Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ore no Sora ramen, Takadanobaba (俺の空)

So this place is called 'My Sky', named after a comic book series. I prefer to think it's called "My Emptiness" and is about the chef's unquenchable need to deliver the perfect ramen. Or cook pigs. Or something.

Thing is, I can sort of see where he's coming from. At some points in my life, this might have been the perfect ramen shop. One of those points might have been several weeks ago. Another could be coming up soon. Wait and see. The ramen here is quirky, one guy's vision. Not so's you'd notice if you weren't thinking about it, but it's like a deliberate mishmash of styles, and it's really good. It's good enough that there were three guys waiting when I got there at 1:15 (two inside, not shown in the picture), and there was a steady backlog of 4-6 people while I moseyed through my bowl. They're open from 11 to 8, every day except New Year break (Tobias).

Inside is cavey; why they leave the lights off and everything industrial is beyond me. Maybe it's just another manifestation of that emptiness that plagues the great man. It's also noisy from the chefs yelling orders and directions all the time, and not particularly friendly-feeling. Smiling doesn't seem the done thing. The staff routinely instruct customers waiting inside to "Stand in one line" or else "Please wait outside". A girl was there with her mother (this is a college town, after all) and looked kinda wide-eyed and frightened at some points. Her own emptiness.

This is the bowl (moody lighting courtesy of the interior and my poor hand positioning). You won't feel any emptiness after eating it, that's a promise. People who come to Tokyo and can only eat one bowl should go for something like this; if you never saw a tonkotsu gyokai before, it would be mind-blowing. Let me count the ways:
  • That soup, which is a kinda flat pork bone-seafood mixture. Like Watanabe or Takatora, maybe a little less exciting than either, not that's a crime because they're leading lights, but with something extra tickling the back of the throat in a good way you can't place. The guy next to me had it right - as soon as his came, he dumped a pile of black pepper in like a seasoned pro. With that, quite good. Spicy or curry flavor are free extras. Thick, lip-smacking sticky-sweetness comes for free. That's the kind of soup it is.
  • The noodles, super-thin Hakata-style, and with refills available for Y100 (but called kaemen, not kaedama; if you're still feeling soul-searing emptiness after one set, it doesn't really matter what they're called). This is what I mean about stylistic divergence - that soup pretty much always goes with tsukemen, or at least thicker noodles. I like the soup style, and I like the noodle style, but I can't quite figure if they go together or if I'm just biased and getting all Japanese thinking oil and water shouldn't be mixed. Incidentally, you can of course get this as tsukemen, and I of course wouldn't think of doing such a thing, and if you get tsukemen, you can of course choose regular, large or MAKE ME FAT size for free, as is customary. Commas, of course.
  • The meat is chopped pork belly. It's good; many of you would be grossed out by the fat level, but that's pork belly. One tasty-looking morsel in my bowl turned out to be a clean rectangle of pure fat. Just eat it together with other bits and enjoy the taste.
  • The egg is decent, but honestly not done enough. The inside was soft gel, runny when cut, and that doesn't give you the awesome silkiness egg-lovers love. This could be different another time, and they're in the zone, so don't skip it just on accounta mine.
Ehhh, lemme stop there. This has been an awfully nerdy way to spend 10 minutes, but I promise that it was only 10 minutes and the aboev hasn't been edited or even read. Or spellcechkd. For tonkotsu in Baba, I'd put this between Takatora and Watanabe.

Goodbye for now. Kind regards,

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