Friday, May 20, 2011

Yuzu Ramen

The yuzu zest is ground to near invisibility.
Things got back to normal in Tokyo pretty quickly, even when they weren't quite normal yet. We are back to work, drinking the water, eating the vegetables, and done hoarding. The food supply is safe, which is good, because even if it was glowing with radiation, we would still probably be eating the ramen. Which actually sounds like the start of a good superhero comic book.

The line starts early, and the pressure to rush is strong. Resist.
The Professor took me to a place near Yurakucho station--just across the street on the Ginza side, in a run-down basement. He had me at "run-down basement." It's one of those wood-paneled shopping corridors under an office building where only the elderly seem to shop. Camera repair, musty stationery, blouses with rhinestone-eyed cheetahs. The ramen shop's lilliputian layout is enough to impress, but the line that forms before it opens at 11:30 tells you it's going to be special.

The master at work in his micro-kitchen
The soup is a light shoyu broth, and the pork is a substantial half-inch slab of belly. Indeed. Every person at the counter ordered the house special, yuzu ramen, with a little scoop of grated citrus rind tossed into the bowl along with a little mitsuba. The result is bright, without adding any sweetness. Has a ramen ever tasted this new without being gimmicky? (I worry about the gimmick potential of yuzu--every time I read about a new restaurant in New York, someone is shaving yuzu over something and I am afraid it's going to go the way of the swan-shaped cream puff.) It is such a truly Japanese fragrance. Afterward, you have that warm ramen-tummy satisfaction, but with a little zing on your tongue. This might be the only bowl of noodles I will dare to eat hot this summer.

The shop's teeny-tiny ticket machine--if this was New York, somebody would have walked off with it by now.