Thursday, February 8, 2018

Slurp-Worthy: Fukuoka Edition

Of course whilst in Kyushu one has to stick in a ramen meal or two, as that is the very dish the region is perhaps most famous for. At home we are lucky to have a few famous Kyushu-based ramen shops setting up branches overseas over the last few years, but still, one never beat the bowls served in Kyushu, particularly Fukuoka which was considered to be the epicenter of ramen cuisine. And I was glad to have a couple that has not yet made their way to Hong Kong.

Most people considered Hakata Issou (博多一双), with the original shop near Hakata Station, one of the best noodle joints in town, evident by the high Tabelog score from customer review and rating. Soon after I landed and dropped off my luggage, I dashed back out to eat trying to avoid the evening crowd before the regular dinner hours. There were 3 branches Hakata Issou in town and the one I went was the original shop, on the east side of Hakata train station through the Chikushi Gate.

There’s no waiting line outside the shop at a street corner so I walked in and was seated at one of the last seats at the far end of the counter. Order was done through the vending machine at the entrance, and there’s a choice of half-boiled eggs and charshu pork in the bowl of ramen, as well as fried dumplings and rice as side dishes. I ordered the one with everything – egg and pork and the bowl arrived in less than 5 minutes.

I would say overall this bowl of ramen at Issou was great – the noodles were of the fine types, which worked particularly well with the rich and strong tonkotsu pork bone broth. The charshu was sliced thin with good balanced fat, and the egg was marinated lightly with sauce with an oozy center. There’s the standard condiments of green onions, toasted seaweed and bean sprouts added in the bowl when it arrived, and one could put in additional garlic and pickled cabbage from the tray in front. I did personally found the soup a tad bit too strong – I was unable to finish the bowl bottoms up, but I liked that in-your-face umami flavor that came from the bone soup base and also dried fish that was grinded to fine powder form and added in. The portion was on the lean side, but then, an additional order of noodles (Kaedama) only cost 100 yen, if you need more.

When? January 8 2018
Where? Hakata Issou, 3-1-6 Hakata-eki-higashi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka, Japan
博多一双博多駅東本店 福岡県福岡市博多区博多駅東3-1-6

The next day I had another bowl of noodles, this time at a chain called Danbo (暖暮), which was originally from Chikushino in the suburb of Fukuoka with a branch in downtown Nakasu area (with a few more branches across Japan and as far as Australia, Canada and US) From the outside one might have mistaken the Nakasu branch of Danbo as one of those dodgy nightclubs in the red light district, with the similar red shop sign and lights. But once you walked inside it was classy with chair and tables in the long dining area and kitchen at the back.  Here the bowl came with two sizes (and additional option of Kaedama) and one could customize the spiciness and hardness of the noodles. Charshu was standard, and so was the green onions condiments (but you could customize their portion as well) and egg was offered as an add-on.

I definitely preferred the broth at Danbo better with a cleaner pork flavor and a creamy texture, and there’s more flavor in the marinated egg as well. But then I thought the charshu pork was a bit too smoky. I ordered my noodles medium-hard and I thought that’s the best for the soup, but I wouldn’t mind having that a bit more spicy next time for more kick. And by the way, the small portion is probably a bit too tiny as a proper meal for an average appetite - go for the bigger bowl, especially if that's your proper meal.

When? January 9 2018
Where? Ramen Danbo Hakata Nakasu branch, 4-7-20 Nakasu, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka, Japan
暖暮 博多中洲店 福岡県福岡市博多区中洲4-7-20

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