Friday, December 5, 2008

Lovely Chinese Lunch

I’m starting to work on an entry about Tan Tan Men (淡々面), the Japanese version of the classic Sichuan dish Dan Dan Mian. It’s a spicy bowl of noodles I love in both forms, and just about every semi-Chinese place has them at lunchtime. So I’m going around cataloguing, trying bowl after bowl of noodles, taking pictures, and so on.

But I just had to share this place.
Tan Tan Men 01
I had some trouble finding these characters, partly because they’re so stylized in the sign, but I think this place is called Sen Gō Kan (膳豪漢). A local on-line restaurant place gives the characters as 膳處漢, but I think they're misreading the middle character -- at any rate, that's not what this sign says. Admittedly, I also think I've got the middle character wrong, but it appears to be extremely obscure and I don't have really good dictionaries to hand. On the other hand, Google maps and such do give the other version. I don't care, the noren has different characters, so there. Anyway, it’s on Nishikikōji-dōri, between Muromachi-dōri and Shinmachi-dōri.

The first time we went there, I had black sesame Tan Tan Men, and my wife had the dim sum set lunch. Both were wonderful. But just when my wife was feeling pretty full, they came in and gave her one more thing: a bowl of shark’s fin noodle soup. This seemed like overkill, but it looked great, and she had a little, and I tasted it... And then the waiter comes zipping back in all apologetic: this wasn’t supposed to come with the set lunch, but was ordered by another table. My wife is equally apologetic: it’s fine if they take it, but they ought to know we’ve tasted it already. The waiter looks pretty worried, and goes off. He comes back with the manager, who says, “no, don’t worry, just eat it. No problem.” So we had a gourmet extra!

Now since then, I’ve gone back by myself several times. I always think maybe I’ll try something else, but then I can’t resist the black sesame noodles, which look like this:
Tan Tan Men 01
This time, I also ordered gyoza. I happened to notice that they come in two plate sizes: 3 dumplings or 6. This is odd, because usually they come about 5 or so to an order, and the price isn’t spectacularly low. So I figure, what the hey? And when they arrive, I see why:
Tan Tan Men 01
These things are huge! Unfortunately, they do have that thin skin the Japanese like, where I like them a little more robust, but at least these ones weren’t the ultra-thin paper-skinned ones that I think are silly.

Anyway, I just had to show you my lunch.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Peko-P said...

I was ready to agree with you on the middle character but I checked Kiwa's website and it is indeed '處' on their site too.

Kiwa's Chinese restaurants in Kyoto have absolutely killer (kira-) tantanmen. I used to go to Ryokudenya a lot until the sociopath manager decided to diss the planet. Thanks to you, I have found an alternative! (I have been by the 處 joint several times but never been inside.

I am REALLY looking forward to your definitive guide to tantanmen in Kyoto!


Chris said...


Huh. The noren character really looks very different, and I'm usually passably good at deciphering this sort of Chinese-style stylization: I used to study Chinese. Thanks for the link, though!

As to tantanmen, I don't know about definitive, but I'll tell you what I like, anyway!

(One thing I don't like is layu -- that's ra-yu, spicy oil, to Japanese barbarians -- in a beautiful red pool on the top, but then finding that it actually isn't spicy at all. I hate that!)

It'll take a while, though, because boy is there a lot of tantanmen around, as you may have noticed. :)

Peko-P said...

I went by 膳處漢 today. That Chinese style Japanese style bento lunch looked pretty excellent! Not exactly priced for an economic downturn though.

I was in a hurry so I didn't go in, but I have to get over there for some TTM soon.

Chris, you've got to clue me in on the great places for TTM in Kyoto. I don't know many good ones.

The ra-yu- oil I have given to Japanese friends that are devotees of spicy food and they were impressed! Japanese aren't really into spicy. I took a Japanese friend to Szechuan, the guy couldn't eat anything. And then the locals added insult to injury by mercilessly mocking his attempts at speaking Chinese.

We've got to go out and kill a few bowls of TTM for lunch one of these days!


Chris said...

We must certainly get together, and if you're a fan of tantanmen, that makes it even more enticing!

As yet, this one is the best I've found. I've tried about 8 places, and have a list of 6 more recommended places I haven't gotten to yet, and then there are some on Muromachi near Oike that look like possibilities. The problem is that now my son gets out of yochien at 12:00 every day until actual vacation begins, and I haven't yet found something he will reliably eat at Chinese restaurants. (You'd think gyoza, but he's not a big fan.) So having only recently come up with my brilliant project to try 8 zillion bowls of tantanmen, I'm facing a bit of a delay.

But I'm sure I can get to this place for lunch with you next week, if you're interested. Send me an email!