So, that’s about it for our recent adventures in Japan. Whether or not we’ll move back in the future, we don’t know. We do know that we loved living in Tokyo, reacclimatizing to the United States has been difficult, and we miss amazing ramen.
A few days before we left, we went to get our second bowl of michelin-starred ramen at Nakiryu. They have a solid menu, but are arguably most well-known for their tantanmen, which is a style influenced by dan dan noodle soups from China. Tantanmen is usually spicy, has chopped onion as well as negi (or green onion), and has ground pork as part of the topping.
The bowl of ramen we had at Nakiryu was at the very least, in the two or three best bowls of ramen we’ve ever had. It was absolutely stunning. Sam opted for the spicy version, while I chose the normal tantanmen; I did try his, but the spice actually made me cough when I accidentally inhaled it. I decided to stick with my own bowl after that. It didn’t really matter though because we both loved what we had ordered.
As you can see, the spicy one came with a mound of chili paste in the center. It contained a variety of spices probably including sancho pepper (similar to sichuan) and togarashi, among others. It had a kind-of smoky and mildly sour taste, but wasn’t particularly spicy (although it did have a bit of an after-burn). Still, when mixed in, it completely changed the flavor of the dish, to the point that both bowls were totally divergent even though the only difference was the chili paste.
Everything about the ramen was great. The noodles were chewy, and perfectly balanced for the soup, the meat was flavorful, and contained small pieces of nuts to give it a great, crunchy texture, and the egg was among the best we’ve had. Plus, the sesame-flavored broth itself was amazing, and was surprisingly light for a tantanmen, but still contained all the expected flavors.
We arrived about an hour before they opened, and were in the first group of people to be let in, so we didn’t have to wait long once it was open.
This is a nikudon place in Musashi-koyama, which is a place near where we lived. It is a bit pricey, but the meat was damn good.
Nakano is the most densely populated portion of Tokyo, which is easily accessible through Shinjuku. It has a building called, Nakano Broadway, which is something like 7 stories tall and filled with otaku (obsessively geeky/dorky) wares, while the basement has some restaurants and a supermarket.
Here’s some shots of the upstairs, before we delve into food:
One place we went to in the basement served a stack of flavored soft-serve; there were something like 8 flavors, but we stuck with 4.
We went with the (from top to bottom) ramune (soda) flavor, sweet potato, black sesame, and chocolate. All of them were fantastic.
We also got some Indian style curry, since a bunch of shops happened to be closed the day we went (I can’t remember why). That being said, it was a damn good curry.
On our way out of Nakano Broadway, we stopped to grab a quick purple sweet potato dango. Sorry for second picture which is potato quality. Hah! Hilarious.
We’ve been before, but we wanted to try it again before we left. We managed to get at least one new thing that’s really controversial; whale sushi. If you’re against eating this, that’s fine and I truly understand feeling that way. As for me, I’ve set out to try everything, which includes whale. So, I did that.
What we found most surprising about the whale sushi was that it actually tastes really good. I mean, we thought this was just one of those things people kept eating because it was eaten, but this was actually just really good.
I also got a takenoko nigiri, which is a bamboo shoot nigiri sushi. As it’s a seasonal thing (spring), I wanted to try it out. I can still taste it, and I’m not so sure I love that… But, if you like bamboo shoots, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from liking this.
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I also got a strawberry cream cheese taiyaki on the way home, which was awesome.
For our last bit of tendon, tempura bowl, we went to neighborhood shop, Tenmaru. We’d been there a few times prior, and it was always fantastic.
This time around, I took a break from my usual, the tenmarudon, and went for the vegetable tempura bowl, with a side of tempura’d camembert cheese. It was fantastic, but was a bit heavy. In the end, it was a great way to get amazing tempura and not feel like having it again for a while.
Sorry for the long break. We moved back to America and were dealing with… that. So. Anyway, here’s the first of our last few outings before we had to pack it up and ship off:
Murasaki Kuroki is a small shop with a big following in Akihabara. Some circles of the ramen-sphere (strictly speaking, that’s not a real thing so don’t ask me about that) think of this place as one of the best bowls of ramen you can get in Tokyo.
They’re best known for their kamosoba, or duck soba. You can see that pictures above and below. It’s quite good, but not entirely to my tastes. Still, I can see how this would be considered a rival to the best out there.
One thing which you might notice is the large slice of onion there, which was really tasty. Also, that slab of duck was fantastic as well. The menma, marinated bamboo shoots, were also fantastic and, possibly, some of Sam’s favorite that he’s had. It’s been a while, so that might not be true.
What you don’t see pictured above is the option for the handmade noodles. Instead, check those out below:
The difference between the hand rolled noodles and the thinner noodles was staggering; the noodles took the broth completely differently, the hand rolled ones sticking to the fat much more. In the end, the simple shift made the soup a completely different experience.