Kyoto Eats: Kyoto's Best Ramen?

A member of a ramen restaurant family that prides itself on mystery (there is actually a ramen shop in the group that has no name) Wajouryoumen Sugari 和醸良麺 すがり could easily be considered the best ramen in Kyoto.

Very close to Karasuma Station 烏丸駅, this place is tucked away in a small alley that would be impossible to find without a map. In a reconverted machiya with an unassuming facade, the best way to spot it is to look for the queue that starts before opening time.

While Google says Sugari opens at time, it’s more accurate to say they open when they’re ready. We were the 2nd or 3rd group in line, and they were about 10-15 minutes late opening.

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We were led down a tiny hallway with a machine at the end to take our order. They had an English option, which made ordering easier, but it still took us a few tries to figure it out because I’m tech illiterate. There were a few options to choose from. There was regular ramenらーめん, tsukemen つけ麺, and curry tsukemen カレーつけ麺. There were three choices of meat, offal ホルモン, chashu チャーシュー, and wagyu 和牛. There was also a choice of noodle, regular or yuzu flavored. I got the regular ramen with wagyu and yuzu noodles and a soft-boiled egg. Josh got regular ramen with chashu and regular noodles. The specialty is the curry tsukemen with offal. We exited the hallway into a small, enclosed garden space. You wait here until there is room along the bar in the restaurant, but since we got there early, we went in straight away.

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This was the most beautiful ramen shop I’ve ever seen. Dim lights illuminated a warm wood interior and each seat had a pullout drawer full of interesting spices to further customize the ramen. The tsukemen was served in adorable grey Staub pots. Even if you don’t like ramen, going here would be worth it for the atmosphere alone.

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If you’re wondering about the ramen, it was great. The soup is a thick gravy made from mackerel stock. It’s almost gritty it’s so thick. I will say if you don’t like fish, you will probably not enjoy their ramen. If you want, try the curry tsukemen, but my experience with tsukemen is that the fish flavor is stronger due to the noodles not being submerged in the broth. My beef was tender and Josh’s chashu was melt in your mouth soft. I was excited about the yuzu noodles but the soup was too rich for the subtle yuzu flavor to shine through.

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Overall, this was one of the best bowls of ramen I’ve had in Japan. I’m still looking for good noodle shops in Kobe, but in the meantime I might just have to keep getting my fix in Kyoto.

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Name: Wajouryoumen Sugari 和醸良麺 すがり

Website: http://www.takakura-nijo.jp/

Address: 〒604-8222 京都府京都市中京区観音堂町471-1

                471-1 Kannoudocho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-8222

English: English ordering interface. Some English from staff

Number: 075-205-1185

Osaka Eats: ShinShinSha 森森舎

When we first moved to Osaka, cafe culture hadn't quite caught on in the area. There were a few cool spots, but most cafes still seemed to be traditional kissatens and less J-hippy, oversized clothing, and wooden bowls. I remember lamenting that Kobe was so much better than Osaka, but the tables really have turned. Osaka has really exploded in the last few years and there is no shortage of adorable eateries to choose from. 

In our effort to find all of Kansai's best shaved ice, a.k.a kakigori かき氷, we found ourselves trekking out to Nishitanabe 西田辺 on the Midosuji line 御堂筋線. This is a very suburban neighborhood in Osaka and it has a bit more in common with it's neighboring city Sakai than it does Namba. Why would we go out there? Because of a picture on Instagram, that's why. We saw the watermelon kakigori at ShinShinSha 森森舎 on an Osaka based Instagram account and the desire was too strong. 

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ShinShinSha is right off a main road about a 10 minute walk from Nishitanabe station. It's in a cute warehouse type place and appears to share a building with BonFire Hostel. Besides being a really beautiful cafe, there is also a workspace and workshops to learn crafts like pottery and jewelry making. It would be fun to go back for a class sometime. 

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While we came for the kakigori, we stayed for the food. We ordered the chicken curry set and the chicken chapati rolls. The chapatis were actually made with whole wheat flour, which is a first in Japan. We were really surprised how good the curry was until we noticed an Indian guy working in the kitchen. Everything tasted really fresh and the chapati rolls were a fun surprise to see on the menu. For dessert we got a Vietnamese coffee kakigori drink loaded with sweetened condensed milk, the watermelon kakigori すいかかき氷, aaaannnddd the houji tea milk kakigori ほうじ茶ミルク金時. This place really knows how to make shaved ice. They asked if we wanted the watermelon kakigori made with or without red wine. I think the red wine one has a more muted color than the one made with watermelon flavoring, but the wine was a really good way to keep it from being overly sweet. Another one of their popular flavors is kiwi, which is topped with kiwi pieces in a thick kiwi syrup. 

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While ShinShinSha may not be the most centrally located cafe, I think it's worth a quick detour for anyone. 

Name: ShinShinSha 森森舎

Number: 06-6696-6313

Address: 〒558-0056 Ōsaka-fu, Ōsaka-shi, Sumiyoshi-ku, Bandaihigashi, 1 Chome−1−3−14, 森脇ビル

Website: http://shinshinsha.com/

English: English menu  

Kobe Eats: 64 Curry ロクヨンカレー

What do you think of when someone says "Japanese food"? Sushi and miso soup probably. Different kinds of noodles and rice for sure. While all these things are critical to Japanese food culture, one of the biggest food crazes to sweep across Japan is something a little more foreign. It's curry, specifically spice curry スパイスカレー.  Most people will eat a huge plate of Japanese curry at some point in their stay here. The dark brown gravy flecked with bits of meat and vegetables is well loved in this country. But while the typical Japanese curry rice was introduced to Japan by way of Britain, spice curry comes directly from South Asia. In the last year or two it seems that almost every new cafe in Osaka is serving this riff on Sri Lankan and Indian curries. People are lining up outside for up to an hour to get a chance to eat at some of the more popular restaurants and these places often sell out in a few hours. There are magazines devoted to different curry restaurants around different cities. 

Well if you haven't tried spice curry yet, you're probably asking what is it. It's a typically a blend of two or more highly aromatic curries on one plate divided by a huge portion of rice. There will usually be some cubed potatoes and a chutney or two. Cilantro gets thrown on top of it a lot and if you're lucky the place will have a huge spiced egg on top. Every place has their own recipe and toppings and often they have a curry of the day or week. 

In Osaka, you can throw a rock and probably hit a restaurant that serves curry, but it's been a bit harder for me to find these places in Kobe. I was flipping through the latest edition of Kobe Hon 神戸本, a magazine dedicated to restaurants in Kobe, when I saw the entry about 64 Curry pronounced roku-yon ロクヨンカレー. Located in the shotengai 商店街 right next to Motomachi station 元町駅, it fits right in with slightly rock-a-billy vintage vibes I get from a lot of the other shops around. It's a 7 seat restaurant so be prepared to for a tight squeeze. They have two different permanent curries, a pork keema curry and a chicken coconut milk curry. The popular thing to do is order them both, or aigake あいがけ. They also a have combo plate with two different weekly specials. For an extra price, they have turmeric rice. Josh got the 64 pork keema curry with turmeric rice and I ordered the weekly special which was a chickpea curry on one side and a thai inspired tuna and eggplant curry on the other. All of their curries are actually spicy, which came as a big shock to both of us. It was great, but the staff were laughing at us a bit about how much water we were drinking. The keema curry was a bit sweet, but deeply spiced. The heat level built up the more we ate it. I think if you were very hungry, just the one curry wouldn't fill you up. Josh ended up eating a decent portion of mine as well as his. My plate was the bomb-dot-com. Both curries were so rich and flavorful and I was surprised by how much I loved the thai curry. I'm not the biggest fan of fish, but the tuna was melt in your mouth tender and was such a good addition to the red curry. There were cumin seed fried potatoes and sautéed spinach on the side. The curry plate was topped with a vegetable chutney, thinly sliced red onions, and a healthy amount of cilantro. 

The owners were pretty friendly. I had just had a negative experience at a restaurant where some of the customers and staff kept talking negatively about foreigners so I was a little worried about walking into such a tiny place, but the two guys put us at ease pretty quickly. The prices here are also much friendlier on the wallet than similar restaurants in Osaka. My huge plate of curry only set me back 850 yen. 

Name: 64 Curry ロクヨンカレー

Number: 078-381-5649

Address: 2-150 Motomachikokadori, Chuo-ku, Kobe 650-0014, Hyogo Prefecture

兵庫県神戸市中央区元町高架通2-150

Website: http://64curry.web.fc2.com/

English: No English menu, but the staff spoke some English.