Sunday, January 12, 2014

Ramen Face Off in Kyoto Station : Part 4 Menya Iroha, Toyama Black Ramen from an Iron Chef

Did I save the best for last?  Rushing to cram in one more ramen bowl before I left Kyoto, I still had five shops to choose from.  I decided on Menya Iroha -- famous for Toyama black ramen.  This is the reigning Ramen champion, having won best in the Tokyo Ramen show for three years straight.

I had an early dinner to prepare myself for a late night ramen run.  Ramen Koji closes at 9:30 p.m. and I got there just before 9, just before last orders were called.  Note the big poster at the door showing Iron Chef Chen with his special concoction for Menya Iroha.

I can't read Japanese but it seems that the best seller for Menya Iroha is their black ramen.  This is a lighter pork and dashi based broth with a dark colour -- which is derived from the special soy sauce that is used as its flavouring.  The "black" ramen comes with the traditional negi or japanese scallions, chashu, green onions, ajitama eggs and bamboo shoots.  The menu board features the popular ramen partner, gyoza plus side dishes such as extra eggs, rice, negi and chashu slices.

Since I time my visit just before the call for last order, there are just a few of us ramen die hards slurping over our bowls.  I see a strange and not familiar sight -- dirty and used bowls are left on the tables -- another sure sign that they are no longer expecting new customers and are just about to close.

It's fun to watch the chef as he prepares my bowl of ramen.  Not to so fun to sit beside all these dirty bowls that have been left on the counter top right beside me.

I am not too fond of shoyu based ramen so I pass on the best seller and instead opt for the "white prawn" ramen.  The broth is light and clear and there are dried white shrimp shells on top of the chashu slices.  The aroma is redolent of dried shrimp, and gives off a very appetising smell.

 The "white prawns" are just dried shells -- no meat inside.  The shells are thin and easy to chew and complement the rest of the ingredients very well.  I thought it would be salty, because of the white shrimp and the strong aroma but the broth was subtle and easy on the palate.  The chashu slices were also very succulent -- tender and yet not mushy.  The ajitama egg yolks were not as soft or runny as I would like but other than that -- it was a perfect bowl!
A perfect ending to my Ramen Face Off at Ramen Koji, Kyoto Station!

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