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Ramen "Hot Picks" for 2008

Below are my "hot picks" for ramen-ya I'm interested in visiting. Research was based cross-referencing the two largest databases, two 2007 version of Tokyo ramen guidebooks, and the Japanese blogosphere. A couple of quick general comments:

http://www.ramendb.com/
http://www5a.biglobe.ne.jp/~tacky/rdb...

First, the more professional looking RamenDB is an interesting operation and it led me to Rokurinsha. But the rankings this week seem to be very heavily weighted down with various Ramen Jiro locations. I'm assuming, hoping actually, that this is a result of some mass media coverage and that future weeks will settle down. The second database is the one I've been really using for years. I keep trying to find some comment or reference that it is more than one person who has eaten at all these shops, taken pictures, written down menus, and posted about it. But I find no indication that this is a site created and maintained by one passionate individual. What an amazing accomplishment.

My picks are based rather randomly on what caught my fancy going through everything. I'm most interested in the Rokurinsha style of blended broths, which are usually a precarious balance of tonkotsu and various fish. I'm referencing Rokurinsha because it's the first place I tried such a broth like this (other then something like Koumen), but I'm not sure who came up with this. Nevertheless, from the types of these shops popping up, the high ratings they garner, and the television coverage they receive, it seems to me they represent a serious new trend in Japanese ramen. We're probably several years into it.

The other shops are places I've been interested in a while or places that simply sound different. They are geographically spread out around Tokyo and a couple have home shops in Kanagawa. For simple mapping convenience, I've posted the link to their respective RamenDB pages, which provides full hours, address, and a Google map link.

-SJ

BLENDED
---------------------
麺屋吉左右
(Menya Kissou
) Located in Kiba
http://ramendb.supleks.jp/shop/4062
-Current RamenDB #1 and Tabelog #1

こうかいぼう
(Koukaibou
) Located in Monzen Nakacho
http://ramendb.supleks.jp/shop/1298
-Sounds similar to Rokurinsha

九段 斑鳩
(Kudan Ikaruga
) Located in Kudanshita
http://ramendb.supleks.jp/shop/82
-Blended broth with strong fish broth tendencies, but still "well-balanced".. High quality fish ingredients are sourced directly from Tsukiji. Great looking half-boiled eggs.

TONKOTSU
---------------------
なんつッ亭
(Nantsuttei
) Located in Ikebukuro, Shinagawa, Kawasaki, Shibuzawa
http://ramendb.supleks.jp/shop/72
-Kumamoto style tonkotsu place that's won some TV contests. This place is in the beginning stages of becoming a chain. The Shibuzawa location is the home shop, but is incredibly inconvenient from central Tokyo.

SHIO
---------------------
らー麺 本丸亭
(Ramen Honmarutei
) Located in Hon-Atsugi
http://ramendb.supleks.jp/shop/1238
-Know for their shio, but more especially for their chicken broth. Not in Tokyo though, but accessible by Odakyu Line from Shinjuku.

MISO
---------------------
麺処くるり
(Men Dokorokururi
) Located in Ichigaya
http://ramendb.supleks.jp/shop/103
-Thick chicken broth cooked over 8 hours, hand-thrown noodles, miso base.

蒙古タンメン 中本
(Moukotanmen Nakamoto
) Located in Shinjuku (home shop is elswhere)
http://ramendb.supleks.jp/shop/21
-Two types of miso, thick noodles, piled on toppings. One blogger called this as unique and distinct a character ramen as Jiro. Sort of sounds like a love it or hate it class of its' own.

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  1. > But the rankings this week seem to be very heavily weighted down with
    > various Ramen Jiro locations. I'm assuming, hoping actually, that this is
    > a result of some mass media coverage and that future weeks will settle down.

    Nope - it's been like that for a long time. Use the "kako no getsu kan best 50" pull-down thingy on the right and you'll see that for most of the months, at least 5 and sometimes 10 out of every "top 50" for the last year and a half (or so) are Ramen Jiros.

    5 Replies
    1. re: kamiosaki

      Wow, so are Ramen Jiro's that good? Or is this the equivalent of people in the U.S. voting "Cheesecake Factory" as a "Best Restaurant"-type situation? :P

      1. re: exilekiss

        It's what Japanese call an "impact" ramen, so it probably leads people to record their experience more often. It's basically a heaping bowl of pork..and at pretty good value. It's tasty. It's definitely not in line with a Cheesecake Factory analogy. It's more like a phenomenom (i.e. has it's own Wikipedia page and there's a section in my ramen book called "Jiro Type Shops"). Jiro, and it's many branches, do not appear this prevalent on other ramen/food sites or top nationwide ramen lists that I have seen, so it's something of an outlier.

        1. re: exilekiss

          > Wow, so are Ramen Jiro's that good?

          IMO yes. But if someone doesn't care for it, I can understand why.

          > It's more like a phenomenom (i.e. has it's own Wikipedia page
          > and there's a section in my ramen book called "Jiro Type Shops").

          "Cult" might be an accurate description too. And needless to say I'm a fully brainwashed member...

          http://www.ramentokyo.com/2007/06/ram...

          1. re: kamiosaki

            I think 'cult' fits pretty well.
            I was disappointed the first time I went, but I've since seen the light as well.
            I think there is a term, jirorian, which means a Jiro addict as well as a phrase that means something along the lines of, "You can graduate from Waseda U. (or maybe Keio, I forgot) but never from Jiro"

            1. re: lost squirrel

              It's Keio. The honten is in the Mita area near the school.

      2. Silveryjay, I went to Men Dokorokururi two weeks ago for a Saturday lunch. We showed up around 1:30pm and there was an 8 person wait, by the time we ate and left it had increased to about 15 people.

        I really liked this bowl, the soup was just a touch on the heavy side but still very enjoyable even with the large portion. The noodles were quite good and my dining companion enjoyed them too.
        The bowls are filled with boiling water and left to sit while the soup is prepared. Once ready, the bowls are emptied of the heating water and filled with single portions of the broth. The broth itself is cooked in a big wok with the moyashi, a different technique from the regular 'add a ladle of this and a teaspoon of that' technique.

        Picture: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3056/3...

        1 Reply
        1. re: lost squirrel

          Thanks for the report and the pic. Yeah, the reviews all mention how the soup is "kotteri". Sounds good for a cold winter day.

        2. Wow, all this time I've been living on the Kiba side of Monzennakacho and not going to the #1-rated ramen? I know I've gone by Menya Kissou on scouting missions, but it definitely didn't stand out from the street.

          I can confirm that Koukaibou is really good, but I can't quite imagine it being worth a trip if you live on the west side. There's always a healthy line, and I think it's only 8 seats. They also have some fun side dishes like chashu musubi.

          _______________________________________________
          More Tokyo food and links from me at
          http://www.iitokorone.blogspot.com/

          1 Reply
          1. re: jem589

            Further update: I went by Menya Kissou on Tuesday (the holiday) and there were about 15 people in line at 1 PM. That doesn't seem so bad; I expected it to be much worse on a holiday. Maybe it'll be easier to get in now?

            _________________________________________
            http://iitokorone.blogspot.com/

          2. I went to moukotanmen nakamoto and let me just say...... it was the worst meal of my tokyo trip. by far. really gimmicky, and nothing was cooked right. it was like somebody decided to throw a whole lot of cabbage and chilli on to a bad bowl of ramen and market the hell out of it (and himself) just to see what was going to happen. I was lamenting the wasted space in my stomach from eating half the bowl of ramen trying to be polite........

            1. There will be a 2-1/2 hour ramen program this coming Tues 12/30, 6:30 PM on TV Tokyo (chijo digital 071 on my box, but might be 12 or 7 on yours). They will review some of the best new shops that have opened over the last 3 years, and there will also be a number of ramen personalities featured such as Yamagishi-san (Taishoken), Ishigami-san (writer) and others.

              http://www.tv-tokyo.co.jp/program/det...