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!


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