Really jumping around again.. Well I got to experience traveling through Japan's newest International Airport which just opened October last year. Before you had to fly in through Narita or sometimes Kankuu (Osaka's Kansai International Airport). The best part of the new Haneda Int'l Terminal is the featured shopping/eating Edo-koji arcade that neatly replicates a feeling of shops in the Edo era.
The eateries can range from a Yakiniku shop serving A5 ranked beef to relatively affordable sushi, handmade Udon (had a surprisingly long wait line), French, Italian pasta/pizza, and even my all time temptation of proper Tonkatsu.
The chain Setagaya already has a shop in New York. I'm not sure how the fishy gyokai flavors are doing there, it seems Tonkotsu reins supreme as favorite style of ramen amongst most Americans. While I'd never turn down the creamy savory bowl if offered myself, maybe it simply has to do with how Gyokai-kei are still relatively hard to come by in these parts but it's been my biggest craving these days.
I usually try to have an attractive photo kickoff my posts but Tsukemen is usually ever..
They do however pack a whack of some concentrated flavors and aromas to your unsuspecting taste buds that definitely make up for it more than some. I got the Setagaya Tsukemen which I think was the most expensive item offered at 1100-yen. (At the current very sucky exchange rate, ~$13.75)
Came with pretty much all the fixings they offer. Thick cut crunchy menma, a flavored hanjyuku soft boiled egg (it's in there somewhere), cubes of great aburi pork chashu that's been lightly grilled, and even some green laver seaweed Aosa Nori that I now have close to fallen head over heels for. (I just think it's so much better than regular sheet nori.)
The flavor of the soup/dip is seasoned with shoyu as a base but heavily fortified with concentrated dried fish stock (and I also hear dried scallops) reminded me of Nidaime Tsujita's that I had at one of Mitsuwa's fairs recently. Maybe slightly not as tangy and here with some additional char aroma of the grilled chashu also makes it different. Further comparing I couldn't tell if this particular bowl had home court advantage or an airport disadvantage but it was very comparable to Tsujita's which by the way I'm really looking forward to them opening up shop in L.A. this year. Ed from The Ramen Blog said he heard sometime around June.
Anyhow the noodles also weren't as thick but still fairly broad and had that great springy chewiness to them. Perfect for dipping into the extra rich broth. Quite satisfying and quite a fill too. Oh, I almost forgot I had the Japanese gyozas.. :)
The Negi-Kurobuta-Yaki-Gyoza (Berkshire pork fried gyozas with scallions). 650-yen..
Gyozas were fried up excellently crispy and once taken a bite would overflow with juices. The filling was a looser medium coarse texture with a small heat kick. The flavor actually reminded me of ones I had at Mottainai in Gardena (which are half the price) but a bit porkier thanks to the Kurobuta and the skins were better on these. Enjoyed the negi topping but it was hard to have a full bite with them as they tend to fall off easily without a balancing act.
On the visit for my flight out the thought of excellent thick cut, juicy tender, fresh nama panko crusted, roof of mouth piercing, fried in sweet lard Tonkatsu.. was calling me a second time and it seemed like a great way to cap the visit. But I somehow ended up at Setagaya again..
The Tori Shio Ramen (chicken/salt) that a fellow next to me was having my first visit looked really good and it was hard to pass up one that I knew would be made with the shop's wafu stock (on roids).
Soo great and it's hard enough to get flavors like it here but this was quite good. Not an overly intensely flavored bowl, the chicken and dried fish flavors were actually very balanced and was something I could really sink my teeth into day after day, month after month. The topped chicken pieces were tender, as was the photogenic soft boiled flavored egg. The subtle fragrant zest from the garnished rinds of citrus yuzu didn't go unnoticed either.
I had to get some extra Aosa Nori. And even at being close to two-bucks, it was really worth it. The Aosa Nori's green laver / seaweed flavor is much more flavorful and aromatic than your standard sheets of nori and also adds some nice texture on top.
The lighter and balanced Tori Shio Ramen was actually perfect to wrap up my trip, especially since I had a heavier bowl at Jangara only a few hours ago, haha. And it made me almost forget about that luscious pork cutlet... Almost.. ;)