(1-14-16 Matsuyama | Summit Bldg. 1F, Naha 900-0032, Okinawa)
A late night spot in the dodgy area of Naha, where its normal to see punters asleep next to their half eaten bowl of Ramen. This is a definitely middle of the road place. However, if its 4 am and you are hungry to soak up some food to assuage the hangover, then pop on by and have a bowl.
The broth is nothing to write home about, the eggs are middle-of-the-road, the pork is unimaginative and the noodles are barely able to hold themselves together. Oh well, at 4am who's complaining....
(906-1 Kabira, Ishigaki-shi, Okinawa-ken 907-0453, Japan)
Being part of a bomb-evacuation on the tiny Island of Ishigaki was a fun experience. Woken up in our capsule hotel by a Japanese lady with a sign in English saying PLEASE LEAVE HOTEL IMMEDIATELY. After the all-clear, we decided to head up to Kabira Bay for an afternoon of glass-bottom boat trips, lumbering around and finally a hankering for some Okinawa Soba.
This place came highly recommended and it tasted more complex than it appears. The noodles were the star, the meat secondary. A definitely pop-in place if you are over on the bay enjoying the spectacular scenery.
(1-8-6 Matsuyama, Naha, Okinawa Prefecture)
The search for the Holy Grail took us all the way to Naha, Okinawa. After flying down from Tokyo and having a decent bowl of Ramen the night before ( at Fou Fou Ramen ) we heard about Kouryu from the owner of the hotel. There were two branches, one nearby and one a bit closer to Kokusai Dori.
We headed out the next day for lunch, getting lost in a couple of cool stores on the way down there first. Upon entering you just knew this place was going to be epic. Very cool facade, decent prices on the machine, and a warm greeting when we entered. We sat in the corner and ordered the normal Tonkotsu Chashu Ramen. Everything was perfect. Everything. The eggs, the broth, the noodles chewiness, the toppings, the spring onions, the pork was perfect. Literally, you can't get a much better bowl of Ramen than this anywhere in my opinion.
We went back 4 times in 5 days, which is testament to the utter supremacy of this establishment. This is undoubtably the King of Ramen. The best I have ever tried, and have struggled to find a challenger to topple it off the throne of greatness. People should fly to Okinawa just to eat this....
(3 Chome-2-17 Koenjikita, 杉並区 Tokyo 166-0002, Japan)
After a small earthquake in Asagaya, we headed by train to Koenji to hunt down a couple of ramen places that had come highly recommended. The first one was closed for 2 weeks holiday, the 2nd we just couldn't find. Not defeated (after walking around at least 2 hours) we saw some guys hanging around in an art studio. I popped in and asked if any of them knew a good ramen spot nearby. Immediately he ushered me out of the studio and pointed frantically towards a couple blocks away.
We followed his directions and ended up at Tabushi's.
I ordered the Miso Ramen and sat back watching the chefs disciplined and clean, cooking their noodles and prepping the toppings. The bowl arrived, steaming and tempting. The fatty glisten of oily-miso on top and a scattering of cabbage, pork and bean sprouts along with a Tamago (egg).
As I learned years ago watching Tampopo/Tanpopo the master told his student in the ramen shop that after observing the bowl, the most important thing is to taste the broth first and let the flavours sink in. This was one of the best bowls of Miso Ramen I have ever had. Everything was perfect, except perhaps the pork was stringy and not the type I prefer. However, there can be no complaints at all. A fantastic recommendation, and a place I have already convinced a few friends to go who all came back with glowing reviews.
(241-243 Nguyễn Trãi, Phường Nguyễn Cư Trinh)
After perhaps 6 visits to Ho Chi Minh, the eternal search for the cities best Pho is high on the agenda.
Until recently that crown was placed firmly on this places head. They had a fantastic broth, great noodles, decent meat, amazing condiments and the price was right. For visitors to Saigon who have been to "Hung" and not liked it, beware, there are many imposters who stole the logo and sign and serve under-par Pho. This place is the real deal. You can find better Pho at Quynh a few blocks away, the meat is better there and the broth is just a touch more magic, but this is top shelf Pho and you will not be disappointed.
( 7-4-5 Nishishinjuku Shinjuku Tokyo)
Can there be such a thing as TOO GOOD?
The answer in short: Yes.
After hearing about this place from a friend of ours (Scott Hatch), who recommended we try hunt it down in Tokyo after reading about the L.A. branch offering the peculiar addition of Tonkotsu Broth made from Pig Skulls. I was wary of the notion of creamy brains adding an extra level to the natural bone-broth's boiled for hours and hours, but curiosity got the better of us. After taking a while to find it, the taxi driver dropped us outside. There was a line. Of course. We waited around 20 minutes and were escorted to a table in the back of the restaurant after we had chosen our bowls from the machine.
10 minutes later, two big bowls of fatty Tonkotsu ramen arrived at the table.
First sip: ASTOUNDED.. both of us looked at each other and shouted "Holy shit". This was undeniably the best tasting ramen broth I had ever tasted. The Chashu was melt-in-your-mouth, the egg was perfect. You couldn't fault a single thing. Until you ate more......
From the heights of euphoria at having found potentially the greatest bowl of ramen on earth, we started hitting the half-way part of the bowl. I began to get nauseous. That feeling you get after eating too much Christmas Dinner but also a deep, deep fatty feeling of having had too much richness. We struggled to politely finish most of the bowl before leaving the restaurant complimenting the chefs (since it was delicious) and walking straight over to a bush in case I needed to "evacuate". Willy thankfully had 2 small bottles of Aquavit (Norwegian liquor) in his bag so we downed them, but literally continued walking around Shinjuku with the most nauseous feeling on earth.
The best, but also the worst bowl I ever ate.
On a side-note: We actually cancelled our flights to Fukuoka after that because the thought of eating Tonkotsu ever again was not on the horizon. We ended up going down to Okinawa and eating Sashimi instead. I must say, it was the wisest of decisions. It took almost 2 months to feel like eating Tonkotsu again. Try it if you dare, but the repercussions are real.
10/10 but also 1/10
(1 Chome-22-7 Jinnan, 渋谷区 Tokyo 150-0041, Japan)
Ok, its a chain. They have them everywhere. However, if you are not a people person, then this is the best thing on earth. Private small "booths" where you don't even have to look at the person next to you OR the person who serves you. AMEN!!!
This isn't the best ramen you'll have in Japan, but it's a decent option if you are wandering around and can't find anything else and are shitfaced. The paper you fill out gives various options for how soft/hard you want your noodles, how mild/spicy your broth should be, how fatty/thin, etc. I always go for hard noodles, fatty, and pretty spicy. That makes a decent bowl of Ramen considering its a chain. This is by no means close to the top 100 ramens in Japan, but its the best choice between McDonalds and Ichiran at 4am.