Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Kikuya, Kita Senju (菊や)

I used to ride my bike along the Arakawa almost every morning, and at some point I read about this place. Then it started bugging me to know that it was just over the levee. And like so many of these places, I finally gave in and found the time to go.

'Found the time' is a misleading way to put it, because Big Bird and I used our non-working Wednesday to spend the whole afternoon in Kita Senju, a place with which he has a passing familiarity. This was not the wisest choice, because the sun was out, and temperatures were high - 40 in the shop.

The thermometer was near the noodle pot, but so were we. In fact, everyone is near everything in this place. There are maybe 6 seats, but the front wall / window is so close to them that it would be hard to close the door if you had two supersized men like us sitting down.

As Virginia is for lovers, so Kikuya is ramen for hot days. This is because you can order ice cream as well as ramen.

No wait, the ice cream is on the ramen. The cold, vinegary ramen. with lots of wet seaweed. The dried seaweed flakes. And the boiled egg.

You would think this place was mostly a novelty, and you'd be right. But it satisfies the nostalgia and wacky-Japan criteria, and the ramen under the ice cream would have been quite a nice cold ramen if it was left alone.

One disappointment is that he's started using monaka, the rectangular ice cream bars wrapped in cone-like pastry (or a chemically-formed simulacrum of pastry). It looked cooler in older blog posts where he had one of those pre-frozen cones cut in half and put on top.

'If you don't stir it up, it tastes like cold ramen. If you stir it up, the soup becomes very rounded.' The chef repeats this mantra to everyone who gets ice cream ramen (three while we were there), perhaps to convince himself that it's a good idea.

Bird did not think ice cream ramen was that good an idea, and had settled in advance on getting purple ramen. The master clearly has a bent for low-budget science expeeraments and jokes, because he first boiled red cabbage to get purple color, then made me take a picture of it.

Meanwhile, my ice cream was melting into an unholy mess.

The reason we had to take the picture of the purple ramen is that it turns blue when you put soup in it. And then pink if you add vinegar. All of which the master made Bird do, with step-by-step photos.

Well heck, a nice store to visit, a decent ramen, an oddball topping story, and a great friend.

If the ice cream worked well, it would be almost too good.

Phew, this brings back memories.

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