Tuesday, April 17, 2012

In Japan - Hakata Ramen

A few months before I went to Japan I noticed some sort of ramen craze going on in Southeast Asia. One of the most famous ones are Hakata Ikkousha and Ippudo Ramen.

I asked my friend who has been living here for a few years of good eating spots around Tokyo area (and so far she has been a very reliable source). Well, since I'm in the area, I decided to try them out after school.

First, Ippudo ramen. I went there during lunch time so they had a special lunch menu which includes 1 bowl of chashu ramen, 1 bowl of rice and 6 pieces of small gyouza for 850 yen. That price is very reasonable for a popular ramen shop.

The atmosphere was good, but I had a difficult time finding the Ikebukuro branch shop because I didn't have a map with me and my landmark was a convenience store called Family Mart. Bad choice of landmark, because there are 3 Family Mart within 5 meters there, each of them is facing each other. Well, I finally found it after 1 hour of getting lost.

The broth was especially delicious. But it's so savory and thick that the soup is a little hard to drink. The first few sips are fine, but once you've finished about half a bowl, the soup's flavor kind of sticks on your throat and you won't feel like drinking it anymore. But overall, it was very delicious (and oily, to top up the sin to another level).

Next, Ikkousha. 

Located at a building's basement, it was quite hard to locate. In Shinjuku sanchoume, the building was next to Central Hotel. If you see a blue Ootoya restaurant sign, than you're in the right building. Speaking of which, Ootoya is also a good restaurant recommended by my friend so if you want to check out some traditional Japanese menu, it's a good place to go. Oh and the building is called Peace Building :D

My first impression of the restaurant was... "holy cow it's a food sensory panel!"

Basically you have your own booth. You can fold the separator if you are eating there with your friend so it doesn't feel too awkward when you want to talk to each other. There are hangers for coats behind the seat. And the tissue paper was also behind the seat, attached to the wall. Kinda weird, but it certainly saves some space on the table!

Before you enter this space, though, there will be a ticket vending machine in front. There were English translations on the machine too. There are a lot of restaurants in Japan that makes you buy a food ticket before you sit. It's probably a weird system you won't see in a lot of countries, so if you see a ticket vending machine in front of a shop, that's what it's for.

Ikkousha gives you more personalization to your bowl of noodle. If you don't understand Japanese, you can ask the waiter for an English menu (just say 'English menu' in English; they understand). So starting from the strength of the soup, how mch garlic, how much leek, how hard is the noodle.. they're for you to choose. After you circle your preferences, press the bell and give your ticket and sheet to the waiter. Wait for 15 minutes and the bowl that you ordered will be ready.

Well, I ordered a half-boiled egg as well so there it was :)

The noodle was thin like that of Ippudo's. The soup was certainly less thick than Ippudo's but nevertheless tastes awesome. This one is more drinkable. Since I can choose the spiciness, this bowl of ramen was a little spicier than the one I ate at Ippudo. But content wise... there's no bamboo shoot and earwood mushroom in this one, so it makes you less full.

So, Ippudo vs Ikkousha? I think I like Ippudo's better on the overall even though the soup is really thick :)


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