Chikuho is the central part of Fukuoka, as opposed to the northern coastal part where Fukuoka City is. It must mean 'slightly brown soup and no kalashi takana', though why you'd want a bowl in that style instead of the dominant Hakata is beyond me.

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