A, Gachamen! Sorry to sneeze. Oh wait, that's the name of the shop that Keizo, Brian, and I hit up the other day. We had another meeting of the mouths and noodle-addled minds on Keizo's day off from working at Ivan Ramen, and decided to hit up this new joint that just opened in Brian's hood of Sengoku in northern Tokyo.
I couldn't tell you what on earth the name means, but I can tell you that it translates as pretty tasty. It was cold and we were starving, so luckily we managed to slip in just before lunch service ended.
Time to chow down, but not before snapping a few pics!
A, Gachamen is mainly a miso shop, but I ordered one of their other specialty items, something called "koshô soba" - pepper noodles. What I got seemed more like Chinese food than ramen as such, but such a statement just goes to show how far ramen has been removed from its original Chinese roots. The soup is thick and gooey, like the kind of clear sauce you might find coating seafood at a Cantonese restaurant.
The jelly-like broth is packed with different kinds of crushed black pepper, enough to make it appreciably spicy despite the lack of chili. There's also plenty of cabbage in there, which makes it a good choice to nurse a cold. It was my first bowl back since my trip to the states, so I felt I wanted something a bit more properly "rameny", but it still hit the spot. The noodles - you guessed it - Mikawaya Seimen. They're everywhere, but at least they do a good job.
Brian and Keizo got the miso, which while perhaps not quite up to the lofty Junren standards of rich Sapporo-style, was certainly better than average, and superior to recent bowls like Tokyo Miso and Hachirô Shôten. The soup was porky, dense, oily, and had that punch (or kick, depending on how you like to fight) that miso should. Little dabs of yuzu koshô (crushed citrus pepper paste) and ginger went a long way, giving it a bit of spicy perk that moved it into the plus column. And see that pork? That's not just any pork, that's...
Cuts of special wine-fed swine from rural Yamanashi, which apparently makes the meat that much better. But it'll cost ya - while the standard châshû cuts run at a regular price, the wine-fed meat rackets up the cost to 1800 yen for one of the most expensive bowls in town.
Afterwards, we got a chance to chat with the staff for a bit, who also recommended the newly opened Kotatsu in central Tokyo for a similarly Junren-influenced miso slurp. The "year of the miso" as called by ramen critics may be coming to an end, but as the weather gets colder I find myself craving it more and more. Maybe A, Gachamen can keep you from catching a sneeze yourself? And if you're feeling too sick to go out, they'll even bring it to your house - A, Gachamen also offers a popular tsukemen delivery service!