Wednesday, May 21, 2008

at long last, peace

I've been on a mission. I have failed to complete it for many months, but now, finally, I can rest peacefully. We had raamen for lunch in Tokyo today.

Was it all I could have hoped for? Yes. Was it more? Yes.
We had asked a lot of people for help. Most pointed us to big fancy office buildings, but I knew they would not do. Raamen is street food. We needed something under 7 bucks to be any good. We needed something where people just walked in off the street to be good. So Sara knew what we needed and found

Akasaka Raamen Honten. Akasaka is a lively area not far from the US Embassy. The place was exactly right. It was diminished somewhat by the fact that the owner spoke enough english to help us, but in th eend it did make it easier. You pay for your meal up front at a machine that discharges a ticket which you then hand over when ordering.

I had the Shoyu Ramen, and my colleague the straight Miso. I am used to US based raamen which is clearly far too healthy. My bown features a fine layer of fat at the top which made everything taste better and go down easier. The slice of pork we had was like butter, silky and falling apart. With an extra helping of green onions, it lasted maybe 2 minutes. The noodles had a good amount of bite to them. A few added delights (half a hard boiled egg, a little nori). wow. so good. so very good.

And, now, I have a raamen place in Tokyo. I sleep better at night knowing they are there, but I know that there are hundreds, maybe thousands of them here and I've only found one. So much more work to do.

Well, there is always dinner?!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pay Dirt

Anyone who's been reading the blog knows my two weaknesses are dumplings and noodles. I am in Tokyo for work and I've been denied a good ramen experience on my previous trips to this wonderful city. So today at lunch, I found myself without a formal engagement and went searching. Hard to believe, but I had trouble finding a good, basic, cheap but good ramen place near our hotel We are staying in a nicer part of town, and I guess that precludes the noodle dives I have been seeking.

So getting a little cranky for the lack of success, we hit upon a good looking alley way with a bunch of small joints. None were for ramen (as best we can tell, I don't read Japanese or Hiragane) but found a placard with photos of the other worthy noodle in this country - Udon.

Down the stairs to B1 we went and were thrilled to see a starkly lit, linoleum floored bare bones Udon place run by Mom and Pop. Tons of photos, not one word of english. I was in heaven. After scoping out the wall o photos, i tried to order the Tempura udon - bu they were out (the woman tried to explain and eventually said tempura and formed an X with her arms). We then pointed to a basic Upon set with a side of rice filled sweet tofu skins called Abrage (the kind you normally find in Kitsune/Fox Udon).

IT WAS AWESOME. Great, nicely salty broth and the noodles were the perfect consistency. Nice a light, soft with a little texture towards the center. Slice of fish cake, some veggies, green onion, etc. Just perfect. Total cost for 2 people - about 15 bucks.

I have not given up on the ramen, but if I don't get it this time I'll be happy with my little Udon meal.