Make a cute and simple origami chopstick rest with nothing but the wrapper they come in

無題

RocketNews 24:

So you’ve mastered the use of chopsticks and can proudly turn down the offer of a fork when you go to your favorite Asian restaurant. Many upscale eateries will probably supply you with a hashioki or chopstick rest to set the eating-end of your utensils on when not in use. At more casual restaurants, though, you have no choice but to lay them across your plate or setting them on a napkin so as not to touch the table’s surface.

Or, if you’re feeling crafty and would like to try your hand at some origami, you can use the paper wrapper your chopsticks came in to create a cute and useful peacock chopstick rest!

Even if you’re not a very crafty or dexterous person, if you know how to make a paper airplane, you’ve pretty much got the beginnings of this peacock origami down! And don’t worry if you don’t speak Japanese – the visuals in this video are easy enough to follow along with.

Drew Barrymore arrives in Japan and begins chronicling her #tokyofoodtour on Instagram

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RocketNews 24:

Drew Barrymore is in Japan right now, and while we’re sure she’s got some sightseeing and interviews on her schedule, what she seems most fired up about is the food, as the actress looks to be on a mission to sample all that Tokyo has to offer her taste buds, from cheap ramen joints to Michelin-ranked fine dining.

Barrymore has been chronicling her culinary exploits through her Instagram account, marking updates with the hashtag #tokyofoodtour. The very first entry shows the star looking a little sleepy as she poses, chopsticks in hand, behind a balanced and beautifully arranged Japanese breakfast.

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Next up, a stop by Sukibayashi Jiro, made famous by 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

▼ The famously strict Jiro even cracks a smile.

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The actress isn’t solely interested in such exclusive establishments, though. As a matter of fact, she was up at about at 7 a.m. to stop by popular ramen restaurant Inoue, located in the Tsukiji neighborhood.

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Barrymore also stopped by a Tokyo shrine for a little spiritualism/digesting…

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…plus took time to pose with a fan.

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The hidden drawback to Tokyo’s extremely diverse dining scene is that there’s so much good food to try, it’s hard to find time for all of it. It seems Barrymore knows that when you’re looking to maximize the variety in your meal, a visit to a robatayaki, a type of restaurant where customers can choose from a large number of small dishes, is in order

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Japan doesn’t just have a deep food culture, though. A walk through Tokyo will present you with a staggering amount of beverage options, many of them waiting for you inside the city’s ubiquitous vending machines.

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And, like a true foodie, Barrymore remembers to save room for dessert, which on this day came from a Tokyo branch of American donut chain Krispy Kreme.

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Unfortunately, it looks as though the Tokyo portion of Barrymore’s trip to Japan is over, as the most recent photo of her Tokyo Food Tour has her posing in the middle of Shibuya’s famous Scramble Intersection with the caption “Sayonara! Goodbye Tokyo.”

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Restaurant information
Inoue / 井上
Address: Tokyo-tom Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-9-16
東京都中央区築地4-9-16
Open 5 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Website (Tabelog)

A Manhattan sushi restaurant introduces a flight featuring all local fish

The sushi counter at 15 East

Bloomberg (by Tejal Rao): 

15 East is a quiet little Japanese restaurant just off Union Square, where I find the mood is always quite civilized and serious. That was the case on a recent evening, until a junior sushi chef started playing with two massive prawns, whirling them together on the cutting board as if they were ballroom dancing. Another sushi chef grinned widely, then politely told him to stop that.

The restaurant opened in 2006 and it’s a consistently good spot for sushi (along with dishes like poached octopus, and delicate soba noodles with duck and scallions). The newest menu item, a “local fish flight” ($55 for 10 pieces), was introduced a couple of weeks ago and features fish from Long Island and its environs. Earlier this week, that meant lightly smoked mackerel, and a piece of fluke wrapped in a shiso leaf, each presented as nigiri on long, slender clusters of warm rice.

Owner Marco Moreira is a big fan of the local squid from Long Island, served raw. “It’s just gorgeous,” he told me over the phone. “It’s unbelievable with a little citrus zest and sea salt, but unfortunately we don’t always have it in house.

The kitchen purchases fish from all over the world—Japan, Spain, Portugal—but Moreira explained that he wanted to introduce a new option that would celebrate local scallops, and a couple varieties of whitefish, as well. A tuna from North Carolina, which Moreira admits is only relatively local, may occasionally make an appearance.

If the kitchen runs out of the local stuff before you get to your tenth piece of nigiri, you’ll have the option to try other fish at the counter. You may find yourself with a wide slice of crunchy sea clam, a sweet raw shrimp, or a couple of oysters marinated in olive oil and rosemary (works!). With tiny wedges of the pickled ginger Shimizu makes in house in between each bite, it all makes for a lovely, light, clean-living kind of dinner.

This flight isn’t the most luxurious one in town, but it doesn’t bill itself as that, and in many ways that’s part of its appeal. The experience is straightforward and inexpensive, and so is the seafood. This is everyday sushi done well—if you’re looking for something more deluxe, go with the excellent $110 omakase, which roams farther and wider.

15 East Restaurant is at 15 E 15th Street (Flatiron); +1 212 647-0015 or 15eastrestaurant.com

Smoked mackerel nigiri, from 15 East’s new local fish flight

Staggering servings of salmon roe are waiting for you at these four Tokyo restaurants

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RocketNews 24:

There are a couple of distinct price tiers to seafood in Japan. Squid and octopus tend to be very budget-friendly, with a step up in price for sashimi-grade tuna and salmon. Among the most premium offerings of all is where you’ll find salmon roe, or ikura as it’s known in Japanese.

Due to its high cost, ikura is usually served in modest quantities, sometimes seeming more like a garnish than a legitimate component of the meal. However, that’s not the case at these four Tokyo restaurants, which dish up such generous portions that their ikura literally overflows the bowl.

As one of Japan’s most popular dining websites, Guru Navi (short for “Gourmet Navigation”) will let you filter restaurant search results by a wide variety of parameters. Recently, though, the site made a special point of highlighting a group of four restaurants that are known for their overflowing ikura bowls.

Referred to as ikura koboredon, the decadent dish is most commonly seen on the northern island of Hokkaido, the surroundings waters of which serve as the source for the lion’s share of Japan’s salmon roe. All four of these restaurants are located inside Tokyo, though, which means they’re within easy striking distance if you’re craving some ikura after a day of sightseeing, work, or school in Japan’s capital.

Let’s dive face-first into this collection of ikura goodness.

1. Hokkaido Shiretoko Gyojo /北海道知床漁場

ID 9

Address: Tokyo-to, Toshima-ku, Minami Ikebukuro 1-13-21, Izumiya Building basement level 1 / 東京都豊島区南池袋1-13-21 和泉屋ビルB1
Open 5 p.m.-midnight


ID 1

Just opened in late February, this Ikebukuro restaurant takes its name from Hokkaido’s Shiretoko Peninsula, considered to have some of the tastiest ikura in the country. Ordinarily, the restaurant’s full-size ikura rice bowl, called the Nore Sore!! Nannmmara Kobore Ikuradon will cost 1,980 yen (US $16.80), with half-sizes available for 1,280 yen. As part of its opening campaign, though, customers can print out or display the couponhere and get a half-size bowl absolutely free!

 

2. Totoshigure / ととしぐれ

ID 10

Address: Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Shibuya, 3-13-7, Godo Building basement level 1 / 東京都渋谷区渋谷3-13-7 五常ビルB1
Open Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., 5 p.m.-5 a.

ID 2

Totoshigure has the cheapest menu-priced overflowing salmon roe bowl of any restaurant on the list, as the otsubo ikura no kobore meshi will only set you back 890 yen. If ikura’s not your thing the restaurant’s uni (sea urchin) bowl is similarly staggering in size.

ID 3

3. Iroriya / いろり家

ID 11

Address: Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Ginza 3-11-11, Ginza Sambankan 2 basement level 2 / 東京都中央区銀座3-11-11 銀座参番館2 B1
Open Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., 5 p.m.-4 a.m.; Weekends 5 p.m.-11 p.m.

ID 5

Moving from youthful Shibuya to blueblood Ginza, Iroriya’s profile was raised when it was mentioned on the cover of a popular adult magazine last year. You won’t find anything scandalous inside, although the massive funajo meshi ikura bowls, in prices ranging from 2,480 to 3,980 yen depending on size, will stimulate your appetite.

4. En / 炎

ID 12

Address: Tokyo-to, Edogawa-ku, Funabori 1-7-17, Crystal Funabori 1st floor /東京都江戸川区船堀1-7-17 クリスタル船堀1F
Open Monday-Thursday, Sunday, holidays 5 p.m.-1 a.m.; Friday-Saturday and days preceding holidays 5 p.m.-3 a.m.

ID 7

Finally, we come to En, where the recommended way to eat a mountain of ikura is with a dollop of fiery wasabi added. Like many of the other examples on this list, the 1,280-yen kobore ikuradon seems like a deal that’s too good to be true. With portions this big, can the restaurant actually be making money off the dish?

Possibly not. En’s owner, who was born in the city of Hakodate on Hokkaido, says he’s prepared to lose money on his giant salmon roe servings, and that his real goal is for the people of Tokyo to come away with a renewed appreciation of the regional cuisine of his home prefecture. As a matter of fact, so seriously does he take the task that he personally scoops the ikura into the bowls that are delivered to eagerly waiting customers.

ID 8

Of course, the better time customers are having, the more likely they are to order a glass of beer or bottle of sake to go along with the loss-leading ikura bowl. But hey, ikura and sake go great together, so in the end it’s a win-win for all involved.

All-You-Can-Eat Sushi in Tokyo for only 1050 Yen (US $13)… (*But per-plate penalty if you can’t finish)

RocketNews 24:

While a popular format for sushi restaurants in some foreign countries like America, it’s much more difficult to find all-you-can-eat sushi in Japan than one would think.

If you are in Japan and are looking to gorge yourself on maguro, saba or whatever else floats your sushi boat, look no further than Tabehodai Sushi Club, a little place in Ueno, Tokyo that has all-you-can-eat sushi for only 1050 yen (US $13).

The restaurant is said to be popular with foreigners and, during the busiest hours, has a line outside the door on any given day.

Review:

Anyone who has been to all-you-can-eat in Japan is likely aware that it’s common for customers to be restricted to 1-2 hours until they need to clear out or pay extra to extend their stay. Tabehodai Sushi Club surprisingly has no such time limit but customers must pay a penalty fee for each dish they order but fail to eat—70 yen for nigirizushi and 120 yen for makizushi or gunkanmaki.

I sat down at my table, was handed an order sheet and proceeded to fill it out with my favorites: ama-ebi, ikura, maguro, shime-saba, and so on.

The sushi came 15 minutes later and, for my first taste test, I plopped the ikura (salted salmon roe) nigirizushi into my mouth and…

…hrm…perhaps a little flaccid…

Okay, so how about the uni (sea urchin)?

…hrm…perhaps too small to tell how it actually tastes…

Alright then, let’s try the ama-ebi (sweet shrimp)!

…!!! Okay, not bad at all! They might want to tone down the wasabi though…

Unfortunately, that ama-ebi was the highlight of my Sushi Club experience, but really, that’s only to be expected given the price.

Basically, if you’re looking for quality over quantity at a reasonable price (which, I guess, is what all-you-can-eat is all about), then save some room in your stomach and head over to Ueno for copious amounts of second-rate sushi!

 

・Store Information
Restaurant: Tabehoudai Sushi Club,
Address: 6-13-4 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 11:00-22:00
Open throughout the year

Photos: RocketNews24

 

California ‘Nerd Girl’ seeks perfect date for dinner at Noma in Tokyo

‘Nerd girl’ Stephanie Robesky is looking for a single male who’s ‘easy on the eye’ to join her for a meal at the pop-up incarnation of Noma in Tokyo.

 

Japan Times:

Scoring a table at the Tokyo pop-up of the world’s finest restaurant for your 39th birthday is hard. Finding the perfect date to join you can be even harder.

Mobile tech entrepreneur Stephanie Robesky was among the lucky few to get a reservation at a Noma outlet, open only until Valentine’s Day, out of 60,000 who applied.

Even better, it’s on her birthday, during the last week of January.

But with no one special in her life right now, the San Francisco single gal posted a date-wanted notice on her Nerdgirl.com blog with a demanding set of criteria.

Single. Male. Between 28 and 46 years of age. Good conversational skills. “Easy on the eye,” in her words, and capable of using a fork and knife correctly.

I was thinking, if I got 10 people who applied, that would be nice,” she told a reporter by telephone on Tuesday. “And then it just got crazy.”

As of Tuesday, more than 300 applications had come through, and Robesky expects still more to trickle in before she calls a group of friends over to help her come up with a short-list.

She will then invite the three most interesting prospects out for coffee — hence the stipulation they must all be from the San Francisco Bay area — before making a final decision by Friday.

The winner must pay his own way to Japan, and get his own accommodation. But Robesky will pick up the tab at Noma, which runs at ¥64,900 for the multi-course meal with wine pairings before tax.

So heated is the competition that 82 friends of one hopeful, software engineer Kyle VanderBeek, have signed an online petition at Change.org urging Robesky to pick him.

If you ask the undersigned, ‘Who would you want to break bread and sup deadly hornet larvae with?,’ we the undersigned would unanimously choose. Kyle,” they said. “Kyle’s your guy.”

Robesky’s quest got an unexpected boost when Noma’s 37-year-old chef Rene Redzepi — who founded Noma in 2003 in Copenhagen — gave it a shout out on his Twitter feed on Sunday.

Single ‘Nerd Girl’ wants Bay area dude for epic Tokyo Dinner,” the Danish champion of New Nordic cuisine wrote.

Crowned the world’s best restaurant by Britain’s Restaurant magazine for four of the past five years, including 2014, Noma is at Tokyo’s Mandarin Oriental hotel from Jan. 9 until Feb. 14.

It welcomes no more than 44 guests for lunch and dinner, with a set menu and wine pairings, and Redzepi himself in the kitchen with his 50-strong team brought over from Copenhagen.

Robesky, whose big circle of friends mostly consists of gay men and married couples, and who gave up on her online dating accounts on New Year Day, concedes her approach is bold.

I know what I want and I’m successful at what I do, and if that is seen as a bad quality for women, which I think it is sometimes, I don’t care,” she said.

On her blog, she describes herself as 167 cm and “slim shady.” She enjoys reading, movies and “bad TV,” scuba diving, playing the ukelele, bald cats and eating “good food.”

But on her mission to find the right companion, ready to cross the Pacific for her one-of-a-kind birthday dinner, she’s learned that “there are a lot of interesting people out there.”

“This has renewed my faith in dating in the Bay area.”

Slurp the City: NYC Ramen

Lucky Peach (by Brette Warshaw):
It’s 1:15 a.m. on a Saturday night, and I am standing in the entryway of Takashi. I’ve only been here for three minutes and the smell of the place—smoky meat-funk and pungent roasted garlic—has already embedded itself into my hair and clothes and esophagus. I may smell like this place forever.

Lucky Peach photographer Gabriele Stabile is with me. Over the next twenty-four hours, we will hit ten ramen shops. If all goes according to plan, we will see and eat and photograph and know the True State of Ramen in New York City.

At the moment, we are both one dinner and a few drinks into our respective evenings, and we’re getting nervous about the amount of overeating ahead of us. It’s still possible to turn back.

But then the hostess calls us in for ramen, and away we go.

Takashi, 456 Hudson Street, 1:15 a.m.

Takashi is a Korean-Japanese offal-focused tabletop barbecue place that serves ramen after midnight on Fridays and Saturdays to people who have had the foresight to reserve a spot a week in advance. It is a bizarrely urban type-A thing to do: to make a plan to eat something that you should probably be stumbling into spontaneously and drunkenly. I thought this late-night ramen death march was a good option for us—we’d get a few bowls out of the way, sleep them off, and wake up refreshed the next morning. Rookie mistake.

Our fellow diners are the kinds of people you’d expect to find at a reservations-only late-night ramen spot in the West Village on a Saturday night: birthday parties of beautiful people, girls with white-blonde hairdos and expensive clothing, banker bros. It’s loud and crowded and dark, and surprisingly fun.

Takashi offers two kinds of ramen: Original and Grandma’s Spicy. Both broths are made from the bones of all the beef that they sell during normal hours, and are dark brown, shiny, and studded with slightly chewy-crunchy bits of deep-fried small intestine. The spicy ramen comes with a big blob of dark red paste (some kind ofgochujang, I suspect) plopped into the center. Mix it in and you get an entirely new, spicy, more intense soup. The spice makes everything else in the broth—the scallion, ginger, garlic, beef—snap into focus.

The broth is delicious. The rest of the stuff in the bowl, though, is lackluster: thin, lifeless noodles, tough, stringy “beef belly,” an egg cooked too hard to surrender its yolk to the broth. We eat the soup part and get the check, which comes with two sticks of Doublemint gum. Pointless—every follicle inside and out reeked deeply of garlic—but a nice gesture.

We go our separate ways, bloated and sleepy, with plans to meet for breakfast ramen the following morning.

9:06 a.m.

No question: we aren’t making it to 10 a.m. ramen.

Ippudo, 65 Fourth Avenue, 10:50 a.m.

New York’s East Village branch of the Japanese chain Ippudo is notorious for its long wait. We get there ten minutes before they open, and there is already a line. By 11 a.m. there are at least twenty people behind us.

At ramen shops in Japan, it is typical for the cooks to shout “irasshaimase” when customers walk in—it means “welcome.” At Ippudo, they very enthusiastically engage in this tradition—not just the cooks, but the entire army of servers as well—for each and every customer. If you’re coming in with the initial wave of customers, this means that for the first fifteen minutes of your meal, the entire restaurant is quaking with the sound of “irasshaimase” over and over and over and over, a chorus that drowns out the thump-untzing of the electronic music over the sound system.

We order the Shiromaru Hakata Classic and the Akamaru Modern. Both are made with the same tonkotsu broth—tonkotsu being a fatty, milky-white soup made by cooking pig bones so hard that they soften and give up their marrow. The Modern one has miso added to it, too, as well as a puddle of inky-black garlic oil.

The broth is good. Of course it’s good: it’s a bowl of fat! The miso ramen is better than the original. Though it has more stuff in it, it tastes more delicate, more nuanced. But both are good eating.

The noodles though, like Takashi’s, are thin, limp, boring. After a few bites of each ramen, the charm of the porky fattiness wanes. If we finish these bowls, we’re goners, so we pay our check and amble on.

 

Misoya, 129 Second Avenue, 12:02 p.m.

Around the corner from Ippudo is Misoya. (It’s a difficult place to miss, thanks to the garish sign outside on Second Avenue done up in weird fonts.)

It opens at noon, and we walk in on schedule. It’s empty. There is harp/lute music playing softly over the speakers. It feels more like a massage parlor than a ramen shop.

We get menus that are consistent with the signage aesthetics: the first page says, “Welcome to the World of MISO, The Power of MISO, ‘MISO’ IS JAPAN’S TREASURE!!!!” Misoya is also a chain in Japan that specializes in ramen made with different kinds of MISO from around the country.

We end up going with a kome miso with pork—described as the “standard miso”—and a mame miso (“made of beans, dark-colored miso”) with vegetables. The kome miso is filled with porchetta-y pork rounds, corn, bean sprouts, scallions; the mame has a giant salad’s worth of vegetables plunked on top along with beautiful white cubes of fried tofu. We taste them both and are shocked: these are way, way better than the ramen at our first two stops. The broths are rich and round—they’re all made with a base of pork, chicken, and mushrooms—but they’re balanced, with enough acidity to make you forget you’re eating a bowl of fat. When I get to the picking-out-all-of-the-vegetables stage of ramen consumption, I’m delighted to find that each—cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, and others—has been cooked or seasoned deliberately and separately, not just tossed in a kettle and boiled helter-skelter. The noodles—curly in the vegetable one, straighter in the pork one—feel like they have a purpose. It’s difficult to stop eating.

When we get up to leave, the place is still empty. What a shame.

Rai Rai Ken, 218 East 10th Street, 12:45 p.m.

Rai Rai Ken made the list because Gabriele, who now lives in Rome, holds the place very dear in his heart; he lived around the corner for ten years, and he is sentimental. It is a block and a half from Misoya, so denying him this visit would have been cruel. Rai Rai Ken is also the oldest ramen shop in downtown Manhattan, so eating there has some significance.

I’ll spare the joint on Gabriele’s account and just say this: the ramen is reminiscent of wonton soup at a bad suburban Chinese restaurant.{1} Preserve your cherished memories of Rai Rai Ken by not eating there.

 

Bassanova Ramen, 76 Mott Street, 1:40 p.m.

The first note I write down about Bassanova Ramen, another New York outpost of another Japanese chain, is: “Dirty as fuck.”

The space is a few steps down from the street, and it’s simultaneously freezing and sauna-like with broth steam. The kitchen is completely open, so you can see the guys in hoodies (with the hoods up!) sloshing broth and tare all over the floor. As if on cue, a girl with a nice manicure walks in, sits down at the table next to us, looks at the menu, and gets up to leave. {2}

This is the first place we’ve been with tsukemen on the menu, and so we order yuzu tsukemen and a green-curry ramen. And then we wait. And we wait. The food takes more than an hour to get to us, and we entertain ourselves by singing along to the decidedly awesome nineties hip-hop they’re playing. Bob Marley comes on, and Gabri is singing along in his Italian accent, and I’m thinking that this place might not suck as much as I’d like it to.

Finally the food arrives. The green curry is both deeply spiced and spicy; the noodles are good; the little charred shrimp are tasty and cute. It works. (The only weird thing is a small pile of mesclun on top. That gets put to the side.) The yuzu broth is spicy and citrusy; the noodles are thick and chewy. In both cases, there’s real, distinct, deliberate flavor.

It’s slow and dirty and I spend far too long listening to an Italian man sing along to Lauryn Hill, but the ramen is not without sparkly oddball charm. I’d go again.

 

Ganso, 25 Bond Street, Brooklyn, 3:15 p.m.

In the middle of the afternoon, Ganso, in Prospect Heights, is half-empty and the temperature is pleasant and you can hear each other and it’s clean—a relief after Bassanova. The room feels like a Brooklynized Momofuku Noodle Bar: wooden bars and tables and clean, straight lines, without the noise and bustle of the East Village.

They have what they call a classic Tokyo-style ramen and a miso ramen, but we go for the weirder stuff: a braised-short-rib ramen and the triple-shrimp ramen. {3} We also order sake, which makes our sixth {4} bowl of ramen of the day go down a little easier.

The triple-shrimp ramen has a Southeast Asian vibe: it’s dark red and shrimp paste-y, herbal and bright and citrusy, with frilly noodles and tons of herbs for garnish. It’s unlike anything else I’ve eaten today, and I love it for being not-ramen ramen. Ditto the short-rib ramen. Gabri keeps calling it an Italian stew, and he’s right; you taste the braising and the drippings and that savory meatiness of an Italian roast, all made richer and savorier with miso. Both ramen feel new; both are delicious. Purists might deny that these are ramen; they are noodle soups that taste very good. But who cares! This is Brooklyn. We are being served by a cute blond boy in plaid. I don’t care about authenticity.

Lauryn Hill is back on the stereo, and we’re not ready to leave, so we get mochi for dessert. I eat it all by myself. It’s time to head back to Manhattan.

 

Totto Ramen, 464 West 51st Street, 5:20 p.m.

We try going to the original Totto Ramen, on Fifty-Second and Ninth, but the wait is forty minutes long. The original spot is a lot cooler and grungier and grumpier and more like a Tokyo ramen shop than its little sister, but it’s cold outside and we’re on a tight schedule—so we head an avenue west to the second location.

The vibe here is nonexistent. It’s swankier than the original place; it feels new and not worn in, with bad lighting and acoustics. There are guys next to us talking about David Chang, which I find funny until I realize that this entire place is filled with food nerds. I am one of them.

We get the paitan, which is Totto’s classic—it’s a super simple ramen made with chicken fat. It’s even thicker and more opaque than the Ippudo broth and the takeaway is the same: it tastes good, but after each bite, it tastes less good. I keep eating kimchi to try to balance out the milky-fattiness, and then I eat the scallion garnish because it is a vegetable, and then I eat the chicken breast slices that are dry and not at all delicious, just to get a taste of some sort of leanness.

It might be that I’ve drunk too much fat today.

 

Hide-Chan, 248 East 52nd Street, 7:10 p.m.

We decide, walking up the stairs to Hide-Chan, that this is our last stop. We are both swollen and puffy and unrecognizable, and we can barely look at each other, and my rings and bracelets are now melded into my swollen paws.

Hide-Chan is a little less soulless than Totto—it’s broken up into a few different rooms, so the whole sad, cavernous space thing isn’t as apparent—but it’s loud and we can barely hear each other. The menu comes and we instantly order the spicy vegetable ramen, because the photo of it looks like a gigantic salad. (We also order the “Original since 1963” ramen, because I’m trying to keep up the façade that I still have any interest in noodle soup today.)

The vegetarian ramen tastes like a spa. The original ramen has globules of pork fat suspended in it. I become preoccupied with the grossness of the fat globules and start hunting for the biggest ones. I then eat all the garnishes out of the vegetable one. The noodles in both are fantastic—skinny in the tonkotsu, yellow and wavy in the vegetarian—and I eat a lot of them. Gabri gets a second wind and chats with the group of Taiwanese video game programmers next to us.

I go to the bathroom and scream at the amount that my face has swollen over the past twenty hours. The time has come. We pack up and leave.


I set out on this expedition hoping that I’d come out on the other end with bettered knowledge, an idea of what kind of ramen worked for me, and a more expansive view of what ramen is, at least within the confines of NYC. To some extent it worked: I learned that despite its popularity, milky-fatty tonkotsu broth is not for me—I’ll take a clearer, cleaner soup any day. I learned that pedigree means little, and that the Japanese-ness of a place is no guarantee that the soup is going to be good. I wanted to leave the day in love with one place, the place I could take my friends (Misoya is that place), but in all honesty, I woke up the next day never wanting to eat ramen again. Maybe the takeaway is this: if you want to immerse yourself in ramen, do not immerse yourself in ramen. Step into the river one bowl at a time and let it gradually carry you out to sea.