My buddy M had been in town for a while, and though we had taken a trip to the aforementioned Misoya Hachirô Shôten, he had yet to eat a truly delicious bowl of ramen on his trip to Japan. I couldn't let him go home like that! So Brian, M, another guest, and I pulled a hungry quartet together and headed to Kanda to go check out Taizan, a hot looking shop we had culled from the ever trustworthy "Girls Guide to Ramen."
Ramen has been a man's world for a long time (and in many ways still is), but many shops, and now the publishing industry have realized that there's a whole other gender out there, a gender that loves noodles...provided said noodles are healthy, pretty, and served in a fashionable setting. Of course there are plenty of girls who can gruzzle pork soup with the best of them, but this book is for the gentler set. Fortunately, most of the shops listed tend to be really, really good, and Taizan is no exception.
I mean, nothing says appeals to women more than a poster of that lovable tramp and old Tokyo hero Tora-san stuck next to a model of a Terminator skull, right?
Kanda is located in the older, eastern part of Tokyo, and the shop plays up the postwar era vibe, with walls covered with old baseball memorabilia, advertisements and aluminum toys, not unlike the late 1950s atmosphere recreated at the Shinyokohama Raumen Museum.
But Taizan's ramen is anything but old fashioned. Order the DX ("deluxe") and you're presented with a truly inventive bowl. The base is a mild shio (salt) broth, which is then topped with a veritable mountain (Taizan means "big mountain" after all) of "pink diamonds." No, they're not serving Lucky Charms - pink daimonds are sakura shrimp, taken fresh from Suruga Bay in Shizuoka Prefecture. These "cherry blossom shrimp" can hardly be found anywhere else, and they might not be found there any longer at the rate Taizan is deep frying them and piling on your ramen. Top the whole thing with a dusting of Garam Masala indian spice blend and you have one very special bowl.
Let's get a close up to fully appreciate it all. A lot of thought and effort and trial and error went into crafting this one, from balancing the raw onion, garlic, and spice with the soup, to frying the shrimp just right so the flavor changes as they sink into the soup. You start out with a nice crispy topping that then dissolves into the broth, turning it almost into a thick stew as the fried bits soften and fan out. With so much going on each bite is a little bit different,
The noodles are thick and grippable, making for one extremely satisfying bowl. All present agreed that this ramen was the shiznick. For every few mediocre bowls, or bowls that are "pretty good", you get treated with one that just blows you away, and Taizan was one of those bowls.
So good that I dumped in some rice to make porridge...
...and joined the Clean Plate Club.
My belly may have felt as big as Mt. Fuji, the "big mountain" for which the shop is named, but a little gut gripping was well worth the pleasure. But, uh, how did the "Girls Guide to Ramen" manage to file this one in the "healthy" column?
And if all that isn't enough for you, Taizan is also open for breakfast!