Thursday, April 22, 2010

凪「渋谷店」(Nagi [Shibuya Branch])

I'm certainly banging down bowls a lot faster than I can post them up, and I'm doing my best to work through the now substantial backlog. Which brings us to this blast from the past. A few of you may have *cough cough* caught the blog in the New York Times epic ramen article a little ways back. Though I was unfortunate enough to be out of town when the Frugal Traveler Matt Gross rolled through, I did have the opportunity to escort around the story's photographer Basil Childers to snap some pics and eat some bowl.

Ramen Adventurer Brian led Basil and I to one of his regular ramen jams, Nagi, located on an obscure corner in Shibuya. I had already eaten one bowl for lunch and I would go on to enjoy Bassanova's green curry ramen that night for dinner, but someone had to eat the ramen these guys were photographing, so I took one for the team.

Nagi's is one of the more interesting ramen stories around town, and a testament to hard work and good taste. Starting out doing "aida kari" - running a restaurant a few hours a week borrowing a friend's store front, the Nagi team, led by Ikuta Satoshi worked their way to several of their own shops, a spot in the Tachikawa Ramen Square, and general ramen world reknown, becoming one of the more recognizable names on the Tokyo scene. For the full story, check out my post on Nagi's branch in Shinjuku Golden Gai.

One of the cool things about Nagi is that each shop has a different soup concept and a different vibe - the Shinjuku locale is fishy Aomori ramen-influenced soy stock packed with sardines, and the Shibuya shop serves something resembling a straightforward Hakata tonkotsu (pork marrow) broth. The shop is really more of a restaurant, with tables to sit and kick it at, a decent alcohol menu, and a friendly and hip staff.

It's also home to the biggest, raddest most impressive ramen-related library I've ever seen. Dozens if not hundreds of books and guides are on the shelf; if it's in print and it's about ramen, chances are you'll find it here. I need to get back to Nagi just to do research!

Brian remembers the days when Nagi served a new and different experimental ramen nearly every day, and so often laments their reduction of the menu to the simple bowl they now serve. This was my first to Nagi, so I was more than satisfied with their strong yet smooth rendition of my own number one ramen genre, the Kyushu style thin noodle pure tonkotsu soup. While not quite as raw (and certainly not as smelly) as many "proper" Hakata-style joints around town, Nagi delivers on taste, and I give it a hearty thumbs up, as did the Times - the shop is rightly deserving of its reputation.