RAMEN | 博多元気一杯!! (Hakata Genki Ippai)


So the rumour has been confirmed. The ‘notorious’ tonkotsu king in Fukuoka established back in 1999 has recently taken a big U-turn. Not only was photo-taking allowed and even announced on site by a notice on the wall, we were greeted with a big smile by Doi-san (土井一夫) the Master and a very warm farewell as well, the type that a newcomer would probably make to try to get onto the ‘M-guide’ though we don’t think that was their intention at all. In short, the place has now decisively taken a friendly and tourist welcoming approach that was probably not expected in the wildest dream of even their frequent customers. Back to the ‘holy’ bowl it was indeed as balanced and refined as the legend goes, with the kick from the famous takana offered as condiments adding an unforgettable extra sensation. Hit them on a Friday before noon and found ourselves even having a few empty tables to choose from (yet please follow the instruction). That is indeed probably the best time to beat the crowd for those planning to pay pilgrimage. All that being said, there is still no door-front signage whatsoever but only the famous blue bucket so make sure you know what you are looking for when you get there. Still not sure what triggers them to suddenly take a more welcoming approach. Be it the success of their breakaway store or just they were being misunderstood all along, it is certainly very good news for all Hakata tonkotsu lovers. One interesting note to end, all the previously rumoured ‘commands and rules’ do actually exist as we were given an English menu with them being translated and stated boldly in English (and Chinese as well). They did add with a big nasty smile on their face when they pass the menu over to us and said… ‘Pictures okay!’ Maybe it was a gimmick all along!

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RAMEN | 護摩龍 百人町総本山 (Gomaryu)


Probably the most catchy name on our prevailing Dandan trail. Being labelled as the ‘Dandan noodles from Hell’, this little shop tucked away in a quiet part of the town is pretty much out of most radar screens except for the die hard dandan fans on IG. Famous for its rather gothic ambience and the said to be pretty ‘lethal’ soup base, LG was in for a total experience much more than just a culinary one. Not knowing what to expect, went for the middle of the road Level 3 ‘Asura’ (阿修羅) to test its true colours. Being the only other customer in the shop, the bowl was indeed made to order from scratch which involved some wok frying and the routine noodles cooking show at the open kitchen. With classical music blasting at the background and a solemn atmosphere in the air thanks to the rather dark interior, the build up to the arrival of the bowl was indeed a memorable one. Anti climax then hit when the soup was found to be less ‘deadly’ than expected and its robustness not really up there yet among the top tiers. Still a hearty bowl nevertheless and the intensity of the effort being put in by the chef also to be commended. Another one checked on the list.

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TONKATSU | とん太 (Tonta)


The Takadanobaba neighbour constantly giving the reigning Narikura a run for its money, this Showa-era establishment by the Takahashi (高橋有三) husband and wife team since 1976 is clearly the local favorite. The no fuzz interior brought along an obvious etiquette of everybody enjoying their food in silence, the atmosphere here is close to a shrine where people come to worship this amazing dish called ‘Tonkatsu’. Instead of raving about its ingredients, Takahashi-san here let the food do their own talking and it is indeed all the more impressive. What strikes LG here is the batter, reminding yours truly much of those from a classic ‘taro croquette’ dish found in cantonese dim-sum lunches, the best of its kind found in a tonkatsu dish so far. Further digging into the subject revealed the use of a premium flour from Takayapanko in Mushashikoyama, itself an establishment since 1955 and into its third generation. Thankfully the queue is still manageable for now. My favorite tonkatsu joint in Japan no doubt.

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The 2017 孤独のグルメ (Lonely Gourmet) Awards

Last but not least ….

The 2017 孤独のグルメ (Lonely Gourmet) Awards:

(all Japanese restaurants in Hong Kong, picked by price-quality ratio)

Best Omakase: Sushi Sase Hanare (6th year in a row)
Best Sushi Lunch: Okura (New)
Best Kaiseki: Gensui
Best Yakitori: Toritama
Best Tempura: Tenkai (New)
Best Tendon: Tenkai (New)
Best Robatayaki: Yi Pai Ya
Best Curry: Izumi (6th year in a row)
Best Soup Curry: SAMA
Best Ramen: Shinbusakiya
Best Midnight Ramen: Ichiran
Best Tsukemen: Tetsu (Closed)
Best Gyoza: Chao Chao
Best Udon: Inaniwa
Best Soba: Gonpachi
Best Teppanyaki: Sanka (5th year in a row)
Best Okonomiyaki: Teppan Kozi (6th year in a row)
Best Yoshoku: Cat’s Eye (New)
Best Yakiniku: 298 Nikuya Room/Kitchen
Best Izakaya: Genki Ippai (New)
Best Seafood Izakaya: Fujinomiya Seitaro Shoten
Best Tonkatsu: Porker (New)
Best Shabu Shabu: On-Yasai
Best Motsu Nabe: Kenko Syokuhin
Best Oden: Kenko Syokuhin
Best Unagi: n.a.
Best Kushiage: Jan Jan Kushikatsu (New)
Best Japanese-Italian: Sagrantino (New)
Best Awamori Bar: Kusuya Rakuen (5th year in a row)
Best Sake Bar: Sakelegant
Best Shochu Bar: Hidden
Best Wine Bar: Nocturne
Best Whisky Bar: Nocturne

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RAMEN | 担担麺 (Japanese Original Tang-Tang)


Guess difficult to find a more generic name than this latest offering from the leading Unchi group in the city. The bonito soup base certainly rhymed with the flagship store’s original and is indeed revolutionary here when it comes to applying it to a bowl of what is usually robust dandan noodles. Opted for the black sesame version hoping to boost the robustness a bit and yet it was still a kind of dandan that LG had never experienced before. Adding to the Japanese version of the bowl a new dimension no doubt and indeed worth a stop for those visiting the ‘nation’s kitchen’ to try for yourself. A potential joint on the rise in the city.

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RAMEN | 人類みな麺類 (Human beings everybody noodles)


A weird name no doubt when translated directly but I guess what they really mean is probably ‘people’s noodles’. Currently the leading ramen joint in Osaka City as per tabelog, and the self proclaimed #1 shoyu ramen in Japan, this is the flagship of the dominant Unchi group by Matsumura-san (松村貴大) which operates 3 other equally hyped ramen shops in the city if not yet commanding as long a queue. A standard 30-min queue at this joint conveniently located next to 2 train stations is certainly acceptable, helped also by a 20-plus spacey capacity not usually seen in similar leading joints. While secretly hoping for a wow, the bowl of original flavour ordered boosting the house bonito-enhanced shoyu went down the route of the balanced yet elegant style. Reminded LG of the earlier days E-mon and also the starred Tsuta of late but not too yours truly’s cup of tea. The Kansai-ness in it was found with the slight hint of sweetness in the shoyu based soup and the noodles are as expectedly a touch on the hearty side. The ambience gave some relaxed elegance to the air and the services are just right on the attentive side. Probably more a tourist attraction going forward but the group’s other offerings are certainly something to watch.

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TEMPURA | 新宿つな八 総本店 (Tsunahachi)


It has almost been 20 years since LG last visited this joint and it was not even the Honten back then. An old guard of Shinjuku Tempura founded by Kyuzo Shimura (志村久蔵) and now run by its third generation, this close to 100 years old establishment brought back the spirit of the good old Ooedo days when this classic dish was served to peasants on the street rather than inside a private room in upscale Ginza. The freshness and originality of the ingredients here are not to be overlooked though. From Ebi to Megochi to Kisu, the joint certainly did the classic Edomae fairs well. The Anago was a bomber while the giant clam, shiroebi and tofu-skin natto wrap were all signatures of the ‘Tsunahachi-ryu’ no less. From tourists to locals, one can see on their faces that this is a consistent and satisfying choice to bank with. One for the pilgrimage.

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