Ramen Fest at Makan Decatur

ramenfestmakan_by_ohmyomiyage

The food scene has exploded in Atlanta since I last lived here 10+ years ago, and my calendar is filled with one food festival after another – not that I’m complaining!  It’s such a great way to get acquainted with the city again and the many amazing restaurants.  Last week, my cousins and I couldn’t wait to attend the ramen fest hosted by Makan, a new modern Asian restaurant in Decatur.

Most of you know my love for ramen (evidence here, here, here, here, and here).  I’ve shied away from it since moving back to the US since.. who could do ramen better than Japan?  Well, I’m happy to say that although ramen in Atlanta isn’t as steeped in tradition or honed to perfection as in Japan, it’s definitely more innovative and imaginative with unconventional flavors.  It’s like coming up for fresh air after a month of eating nothing but your grandmother’s (very tasty) home cooking.

ramenfestmakan_by_ohmyomiyage

ramenfestmakan_by_ohmyomiyage

8 different restaurants served up their version of ramen in trial-sized bowls.  My favorite was the one from Makan (top photo), served in a flavorful overnight duck broth and served with a tender slice of duck breast.  I also loved the one from Victory (below), topped with perfect shiitake mushrooms.  Congrats to Makan on such a fun event.  I’m sure the next one will be even bigger.  Prepare your stomachs!

ramenfestmakan_by_ohmyomiyage

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Kohmen Ramen Shop

I’m so lucky to live in a place where I can step out of my house and have a new, tasty ramen every day!  Sorry.  Am I rubbing it in?  If I did do that, I would get incredibly fat. Does that make you feel better? :)

Kohmen Roppongi Tonkatsu Ramen by oh my omiyage

In my ‘hood, my favorite ramen shops are the popular ippudo and ichiran, but sometimes for a change, we go to Kohmen.  The Roppongi location especially caters towards foreign customers with an English menu and pictures galore.  My favorite is the plain jane tonkatsu ramen (pictured above).  Last time, my husband tried the tonkatsu ramen topped with bean sprouts and pork. Continue reading

Rules of Ramen at Abura Soba

My first meal ever in Japan was a bowl of Abura Soba.  I woke up mid-afternoon from a jet lagged nap and wandered down to Akasaka Mitsuke to a busy little shop I spotted the previous night.  I walked into the restaurant, flashed a number one with my index finger, and started heading to my seat when I was stopped by the store employee who was pointing to a ticket machine.

I had no idea how these things worked at the time and even less idea of how to read Japanese!  So, I put my money in the slot and just did an ‘eeny meeny miney mo” deal, and out popped a ticket.  The store employee read my order to the noodle chefs behind the counter, and I felt a bunch of eyes turn to look at me.  I supposed they could see the scarlet letter “F” on my head.. “foreigner,” but it wasn’t.

I sat down and waited for my hot bowl of noodles.  After a few minutes, the chef put a HUGE bowl of dry noodles in front of me.  I stared at it wide-eyed getting full just looking at it.  (Apparently I ordered the Double XL bowl!)  So I picked up my chopsticks with a “can do” attitude and was about to dig in when the chef cried out “ehhhhhhh!!!!” and threw his hands in front of my bowl.  He started explaining something in Japanese when I looked at him cluelessly and finally muttered, “I’m sorry – I don’t understand.”  Then without missing a beat, he switched to English and miraculously pulled out instructions explaining how to eat Abura Soba.  Apparently I was about to commit the huge taboo of not adding the appropriate sauces and mixing it all together before eating it.

Abura Soba Akasaka Mitsuke Small Bowl Mixed with Onions, Seaweed, and Char sui pork

I only made a teeny dent in the huge bowl of noodles even with my most ardent effort. When I stood up, the chef seemed so disappointed and said, “it’s too much?”  And being as full as I’ve ever been and with many eyes looking at me, I sheepishly replied, “…yes…”  I felt so bad to throw away so much food, which I could tell was looked down upon.

I left, relieved to have experienced my first meal in Japan.  What did I learn?

  1. Don’t order the most expensive thing from the ticket vending machine unless you’re prepared to eat a Double XL size.
  2. Ramen, noodle, and gyudon shops are very male-dominated places.  When you walk in as a woman by herself, be prepared for the male patrons to stare at you.  Women don’t typically eat at these kinds of restaurants because they’re not “feminine”, and because women aren’t common in these joints, the ones who do visit alone are considered “lonely.”  But it’s a 2-way street.  There’s many restaurants that will only be filled with women (some cafes, dessert shops, Italian and French restaurants), and a man in these places will also elicit staring.
  3. Some places around Tokyo will have English menus and staff.  Although you shouldn’t expect it, it’s ok to let them know you have no idea what they’re saying in the happen chance they have something that could help you immensely!
  4. Japanese are very serious about eating their food ‘correctly’.
  5. I love Abura Soba.
Akasaka Mitsuke 3-10-20
Tokyo, Minato-ku
Open: M-Sa 11am – 2am; Su 11am – 9pm

Santouka Tonkotsu Ramen

My first obsession with Japanese food began in LA, where my friends introduced me to Santouka Ramen.  Santouka originated in Hokkaido in 1988.  Since then, it has expanded to multiple locations across Japan, the US, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Malaysia.  When I moved to Tokyo, trying this tonkotsu-based (pronounced: tohn-ko-tsoo; meaning: pork) ramen closer to its origins was first on my to-do list. The shio (pronounced: she-oh; meaning: salt) ramen is their original, but my favorite is their Tokusen Toroniku Ramen.

– Bar seating downstairs at Shibuya location –

– Toppings are served separately for Tokusen Toroniku Ramen –

– Ramen after toppings are added (sorry for the blur – I was too anxious to eat!) –

The difference between Tokusen Toroniku Ramen and other ramen on the menu is that it uses slowly-simmered pork cheek rather than regular cha-shu.  This part of pork is hard to find.  It’s tender and fatty and melts in your mouth!  Pork alone, the LA branches can’t compare to Japan.  In Japan, the fat is so well-blended into the ‘meaty’ part of the pork whereas in LA, there are chunks of fat.  I’ve heard that most of the franchises outside of Japan don’t live up to the same quality so make sure to visit if you’re in Japan!

Santouka. Multiple Locations.