Kyoto – Meimon/Gogyo/Ichibanboshi/Watanabe Seimen

July 2, 2013

19:00 June 30 やっぱ京都で最初の食事はここ以外ないかなー!学生のときはできなかったゴージャスサイドメニュー全種類をつまみに親友と楽しく飲りました!やっぱ名門うますぎ!

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Aji no Meimon Head Quarters @ Shichijo Shichihonmatsu.  This was probably the best bowl rated by university student Taro Akimoto 20years old 17 years ago.  Sticky collagenous chicken soup with no added oils.  Enjoyed the same taste, had to be my first bowl to start my ramen memoir journey.

21:00 June 30 二件目もラーメン屋!一風堂系の焦がし味噌ラーメン五行。町家を改築したオサレなお店、接客もいいし参考になりました。美味しかった。温度が半端ない!あっつ!て感じ。

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Gogyo @ Shijo Sakuranobanba.  Recommended by N san.  Not on my memory list, but after reading about it, a good choice for a few drinks and nibbles and a bowl to finish things off.  The atmosphere and service standards, high motivation of the staff creating a vivbrant feel, all very good stimulation.  They’ve refurbished a Machiya style house probably 300-400 years old to a ramen shop and bar.  The burnt miso ramen’s burn tongue temperature, a really interesting one making me want to experiment too!

11:30 July 1本日一発目は渡辺製麺@西院。日本離れたのが8年前なんで魚介豚骨つけ麺を始めて食べた。魚介濃厚豚骨って話だけどデンプンぽいドロドロさは天一系に魚粉いれた感じ?麺はなかなかだけど僕だったらもう少し加水高めてもっともちもちさせるかな。

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Watanage Seimen @ Saiin.  Have not actually had the chance to try out the Tonkotsu Fish Stock Tsukemen which became main stream several years ago after I left Japan.  So this one also not on my memory list but good breakfast to start the day.  The soup felt not so thick from Tonkotsu protein and fatness but more from starch driven thickness.  Which is not unpleasant but left me still wondering if the real famous shops are also like this.  The noodles also could have been a bit more resilient chewiness which I think can be bettered with more moisture during the noodle knedding process.  Anyway a decent bowl.

13:00 July 1思い出の一番星。マスターは屋台3年、岡崎で34年。味も素敵な笑顔も全く変わっていませんでした。僕はまだ3年、頑張るぞ!

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Ichibanboshi @ Okazaki.  From the outside, you can never tell that this coffee shop looking place is a ramen shop if it werent for the tonkotsu aroma reeking the perimeter.  I rode my bycicle around the corner and smiled to myself as I knew straigth away from the smell that they were open from down the block.  This is the place that i frequented dueing my student days. Probably twice a week.  I was able to speak to the master in depth for the first time in 18 years and introduce myself as a fan and that I have followed his path in Brisbane Australia.  He was very happy to hear of my story and we shook hands.  His stock is tonkotsu predominant and charsiu seasoning as the predominant tare.  Topping is 3-4 decent slices of belly and or shoulder charsiu (very very good!), sprouts, shallots, bamboo shoots.  I always add some raw egg.  He has been keeping his style for 3 years as mobile yatai and 34 years at the current location.  He mentioned there are so many restaurants in Kyoto but still there was a need for a different taste and went for a distinct tonkotsu predominant ramen compared with the other shops that used chicken mainly.  Compare to his 37 years, I am still not even born.  Gambaro!

14:00 July 1 Tenkaippin Head Quarters @ Kitashirakawa. (just as a spiritual pilgrimage, no eating).

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Other shots.  Lost track of time exploring and testing my memory and wasn’t able to score my fifth bowl of ramen.

Nishiki Markets and me sampling some ayu and hamo.

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Doshisha Uni, Otani Uni.

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Nanzenji Temple and Biwako Sosui.

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A shot of my super fast ride of the day ($5 for the day and quicker than car or train!).

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Farewell Japan till next time!


2012 March Continued Support for Japan Earthquake / Final Report

May 15, 2012

東北大震災一年記念で行いました東北孤児応援チャリティ企画について、その後フォローできておらず、報告が遅くなりました。昨日下記の通りハタチ基金に寄付させていただきました。改めて皆様からの温かい支援有り難うございました。この場を借りてお礼申し上げます!

Apologies for not being able to follow through with the Japan Earthquake 1 year memorial charity promotion event.  We have finally delivered the funds to the Hatachi Fund as detailed below.  Thank you everyone once again for your warm support! 

<DONATION PROCEEDS DETAILS>
1)Donation amount from proceeds for week starting Mar 12th — $743.00
($1.00 per bowl, 743 bowls sold)
2) Donation amount from proceeds of the Ultimate Truffle Ramen — $75.00
($3.00 per bowl, 25 bowls sold)
3)Customer donations including truffle noodle upgrade — $189.25
Grand Total: $1007.25
Exchanged at 83.63 TTM rate as at April 24th
= 84236yen

<DONATED FUND>
The Hatachi Fund (http://www.hatachikikin.com/en_about.html)
Supporting kids affected by the earthquake and tsunami until they turn 20. 
日付 受付番号 お振込先口座 取引金額(振込手数料) お受取人名 ご依頼人名 受付状況
2012.05.14 2120514024776  三菱東京UFJ銀行 本店 普通 7637273  84,236 円  (0 円)  コウエキザイダンホウジン ニツポンザイダン  アキモト タロウ 取引成立


Kura kotteri tonkotsu ramen (packaged)

March 8, 2012

My readers would probably know how religious ramen is in Japan. My mother got excited that our local ramen shop in Shichigahama “Kura” did a collaboration stint with mid size convenience store chain “Circle K” and came out with an instant cup ramen.

In 2009 May, I went and visited the owner of Kura, Mitsutsuka san and he was kind enough to spare time for me, listened patiently to my passionate plan to open up a ramen shop in Australia and gave me some valuable words of advise. Amongst pessimists and realists, Mitsuka san was one of the few people who said, “it took me 3 -4 years before customers steadily started coming. I can tell you it’s definitely hard but with your passion, I am sure you will make it!”.

My mother drove around Sendai because they were sold out everywhere and in the end was able to secure one for me.

The noodles are not the fried type but actual noodles freeze dried. The soup is not powder but concentrated liquid. And in the aluminum pouch there is a pork belly charsiu and minced backfat.
Of course some freeze dried shallots and a piece of real nori.

The main instruction on the lid calls for hot water to be poured in and to let stand for 5 minutes. Meanwhile keep the charsiu pouch and soup pouch warm by keeping it flat on the lid. However on the pouch it says to enjoy better, heat pouch in hot water for 2 min. So I opted for the enjoy further route and cooked the soup and charsiu pouches piping hot.

Result. Pretty impressive for an instant ramen. Can tell Kura’s distinctive notes of chicken and pork flavors and the minced backfat topping really intensifies the bowl. Noodles don’t come close to theirs but are some fine noodles for a packaged product. Only problem is the small serving size and I ended up adding my own thin curly noodles to finish it off. Can you see that Kura uses the same bowl as us!?

Kura had been hit badly by the tsunami being in the lower part of Shichigahama/Tagajo area. But I was happy to hear that Mitsutsuka san was alright and was able to reopen in several months. It is especially nice to see this cup ramen as it tells me that he is doing really well now.

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Taro’s Girls

February 15, 2012

Like Charlie has his Angels, I have my Taro’s Girls. And those of you who have visited my shop would know, mighty beautiful girls they are too!  They perform backflips and beat up my enemies and greet me every morning “Good morning, Taro–!”. 

Let us take one step back. In Japan, it is customary for girls to give chocolates to the boys of their choice on Valentine’s Day.

There are the so called Honmei Choco (true blue) which are home made or expensive and fancy and then there are the Giri Choco (social necessities) which are a couple dollars for a dozen so the girls can hand them out to the losers that they feel sorry for.

This is the special opportunity for girls to work up the courage to give a chocolate to their admired boys.

Provided my popularity with girls, it may be easy for you to imagine that this was one of the most dreaded days of the year. I can probably count the number of chocolates I received in my life. Some from my wife and past girlfriend(s?). Some Giri Choco from K san at my old job, a couple giri from the girls in the same hanggliding club during uni, some from the girl managers at the American football club in highschool. And that’s basically it. Most average Japanese boys would have a few fond memories of an unexpected Honmei after school at the locker hall, none for me.

Anyway, yesterday I was hit with a surprise attack. It is in the Giri category for sure but the thought moved me a lot. Because contrary to my joked imagination scene, we have a very professional relationship and these girls are my aces, my lean mean ramen machines. So when they came out with that box of chocolate written as from “Taro’s Girls”, it made my day! Thank you so much girls! You guys are the best!!!!

Oh and I forgot to mention that March 14th is white day and boys get to give back a white chocolate or a candy or
something expensive back to the girls.

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Phuc Deli Viet @ Indooroopilly

January 24, 2012

This is a Vietnamese noodle shop in the Indooroopilly shopping centre food court situated adjacent to Pig and Whistle.

http://www.pignwhistle.com.au/content/pnw-standard.asp?name=Indooroopilly_PhucDeli

The owners are a friend of a friend and thanks to the kind hook up arranged by my friend, I was given the chance to interview them while Taro’s Ramen was still in its feasibility stage.

When i met them, they strongly urged me to stay in the resources industry and that hospitality was not an industry for a person like me (with young family no experience) to venture into. When they heard my plan of noodle shop they raised this shop as a relatively successful outlet but that it requires a perfectly efficient management to make it successful and it was impossible for them to suggest an inexperienced middle aged man could replicate from scratch. If I was so adamant, they told me to first of all get into the actual battlefield and see for myself and that I should get sick of it and give up on my stupid idea of opening up a noodle shop. I guess it is my nature not to listen once I’ve decided… Being a totally over confident arrogant bum, i completely ignored their advice and it was just last Sunday after 2.5 years of receiving their advice I went to see this shop.

Massively popular when I visited there was a cue of about ten people in front of me. Price is 15.90 for a pho or 16.90 for a laksa or curry.

I ordered and watched in fascination as the two cooks assembled the incoming orders. I had gone through enough hardship to realize how sensible their advice was but I appreciated first hand the operation that was described as “perfectly efficient”. Not a second of idling. Efficient to the max. Everything is prepped beforehand and the cook pops the noodles and veggies into the big cooking pot using the noodle baskets. No timers or scales are used just the cooks experience. He does one order in about 30 seconds as fast as the girl at the counter serves a new customer. I just watched in awe as he processed the orders one after another and didn’t even notice my own order being finished when i heard a number about 5 orders after mine was being called.

My wife pointed out that this was normal service and Taro’s is still too slow. I pondered on this point. Our focus at taro’s is consistent quality. noodles are weighed, cooking times are timed by the second and we keep the soup and seasoning sauce separate till the last moment so the taste doesn’t deteriorate. As a result our processing time is slower so there are physical limitations on getting our speed up on par with Phuc Deli Viet but I did get inspired by how efficient they run their operation and customers appreciating the quick turnaround. And this leading to a positive effect of customers returning knowin that they won have to wait long if they come here. I will see if we can apply any of their efficiencies to our procedures to better my turnaround time.

And in relation to the advice given to me 2 years ago, was it a sensible advice? Most definitely. I would do the same if I was in their shoes. Do I regret ignoring it? Course not!!!

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お土産ラーメン 昼顔 gift take home ramen “hirugao”

January 14, 2012

My friend M brought me a pack of take home ramen from Japan. This is a collaboration product made by a noodle company under license from a famous ramen shop. This one is called Hirugao. There is a famous shoyu ramen shop in Tokyo called Setagaya and they open up during lunch hour under the name Hirugao serving shio ramen only. Interesting concept to open two distinctly different concept businesses in one shop front.

The taste. It is a quite mild mellow taste probably stewing tonkotsu at intentionally lower temperature and length to not get the emulsification of the usual tonkotsu. This lighter tonkotsu based stock matches well with the string bonito second soup. However can taste really strong MSG and the smell of alcohol preservative and kansui is too pungent. This is why I use sodium carbonate kansui instead of potassium carbonate Kansui for my delicate shio. The strong MSG is sadly a sign of japanese norm so I realize again that this is the reason for many people criticizing my ramen as bland or punchless. I am glad we have enough customers supporting the all natural umami of taro’s. it was a good bowl though, there is rarely a bowl I don’t enjoy and it taught me that shio can be a fully satisfying bowl depending on the recipe an relative position in the menu. (at our shop it is the alternative light healthy choice, at Hirugao it is the only and main star on stage).

Anyway thank you M for your kind thought and also for the good luck “omamori”!

東京の有名店でせたが屋という醤油ラーメンの店がある。この店が昼限定で「ひるがお」として塩ラーメンを提供するらしい。こういう1店でテーマを変えて営業するのは何だか粋だなと思う。まだやってるかわからないが確か中村屋も夜はフレンチ風のコース料理を出している。

商社時代の後輩からお土産でひるがおのラーメンをいただいた。こういう手のラーメンは製麺メーカーが有名店とコラボして出来上がるので有名店の味そのままとは行かないが敬意を表して丁寧に作る。丼もスープの素も温めお湯の量もしっかり計り茹で時間も計測。

麺は日持ちする様半生になっている。そのせいかもちもち感も腰も物足りない。

スープは結構トンコツのコクが効いており魚介の風味とマッチしている。化学調味料がかなり強く改めて日本の大衆食文化の化学調味料漬けぶりが分かる。なるほどこれに慣れているとうちの味がパンチがないと感じる人が多いのもうなずける。

食べているうちにカンスイと茹で切った時に抜けきってないアルコール保存料の味がスープに溶けだしてきて匂いが気になる。やはり塩ラーメンはごまかしが効かない。うちではこれを気にして塩ラーメンの麺には炭酸カリウムを抑え炭酸ナトリウムのカンスイを使用している。

塩といえばあっさりだがこういう塩一筋の店ではトンコツ強めのコクがある塩もありだな、というか素直に塩もコクを出せば贅沢感のある一品にしあがるんだと参考になった。

M君、ご馳走様!参考になったよ。御守りもわざわざありがとう!その気持ちもあわせていちばんの御守りになるわ!

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Bress Pinot Noir

January 3, 2012

Given to me unexpectedly from a special customer as a Christmas present. Intense bold flavors. I think this is not to be drunk chilled. Flavors and aroma flowers after breathing for 10 minutes. A really good wine that would probably cellar well for say plus 5 years.

Drunk with niku moyashi itame (stir fried meat and bean sprouts) with heaps of shallots and Japanese bbq sauce.

Thank you Richard! This was the only present I got this year aside from a present from secret Santa. I didn’t even get one from my wife… So it was heavily appreciated!


Men-Jikan @ Geebung

December 11, 2011

I visited Geebung to drop in at Men-Jikan to see what they were up to. Their gyoza is pretty good and his miso ramen was the inspiration for my starting miso. Yesterday I saw a note by the owner advising of the birth of his second child and therefore closing for the day. Looks like he got his early Xmas present! Congratulations and we’ll see you soon!


Christmas Party

December 11, 2011

Taro’s Christmas party. To say good job to ourselves. Thank you all of my wonderful staff for helping us get through another year.

Spiked punch!

Jelly shots!

Wagyu yakiniku!

Secret santa presents..

I don’t brag about my staff too often but thank you to my secret Santa for the awesome gift appreciate the thought put in!

Thank you also to K San for putting in presents for my daughters!!

Taro is going to bed. Enjoy! Party hard but just please dont let me
take back all my appreciation when I am supposed to see the shop tomorrow morning in one piece…

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Great Sandy Bar and Restaurant @ Noosa North Shore

November 20, 2011

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To our great disapppointment, Kabi Organic Golf Farm was closed.  Actually it is quite a drive so I called them along the way but the answering machine went, ‘Unfortunately, Kabi Golf Course is…’ message suddenly stopped and call began to divert.  After a few calls, another message starts, informing us that the course and clubhouse is open 7 days.  So we thought they were busy and couldnt answer my call…  I had a bad feeling with the ‘unfortunately’ bit but you kind of only believe what you want to so I took the ‘open 7 days’ bit…

Anyway, they were closed so we decided to venture across the Noosa river to the Noosa north shore.  An area I had not visited before.  I had no info except that we need to gett on a ferry to reach the area. As I got on the ferry and noticed every one else in 4wd’s, we started feeling a little lonely.  This increased as we proceeded along a road that became unsealed and eventually sandsurfaced. And I had to start humming the indy jones theme as we went over wooden log bridges that apparently can withstand grossload of 5 tons only.. 

Not being as handy as the land cruising folk with their fishing rods and camp stoves, our only lunch option was at the Great Sandy Bar and Restaurant.  The food was average.  Prices, 15.90 for a burger, 16.90 for a steak sandy, and 14.90 for a pizza, 40 for a stoneleigh sav blan, 4 for a schooner of local beer.  Food and beer prices are ok, wine is terrible value.  Service was ok with most of the front of house girls but when I asked the cook for some extra plates as I went to grab the self service meals, was given a mean face and joked 30 bucks for a plate, yea real funny. Next went to ask for some tomato sauce, ignored, ended up being served by a differnt staff, who also had no smile or no words as she passed me the sauce.  The same lady was pointing to the customers to grab her dishes as she cleared tables…  Astonishing..

Tastewise, you can see the burnt burger bun.  The patty was described as 100pc certified aussie beef but we were not warned that it was diluted with breadcrumbs to make it the usual aussie suburbia grade cafe style.  They weren’t exactly meticulous about quality. 

The kids play area is nice and the jumping pillow welcomed patrons of all ages.  My daughter wanted to go so we went in and she asked me whther daddy could also do a back flip like the group of teenagers that were in before us so Daddy said why of course I can and so I gave it a go.  Could have ended worse considering it was the first time I tried such a feat in 10 years. The schooner of coopers, couple glasses of savblanc and the steak sandwich behaved nicely in my full stomache.  Landing was embarrasing but the sign of respect in my daughter’s eyes still there! 

The food was subpar but the facilities were good and prices reasonable.  I will have to return to the area to accomplish my long standing mission to not only perefect my backflip but to catch school prawns with a net.  At the ferry terminal I saw a bird looking curiously into the water and then, a dozen little ripples and jumps of brownish reddish things on the surface!  That definitely has to be my dream, them live prawns waiting for me to catch!


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