Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ramenate Sells Out? Or, Welcome Lucky Peach Readers! ラーメネイトが裏切り者?ようこそ、百福の読者達!

If this is your first time to Ramenate, welcome! If you're a long time reader, welcome back! It's been a while since the blog has been updated, but some exciting ramen-related news has come down the pike. If you're one of the newcomers, you probably already know what I'm talking about. An exciting new publication is hitting the newsstands, and between its covers you can find 174 pages of text and pictures devoted to that most slurpable noodle - ramen.

Lucky Peach, a new quarterly magazine brought to you by cooking impresario David Chang, food writer Peter Meehan, and the team at McSweeney's led by editor Chris Ying is on sale today. The concept is the total unpacking of a single topic from all the kaleidoscopic dimensions imaginable in a single issue. For the inaugural issue, it's all about ramen, fitting given the origins of Chang's culinary empire at the Momofuku Noodle Bar.

I'm not even sure where or how to begin talking up the contents of this mag - Mock-up posters of ramen legends like Ramen Jirô's Yamada Takumi and Taishôken's Yamagishi Kazuo? The NY Times' Ruth Reichl doing instant ramen reviews? An overview of the secret ramen stylings of New Orleans? A profile of Tokyo ramenista Ivan Orkin? Anthony Bourdain, David Chang, and Wylie Dufresne engaged in massive shit talking? Or perhaps a 5-page guide to the ins and outs of two dozen regional ramen varieties, as penned by a certain Ramen Nate? As the Chicago Tribune puts it, it is a "powerhouse line-up of food porn."

Yep, Ramenate has sold out, writing on ramen for the culture industry when they came knocking. I've probably taken some shots at Chang and co. in the past for turning ramen into a fine food for the downtown set, but the reality is, the dude has probably done more than any other individual to raise ramen's profile in NY and nationwide. Plus, anyone making the pilgrimage to Ramen Jirô to suck down a bowl deserves props, period. I feel lucky to be part of such a bitchin' line up, and I'm happy to have the chance to drop some much needed ramen knowledge on the collective bellies of the USA.

I think the mag is gonna be a big hit, what with that list of names as arranged in a piece of textual media crafted with the high end design that your hipster ass has come to expect from the like of McSweeney's. Lucky Peach has gotten press in the WSJ, Huffington Post, SF GATE, etc, etc, with no doubt more to come. It's also going to be released soon as an interactive iPad app for digital reading, for those of you who understand how that stuff works.

But, if you've already got yer grubby mitts on a copy, you already knew all that. So here's what this blog, Ramenate, is all about. Back in 2008, I moved from NY to Tokyo to do a few years of research on modern Japanese literature. The school I was attached to, Waseda University, happened to be ensconced among one of the highest concentrations of ramen shops in Tokyo, and a friend dared me to eat at them all. I started the blog to chronicle my conquests, and it kept growing from there, with hundreds of bowls being bagged before I moved back stateside last fall.

So, if this is your first time at Ramenate, take a visual stroll through my old postings - you might want to start with this post, which details some favorite bowls on the occasion of the blog being featured in Matt Gross' NY Times article last year. Or you can just click on the highly recommended tag and start scrolling. Just be ready to start drooling.

Updates have been slow recently, but I'm hoping to pick up the pace a bit and post up some of my last bowls from Japan, as well as other assorted ramen tidbits, and perhaps even some reviews of stateside noodles. So, stay tuned, "put me in your RSS feed," and if the pace of posting doesn't whet your noodle whistle, check out the blogs of my ramen-loving buddies in the sidebar. If you want to get in touch, catch me at So, take a bite of that Lucky Peach and don't stop slurping!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

筋が最もこってりに!(The plot thickens!)

I'm not generally a big one for the celebrity gossip here at Ramenate, but this followup to the last post about LCD Soundsystem@Ramen Jirô is too good to pass up. Apparently James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem wasn't at Ramen Jirô alone! A bit of Twitter clickage reveals that his partners in gruzzling crime were rather hilarious comedian Aziz Ansari and NYC food man of the moment David Chang.

Paper trail from Ansari's Twitter -

Tokyo Day 2: Got destroyed by jiro ramen and met a creepy pregnant man mannequin.

That's him standing next to what he is imagining himself to look like after eating at Jirô.

But it looks like there was a little bit of drama (James Murphy again) -

ps. @davidchang and @azizansari totally tried to ditch me to go to jiro. screw you jerks.

Does this mean they tried to go BACK to Jirô like true ramen freaks ready to destroy their bow(e)ls all over again? I wonder which one they went to?

Mad props to whoever tipped off this unlikely trio to the wonders of Jirô. But what I'm wondering is, if Asian food remake maestro Chang, who got his start with the ramen re-imagination (or desecration, depending on how you see it) Momofuku Noodle Bar was getting his Tokyo noodle on, does that mean that New York might be in store for - gasp, dare I even think it - Our own Ramen Jirô clone?

Monday, December 20, 2010


So I'll be along shortly with a full rundown of the rad RAMEN FEVER event of a few days back, but before that I had to pass along a cool little piece of ramen web miscellania that I received from my homie-4-lyfe Ryan over at Same Hat:

From the Twitter of the inimitable James Murphy of LCD Soundsytem:

Jiro ramen? Who knew this existed? Amazing. 7 minutes ago via txt

Now imagine this guy holding THIS bowl.

Homeboy knows What Is Up!

Monday, December 13, 2010

For Those of You in New York...

If you read my Big Update of a couple of posts back, you know that Ramenate has resituated himself in New York City, from whence posting will continue as usual. If you're lucky enough to live in the city so nice they named it twice, then you should definitely come check out an exciting ramen-themed event later this week.

This Thursday, December 16th, the Asia Society is hosting an event entitled (what else?) RAMEN FEVER. Both ramen and fever keep you warm in wintertime right? Beginning at 6:30, there will be a panel featuring my ramen blogger buddy Rameniac, New York ramen scene mainstay Shigeto Kamada (of Minca and Kambi), as well as several food editors and journalists. Following the panel will be a ramen cooking demonstration and tasting. I understand there will also be beer, which is always a plus. Though, apparently due to the beer, you have to be 21 to get in, so be aware and bring your ID.

Full info for the event, which is sponsored by the New York-Tokyo group, check out:


I myself will not be presenting (this time around), but Ramenate will most certainly be in attendance, so if you can make it out say hi. Look for the 5'7" guy with glasses, sideburns, and a checked shirt.

Hope to see some of you there! For those who can't make it, I'll post up a report afterwards to look forward to. I'm always glad to see noodles get their due.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

めん徳二代目つじ田 味噌の章 (Mentoku Nidaime Tsujita Miso no Shô)

Some bowls you just know are gonna be great. At last winter's Odaiba Ramen Event , Keizo and I tried out bowls from shops near and far, and the hands down winner was Nidaime Tsujita Miso no Shô. This miso ramen nearly knocked our socks off. And that lucky dogg has gone on to meet none other than Mr. Tsujita Takehiro himself, owner and head chef of a couple of shops located in central Tokyo famous for their tsukemen, and now miso.

This time around though, Ramen Adventurer Brian and I headed out to Ogawa-cho on a rainy day to get the real deal out of a non-plastic non-festival bowl. Could Tsujita's miso really be as bomb shliggity as I remembered it?

Answer? Yes. Look at this bowl. This is a thing of beauty. It is so beautiful. It is such a beautiful thing to behold. Let's see it from a different angle.

Break it down - smoothly sliced egg, ever-so-slightly gooey in the middle. Generous chunk of ginger. Dab of minced garlic. Diced pork chunks. A smattering of aonori seaweed. Fresh pickled bamboo the size of small timbers. A dusting of red pepper flakes. And of course, key to any true bowl of miso ramen - a hefty helping of bean sprouts wokked togeter with the soup and the miso paste.

I could go on and on about what different kinds of miso go into this complex blend. I could wax poetic about the thick and chewy noodles. I could tell you how the blend of sweet, salty, oil, and ginger makes you want to lick the bowl.

But I'm just gonna leave it at this is a damn delicious bowl of ramen. Along with Sapporo Junren and Kururi, perhaps the best (or at least my fave) bowl of miso anywhere in town.

Oh yeah, I got the "special rice" too. It had a sudachi citrus on it. It was OK. BUT MY GOD THE RAMEN! (I know this post may not be up to the dense prose that you're used to at Ramenate, but what can I say, this one struck me speechless).

Saturday, November 27, 2010

信濃神麺烈士殉名 (Shinano Shinmen Resshi Junmei)

You know this post is already a few months old because it begins with "one sunny Sunday", and it's been too damn long since we've had one of those. Anyhoo, one sunny Sunday, my buddy S and I set out with no greater purpose than to eat noodles and stroll around northeastern Tokyo with canned beers in hand. I'm happy to report that despite our lofty goals, we can report mission accomplished.

We started out at Shinano Shinmen Resshi Junmei, which is even more of a mouthful than the noodles in question, so let's just go with Resshi for short. With a name like "Righteous and Chivalrous Warrior - Noodles of God from the Land of Shinano", are they running a ramen shop or a poorly subtitled Kung Fu movie?

Of course, what holds up the upstanding warrior is nothing other than a "Bond of Hearts." As to the way that bond gets created, you'd have to ask an Edo period historian...but that's another story. In this case, Bond of Hearts is the name of one of a mover and shaker ramen group based in Tokyo and Nagano. King of Hearts Tsukada Kenji himself hails from mountainous central Nagano Prefecture, known prior to the Meiji Restoration as the domain of Shinano. Of the Heart's groups many shops, what makes Resshi stand out is its focus on ingredients from that very same land.

Inside, the shop is dark wood, with several local sake varieties on offer. I'm more of the type to take a beer with my ramen, but when you're serving a bowl as refined as Resshi's...

I couldn't tell you if the provenance of these komatsuna greens can be traced to Nagano Prefecture, but it was nice to have a healthy little free snack to start the meal off. Y'know, before sucking down the melted down fruits of the farm.

I think there may be a domestic Nagano ramen tradition, but it's not strong, and I couldn't tell you exactly what "Nagano Ramen" contains, though I think it involves a pretty standard mix of chicken, pork, seafood, and konbu seaweed. And of course your choice of Nagano's own home grown shôyu (soy sauce) or miso. S and I both went with the miso, which is a totally different beast from the better known Sapporo-style. Shinano miso is blonde, almost white in color, and very sweet without getting too pungent.

Well, readers, let me tell you. It works. I would trek over the mountains of Shinano, and maybe even break my own bond of hearts to eat this ramen. The noodles are thick, chewy, and a bit flat, and they work perfectly in the extra creamy soup, rich and complex. Great care went into the blending of this miso. The shôyu is actually the main menu item, and also gets high regards, but I can't but recommend the miso.

S seemed to like it as well. Unfortunately, we didn't have room for the house-made creme brulee dessert.

And just in case all that isn't enough to convince you, Resshi is part of the Nippon Ramen Association, an organization I have never heard of elsewhere, but is no doubt a group to be respected. After all, "they're cheering for you...with a bowl full of love," as the sticker says. Located right near the Kasuga subway station, you want to rush to Resshi!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

がんこ一徹 (Ganko Ittetsu)

Out with my fellow ramen rovers Keizo and Brian, we decide to stick close to home on one of our semi-regular ramen outings. The guys schlepped out to my (now sadly former) home in the semi-obscure northwestern Tokyo neighborhood of Araiyakushi. Right in front of my dearly missed local train station on the slowly moving Seibu line is a decent little ramen zone. There's a branch of the eminent (and soon to be written up) Ogikubo-style Maruchô, local stalwart Yakushi Ôban (deliciously slurped yet sadly unphotographed last year), the original locale of tomato ramen innovator RYOMA, and Ganko Ittetsu.

Wanting to try something new, we decided to go with Ganko, figuring it to be a branch of the publicity-shy franchise based in northwest Tokyo. The Ganko shops are quite legendary - check my old posts or the New York Times article for more info.

Ganko rarely (OK, never) does a ramen eater wrong, and this place had the telltale magazine recommendations, it really a Ganko? There was no black sign, no signature bone, no grumpy old man behind the counter. Publicity seemed to indicate that the master had trained at the Eifukuchô Taishôken, so I'm not really sure how the Ganko got in there, save for some obscure lineage, a distant third cousin at best. Which is perhaps why the felt the need to add on the "Ittetsu", meaning "stubborn or hardheaded" to Ganko, which already means..."stubborn or hardheaded."

Sadly, the soup wasn't up to true Ganko standards. Keizo and Brian got what I think was the standard miso (sorry, this is where the blogging six months late bites you in the ass), which was, while not bad, a bit bland and nothing special. If you've got some bowls under your belt you should be able to tell at a glance that a bowl that looks like this is not destined for greatness.

My own bowl had a bit more punch since I maxed out the spice level. It made for a tasty bowl, but it really felt like eating Korean food rather than ramen, with spicy miso and sesame seeds. Check out that monster-sized bowl though! I guess that's where the Taishôken connection comes in - tub-sized portions.

The other factor that gave it that Korean flair were the noodles...which isn't a good thing, since in Korea "ramyun" means instant noodles, which this kinda resembled.

So, sorry Ittetsu, you may have filled our bellies, but you won't go down in the ramen annals. You may have tasted pretty OK, but with three better shops within a hundred meters, I can't even recommend you in good faith. Get grumpier with those noodles!