Monday, February 8, 2010

ラハメン ヤマン (Rahmen Yahman)

Nope, that's not a typo, but an H firmly rooted in the middle of the noodle. Some people debate over the "proper" romanization of the word ramen, but this H is here for a much simpler reason - to make "ramen" rhyme with "yah man." Because Rahmen Yahman, located in the western suburb of Ekoda, is totally devoted to Jamaican rasta culture.

I don't know if the shop master spent time living in Jamaica, or if he just really, really, really, really likes reggae music, but Yahman is somewhere between the set of The Harder They Come, a Jamaican Travel Agency, and, well, a ramen shop.

If you look closely, you can see the carefully coiffed J-fro on the head cook. The soundtrack inside is, of course, a blend of roots reggae and classic dub tracks. Here, some Lee Perry should put you in the mood.

The music sets a relaxing vibe, and both cooks and diners seem to be operating on island time. I'd want to stay and hang out for a while, sipping on a few Red Stripe beers...if it wasn't for the line ten long out the door.

Like the Bob Marley "Legend" CD that half the kids in your college dorm played on every warm sunny day, Yahman's rahmen is available at "The Nice Price." A mere 650 yen gets you a bowl of the standard shôyu (soy sauce soup), and feel free to choose from a standard, large, or extra large helping for no additional charge. After all, what kind of rastafarian doesn't have a high end scale handy? For measuring the noodles, right? In addition to the basic shôyu, Yahman also offers shio ("salt") ramen in clear chicken broth, and for the duration of the winter, miso ramen as well.

But keep your eyes peeled inside, since there are secret menu items hidden behind menus and on tabletops. You can get a slice of lemon for your tsukemen dipping noodles, "Junk Ramen" packed with extra oil, "aburaha" soupless noodles, or something called a "zannen tamago", a "bummer egg," which I didn't order in time. Bummer.

And the noodles come out! Yahman's shôyu rahmen is a seemingly straightforward bowl - the standard toppings of chashu pork, nori seaweed, menma pickled bamboo, and sliced scallions, as well as a bit of leafy veggies called edona. The soup is extremely well-balanced, with just enough fish stock (probably from either bonito or sardines) to keep it interesting, without being overpowerlingly oceany. It's neither thick and drippy, nor is it the uber-thin classic style Tokyo broth.

But soup alone does not a great ramen make (I think Halie Selassie said that). Yahman's noodles are absolutely top tier, thick straight, and round. I'm pretty sure these guys come hand rolled. Firm, chewy, and copious, they stayed strong to the very end of this deep bowl.

Yahman's egg is equally out of this world, with a gooey orange yolk. Although most ramen eggs are "ajitsuke" - poached in soy sauce, they often taste like...regular boiled eggs. Yahman's is bursting with flavor and incredibly rich, almost the essence of both yolk and soy.

And of course, what would a bowl of ramen be without a side of green?

Come on, this may be a Jamaican ramen shop but it's still Japan! I'm talking about an extra helping of veggies to get your roughage!

My buddy S got the limited time only miso, topped with a grip of minced garlic, stir fried cabbage, and sprouts, and of course, a hint of butter. It was certainly solid, but I think I preferred the shôyu.

If for some reason you find Yahman's rahmen lacking (and you shouldn't!), you can get it spiced up. Lots of restaurants in Japan advertise head-exploding spiciness on the menu, but the baseline is so low that you barely get a tingle. But Jamaica is the kind of place where Scotch Bonnet peppers go in the rice and peas, so proceed with trepidation.

Like curry miso ramen joint Yahiko, Yahman provides Blair's After Death and Sudden Death sauces tableside. I'm something of a chilihead myself, and this stuff is not a joke. The tiniest dab of Sudden Death is enough to give you a near death experience and make you choke. In a good way, of course.

If you'd rather go native, there's Jamaica's own Grace's Hot Pepper Sauce, which seems downright mild next to Blair's. If your mouth lights up like the cherry on a Jamaican spliff you can wash it all down with a nice chilly Dr. Pepper, which is a true rarity in Tokyo.

If you find your nose running and your eyes watering, tissues are thoughtfully provided by the Tiki God. Rahmen Yahman is a great ramen experience from start to end. Good music, good vibes, good food, good drinks, good times. Maybe some day they can get more experimental and come up with a jerk sauce ramen akin to the reimagined Thai green curry ramen at Basanova?

And if you spilled any soup on your shirt while slurping, you can get the stains taken care of at the equally irie dry cleaners right next door...


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Unknown said...

You have a great way to describe your Ramen experiences, I couldn't stop laughing and identifying with all you comments! My stomach was embarrassing me all the way... I have not read all your Ramen shop reviews but have you make any of this delicious combinations? I'm a professional cook and I would looooove to try a recipe from your favorite "stock"

Anonymous said...

The lack of Dr.Pepper is my greatest fear about traveling to Japan. I would definitely need to come prepared with a list of possible vendors (but that won't be for a few years still).

PudgyM29 said...

I won't insert this three times. ;)
This sounds like the most intriguing conjugation of ramen, Japan, and elsewhere.
I shall remember the tamago.

As for Dr. Pepper - Yeah, I haven't seen it in any combini that I can recall. It wasn't on a shelf at Don Quixote either (but maybe I wasn't looking for that then), but I do recall buying a can of it from a vending machine (for ¥100) in east Shinjuku [5-chome?].

Nate said...

@onda - im glad youre digging it! eating is always such a subjective experience, i like to try and bring out some of the non-food parts and thoughts of what i enjoy about it while its going on. ive been known to prepare some dishes at home, but im no ramen cook - it involves a lot of (literally) bone breaking work. pig bones, that is. if youre curious to find out more about the cooking side of ramen, check out my buddy Keizo at !

@pmthreads - dont worry, dr. pepper can certainly still be found about town, at least in tokyo. its even in the odd vending machine. i found cherry dr. pepper just this week, in fact. now root beer, on the other hand, is truly a rare bird in these parts, though i just got a great tip on where to find Dad's in tokyo.

@pudgym29 - yahman definitely has a great vibe. top class stuff, though id like to see them take the jamaican theme into the food as for the dr. pepper, yeah, see above. if you can remember the exact cho of a vending machine, thats pretty impressive!