Monday, December 15, 2008

Seven Lucky Gods

I got a chance to try another place for tantan men today. Unfortunately, it was very cold this morning, so I switched coats, and the result is that I didn’t have my camera. Argh. Oh well, the internet is a wonderful thing.

Today was Seven Lucky Gods (七福神), at the northeast corner of Horikawa-Oike. It’s a classic ramen joint: long counter, a couple of tables, open kitchen, and so on. Their specialties are a fish-broth ramen and their Ninth Street Scallion Tantan Men (kyujo-negi tantan men 九条ねぎ坦々麺).

Sam had miso ramen with roasted pork (chashu) and medium-boiled eggs, no negi. I ordered a batch of gyoza. And, of course, I had the tantan men.

The Rundown
All in all, a satisfying if rather strange approach to this dish. Here's a photo I found on-line (fortunately, all Japanese are apparently trained from the cradle to photograph their food and post it for public discussion):
The stock was strong and effective, with a definite pork flavor. The noodles were just about right in terms of richness, egg flavor, and bounce. And of course the 9th Street Scallions were good: that’s one of the kyo-yasai, the special Kyoto vegetables everyone’s on about these days.

But otherwise, the dish was very odd.

No ground pork topping: roasted pork instead. Minimal sesame flavor. A lot of togarashi (red chile), and very little rayu (spicy chile oil). No Sichuan peppercorn. And I’m pretty sure there was some sweet miso in there as well.

What's really peculiar is that the sign says that the kyujo-negi are certified to be really kyujo-negi by the Kyoto Agricultural Council, and that the rayu is special stuff from 山田油店, which appears to be in Saitama, north of Tokyo. But having made this production about it, there wasn't actually all that much negi and there sure as heck wasn't a lot of rayu.

By The Way
Sam adored his miso ramen. He’s no great judge, but certainly he was down on Ginza Shisen, as was I. I thought it was good miso ramen, but I admit I don’t have a whole lot of experience with that dish. This looks a good deal like what he ate -- again, an image I found on-line.

The bowlful Sam ate was a little different, in that it had no negi: Sam hates negi, and in fact all types of onions, in every form we have yet tried. And he has a surprising ability to detect them lurking behind other flavors, whatever they might look like.

The gyoza were classic Japanese gyoza: thin, under-flavored, thin-skinned. Not excellent, as they lacked the crunchy brownness of perfect gyoza. But well made, with none of the peculiar off cabbage flavors of Ginza Shisen. One thing I thought odd was the sauce with which they served these gyoza, which I couldn’t place at all (although eating tantanmen at the same time makes it a little difficult to identify subtle things without pretty strong cues).

I would bet that their fish ramen, and their more basic ramen offerings, would be good.

In essence, this is tantanmen as another form of ramen, an approach I think is perfectly legitimate but which I’ve never seen taken to this extreme. The only way in which this bowl differed from any other miso ramen was in the replacement of sesame paste for some of the miso, and the admixture of some spicy stuff (togarashi and, according to the sign at least, rayu).

I would definitely recommend this to someone who’s a big fan of miso ramen and is looking for something a little different. As tantanmen per se, however, it’s very peculiar.

All of which makes it difficult to rate this entry.

As a dish, assessed on its own merits, I give it a 6/10: solid, tasty, well executed, but nothing spectacular.

As tantanmen, assessed with reference to that dish, I give it a 5/10: very tasty, but so outside the normal range that it gets some demerits.

I now think I should have rated Ginza Shisen lower, but them's the breaks.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments: