Monday, November 8, 2010

Watanabe ramen, Takadanobaba (渡辺)

It was a day of disgruntlement. The morning started off weak at work, and by lunch I was ready to pack it in - which in EOITwJ-land means "Have an extravagant lunch". That can come in many forms, like a long course, or a big burger, or a distant this case a small street in Takadanobaba, 13 minutes by train from the office and another 5 on foot after that.

This is it - ramendb's top shop in Baba, which is saying something in an area known for noodles. Other English-language bloggers described it variously as a bit new and fancy, a date place, with the food just too much (but that review was a couple years ago, and I think we've all gotten more used to the style since them).

It's a quirky style, to be sure. The soup is the highlight, an absolute bomb of pork and fish. A LOT of fish, which is the thing that's kinda confronting (though less confronting to me than the smell of boiled pork bones). It's blended, smooth and viscous. I think an engine would purr like a kitten if it was running on this, as long as it was an old-fashioned American engine from when men were men and displacement was measured in cubic inches, before Aichi cut off Detroit's balls.

The staff are kinda hitting the bases as far as attracting customers - there was one hip, ikemen sorta guy and then one pierced otaku kinda fellow. The ikemen guy seemed more serious about his work, but the only reason I really doubt their seriousness is that I know 'Watanabe' of the titular entitlement is a serial ramen shop opener (though, like Keisuke, each one is different).

I said 'quirky', right? There's one thing that's quirky over the top, and that's the menma. That big brown thing at the top of the bowl is a huge tranche of preserved bamboo shoot. There were four of them in my bowl. They're hard to bite through and too big to eat whole. They're kinda mealy. The flavor is good, the texture is a little gross. The pork is delicious. The noodles are thinnish and firmish and excellent (if you break the pattern and get the ramen like me - I think most people get tsukemen, which is more the done thing for soup like this). Did I mention the soup inside that parenthetical? I really enjoyed it, and drank all of it (mostly alternating with ramen), but still didn't feel gross. After some mediocre experiences in this style, it's a pleasure to have a soup that really tastes integrated, balanced, and right. Even if it's not my favorite style.

Not for everyone though, I can see that.

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