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Bavarian ramen.

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Tan Tan Men

It was the last weekend of Wiesn in Munich and I went back to the beer tents at freaking 7:30 a.m. in the morning to meet my friend from Hong Kong and her hilarious entourage from Spain, Belgium, Ireland and England, from whom most had never been to the Oktoberfest before; no reservations, no choice. After a bit over an hour wait, we actually made it into the Augustiner beer tent and…well let’s just fast forward for a couple of hours and a few emptied stones. Our little group split up; some went missing, some went home and a few continued on their german beer quest. I, even though ready for an extended nap on the couch, made a little detour to my favourite ramen shop in Germany to date, Takumi in Maxvorstadt, just a little train ride away.

I was obviously lucky today, unlike on other occasions, as the place was actually open and no waiting in the queue either. I sat down and ordered my favorite, the Tantanmen. I have tried others, but so far no bowl could beat that red and rich, spicy broth. Portions are huge here and I was a bit overwhelmed when the piping hot bowl showed up, doubting I could actually finish it, I was wrong. The broth was awesome, savoury and spicy, thick and rich, loaded with peanut and sesame flavors and loads of that deliciously spiced minced meat. I absolutely loved it. Now let me talk about those noodles; I do come here almost everytime I’m in town, but these were hands down the best ones, they’ve ever made for me. Maybe because the place was not as packed as usual, maybe they improved generally or I was just darn lucky, but these noodles were very very close to perfect. Speaking pasta terms, they were absolutely on spot al dente, chewy and with this unique texture, that only ramen noodles have. Not that they have ever been really bad before but more often than not, they were a little on the softer side. Not stopping there, even the eggs went through some sort of evolution here and seemed more beautifully waxy than ever. So awesome guys, keep it up.

Service here has always been super nice and everybody is offering you smiles and it was exactly the same today. Staff is friendly and service is pretty fast and efficient. If I would need to pick on something negative it would be the fact that your ordinary ice tea here comes by the glass for EUR1,80, which gets quite pricey if you (like I) tend to drink loads while eating big bowls of hot soup. In the end, it’s just water, so I would rather pay a bit more for a free flow of my jasmine tea rather than order over and over again, but maybe that’s just me being used to free flow tea and water in these kinda places. Other than this little blemish, I totally love it here and see no reason why not to come back again and again and again.

Takumi München (open all week)
Heßstr.71
80798 München
Germany
Tel: +49 89 528 599
http://www.takumi-noodle.com/index.html

From Tokyo to New York City.

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Tokyo Shoyu Ramen

It was almost the end of our New York City trip when our lovely hosts brought us out to Ivan Ramen on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. I was excited like a little child before Christmas as I missed my chance to check out his original shop in Tokyo during my last trip with the boys in 2014. The place is fairly small but pretty nicely set up with some colorful twisted wall art and nicely dimmed, yet still sufficient lighting to take halfway acceptable pictures without using a flash. Let’s do this.

I had a bit of a hard time deciding, which bowl I should get as there was everything I love on the menu – shoyu, tsukemen etc., even a couple of seasonal dishes. My gut told me to go with something traditional after that brilliant chilled contemporary beef ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar the other day. I have a copy of Ivan’s book, so I did tend towards his signature shio ramen, which is explained in a step by step guide on the last pages and I thought that if I ever get around to try making it, this could be a reference moment. However, a friend had already ordered one so I switched midst order process to a bowl of shoyu ramen instead. Excitement grew stronger and just the looks of it gave me confidence, that this was going to be good. The chicken-based broth was dark of soy, had depth and was full of salty flavor and light dashi aroma. So good. The rye noodles, they use for this one, are very thin with a lovely bouncy texture, the eggs were still a bit runny but just seconds away from that perfect waxy state and the chashu just melted away in my mouth. That’s also why I felt a bit offended by the guy on the next table, who, without even trying, just neglected all of his beautiful pork belly away on the side. What a waste. Moving on and after trying mine and every other bowl on our table, I realized, that here’s so much more goodness to have had here and that I really need to come back to this shop some day. So wait for me tsukemen.

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L.E.S. Buns

For starters we tried their L.E.S. (Lower East Side, I assume) buns, which combine the two cultures and cuisines this shop stands for, Japanese and Jewish, Tokyo and NYC. The Japanese influence was represented by the fluffy steamed buns and the crunchy daikon slaw, while the Jewish and NYC touch came from the wonderfully juicy pastrami and the ass kicking spicy mustard. Great combination of flavors, globalization right there on my plate.

Service here was super friendly, attentive and fast and the place is like a trendy but low-key New York version of a ramen shop you want to spend some more time in, than just your 10-15 minutes slurping on your bowl of noodles. Nice concept, amazing food, more complementing than contrasting, I’m sold.

Get Your Grub On!

Ivan Ramen NYC (open ever day)
25 Clinton Street
New York
NY 10002
United States of America
p: +1 646 678 3859
http://www.ivanramen.com/

Smorgasburger – Go Ramen! Go Life!

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Ramen Burger

One of our first activities in New York was walking all the way from West Village to Williamsburg to check out that famed ramen burger from Keizo Shimamoto at the Smorgasburg food market. It was a super hot day and we underestimated how long that “little walk” would take us, speaking alone that it took forever just getting over Williamsburg bridge. So when we eventually arrived we were pretty much done for the day but also saw a lot of beautiful city views on the way. Williamsburg is actually a pretty nice and grungy neighbourhood, full of cafés, bars and restaurants and Smorgasburg must have one of the best views on Manhattan, that a foodmarket could have. It was pretty busy out here, but we still managed to locate one of our hosts and the ramen burger stall quite easily. The queue was long but moved down fast as these guys really knew what they were doing. Everything was impressively set up in an assembly line kind of way, so patties were sizzling, ramen buns getting crisp and burgers were assembled by the dozens. Thank goodness as we were starving and dying to try this.

That thing was nothing but genius. The meat was not overly seasoned, maybe a bit too little, however beefy, juicy and had the right size in comparison to the noodle buns. Cheese and lettuce weren’t either outstandingly good nor bad but that sauce, a shoyu reduction glaze that tasted something like a sweetish Asia style bbq sauce, had some absolute delicious flavours going on. Last but not least the most curious of elements, the buns. I had a ramen type burger before in Singapore but the noodles were fairly crisp and crunchy and some parts broke off while taking a bite. Here, I have no clue how they actually did it, as it really tasted like qq cooked ramen noodles and still stuck together in it’s patty bun shape until the last two bites maybe. So it really was like the perfect fusion of two fantastic dishes into one; innovative, genius and best of it all delicious.

Get Your Grub On!

Ramen Burger (open Sundays in season)
Smorgasburg (at Williamsburg Flea)
50 Kent Avenue
New York
NY 11249
United States of America
http://ramenburger.com/

Momofuku Tour – Part 2.

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Cold Beef Ramen (Seasonal Special)

After our delicious fried-chicken-sandwich-stopover at Fuku we went just a few doors down to Momofuku Noodle Bar to have some of those tasty sounding chashu buns, our friends had been raving about while eating their crispy chicken; I love these foodies. Unfortunately, they were just about to close for their afternoon break before dinner service so we checked, when they’ll be open again and went for a little bar in the area to bridge the waiting time with some happy hour drinks. We were back at the door like 20-30minutes after they had re-opened and the place was already full and bustling with people. I must say, I came here with high hopes but very low expectations. You never really know how these hyped places turn out to be. So let’s see.

We started with a couple of beers, a few glasses of sake and some dishes to share. The spicy cucumbers were nicely done and slightly different from how I know them. Someone smashed the hell out of them and they seemed a little bit fermented, covered in that red Japanese chili pepper mix (togarashi) and some crushed almonds. Pretty nice actually. The chashu buns, the actual reason we came here for, were great. Finally, someone got that meat to bun ratio right. Two thick slices of beautifully and soft pork belly with some crunchy lightly cured cucumbers and a sticky hoisin sauce. That’s the stuff and I still regret not having tried the brisket buns too. Then came the first real surprise of the evening. I was wondering why my friend had ordered the rice cakes here and reckoned it would just take up unnecessary space in my stomach, that was reserved for that big bowl of ramen we had coming but oh my gawd, I’ll be eternally thankful to him for doing that. I don’t know how they created this texture, fry or maybe pan fry them until literally rice-crispy-crisp on the outside and teeth-sticking chewy on the inside. Then they all lay around in an absolutely insane and hard-to-define cream sauce, that was wonderfully savoury with a sweetish touch, that reminded me a bit of okonimyaki sauce. I really have to work on my palette again to become better in identifying single flavours, but for now, it was good enough for me just eating and enjoying that amazing dish. The kitchen had added even more layers of texture and flavor by sprinkling scallions, bonito flakes and tobiko over it all. The only ingredient I was indifferent about was the chicken. Anyhow, best rice cakes ever.

After this, my low expectations rose into the sky and thankfully I had the best yet coming. For the bowl, I ordered one of their seasonal summer items, a cold beef ramen dish that sounded just right for a hot day like today. The looks instantly brought back memories of Matador, with its’ perfectly rose slices of roasted beef. The meat was delicious just a bit hard to bite off from, so I ended up eating it by slice and mouthfuls. Not that I cared. The chilled or rather cold broth was light with some citrusy flavors like yuzu or ponzu. This was so refreshing that I would have actually preferred to take it outside to the street and eat it in the warm summer sun. The noodles had proper bite and bounce that reminded me of Korean Naengmyeon not only because that’s a cold dish too. Just the egg, however perfectly made, somehow felt a bit out of place to me. I loved everything about this, the unique aromas and the innovative approach of taking something traditional and transforming it into something entirely new without losing the slightest bit of awesomeness. A dish definitely in my top 3 for the year and one that makes me want to live here and see what else they come up with next.

To the Noodle Bar itself, it’s a rather simplistic and minimalist setup, with light colored wood and mainly long sharing tables, like a bar exactly. On our table getting in and out of my seat was a bit of a hassle though, climbing over other people’s bags and stuff and I also found it a bit too cold inside (having a coolish dish as well). This places is crowded and the air is bustling of chatter from a cool mixed crowd hanging around before heading out to town. Thankfully there are many more Momofuku shops and concepts for me to try out during my next trip to New York but this one’s a definite keeper. Thanks, your food made me smile today.

Get Your Grub On!

Momofuku Noodles Bar (open ever day)
171 First Avenue
New York
NY 10003
United States of America
http://momofuku.com/new-york/noodle-bar/

Chicken that sticks.

imageWhen I tried out Tony’s Pizza a couple of weeks ago I passed by this huge medieval looking door just around the corner and once I figured this was an Izakaya Yakitori place it instantly made my to-do list. This list is growing exponentially these days and so a bunch of lovely friends helped me ticking this one off rather fast.

They have all sorts of stuff here but specialize in Tsukune, these delicious little grilled minced chicken sticks and since there was a Mixed Set on the menu, giving us the opportunity to try five of them, we were quite fast in ordering one set each. Our first was the Cheese Tsukune; not very traditional I suppose but a great thing to eat and the cheese was rich and sticky, gluing itself to the top of my mouth. Off to a great start.

imageSecond plate came with the more traditional Tsukune Tare, which had a much more familiar sweetish taste and gave the savory chicken flavors a chance to come through.

imageThe Okonomiyaki Tsukune with mayonnaise, sweet sauce and bonito flakes was an interesting combination of flavors. I have become a very passionate supporter of okonomiyaki in general and loved this one right away.

imageNow this stick was a bit odd; as much as I appreciated the chopped shiso leaves in this as much I was weirded out by the chunks of soft bones and fat that gave me the chills while chewing. I know many people would love this but it just wasn’t for me at all.

imageAt last there was another more fusion like version that I called Guacamole Tsukune. It was smeared with some creamy avocado spread and tasted exactly like that, nice and creamy and kind of Mexican.

imageOther than those five delicious sticks we also had the Pickles Moriawase, which, while being absolutely delicious, consisted of some light slaw, crunchy cucumber and hardly pickled carrots, small onions and yellow daikon. All together fantastic palate cleansers in between. Then there was some amazingly crunchy and sinful Chicken Skin (picture above) as well as a medley of chicken innards including chunky Gizzards, overly gamey Livers and some perfectly charred and firm Hearts.

I liked this place; it was loud, there were a lot of different aromas floating in the air, the beer was cold and their take and twist on those izakaya goodies turned out to be quite a mood lifter. I’ll be coming back for sure.

Tsukune Ichigo つくね 一期
399 River Valley Road
Singapore 248295
Tel: +65 6736 1340

New branch is open for business!

imageToday I went for lunch at Orchard Central at the new branch of Nantsuttei and had my old favourite Hot Miso Ramen Extra Hot Tanmen again. It has been a very long time since I had this lovely spicy bowl of awesome but i must say they still got it and it tasted exactly the same as at their Parco Mall location. Additionally the new shop is more bright and modern, a tad bigger and by far much more convenient for me to get to. Great to have you around.

Nantsuttei
181 Orchard Road
#07-12/13 Orchard Central
Singapore 238896
Tel: +65 6337 7166
http://www.nantsu.com/sg/

Burgers of the Rising Sun.

imageNow this was on my long time to do list for two reasons, first because I never really had some deluxe Japanese Hamburgers before and secondly because this place is somehow linked to the guys from Yazawa Yakiniku, which I haven’t been to yet myself but heard only great things about. So today was the day and the lord and I came down here to finally check it out. For how much their steaks cost, the place was surprisingly simple setup, with dimmed light and booth seating options just like at any other casual Japanese restaurant.

However, we both had the Masa Hamburg which is pretty much a high end 200gr hamburger patty (also available in 300gr)  which in our case was topped with a perfectly beautiful sunny side up and served on a hot sizzling plate. Making the first cut right through the middle was amazing as the egg yolk ran down in between the patty and started bubbling from the heat of the plate together with all the meaty juices. Okay so the looks were pretty awesome but more interesting was if the flavors could keep up with that. Unfortunately they couldn’t, don’t get me wrong this was a nice patty, soft with a light beefy taste but nothing that rocked my world and the fried egg, even though good looking, was just ordinary egg and it all was surprisingly under seasoned as well. Now there was salt and pepper on the side and also the onion jam had a nice flavourful touch but for $30 ish I had expected just a little bit more. At least I have tried it now, no regrets.

Masa Steak & Hamburg Tokyo
11 Unity Street
#01-03 Robertson Walk
Singapore 237995
Tel: +65 6836 2529
http://masahamburg.com/