As we transition on this wonderful journey of noodley goodness, I felt it only necessary that we perhaps continue towards the epic and weird noodles.
Which is why today I presen "Haru Ichiya". It has a much fuller name actually...
春一家 三代目 麺宿
If I could translate the full name it'd be something like "Spring Household, The Third, Noodle Lodge"
Yes, this should be pronounced Ikka or Ikke, not Ichiya. I know. But the name is certainly Ichiya.
The third refers to this being the 3rd time this shop has moved. Spring Household is the name, and... Noodle Lodge? I suppose that's a fancy way of saying "Ramen Shop"
Haru ichi Ya moved from Tokyo to the "Ramen War zone" (as some guidebooks are calling the 豊平 Toyohira district of Sapporo) in April of 2010. It's a newcomer to Sapporo by any standard, and thus reviews of it are scarce. Furthermore, the reviews seem to be polarizing, a combination of perfect and very low scores.
Despite this, the store has been on TV, as well as been written about in a few ramen books. So I had to check it out.
First let's take a look at the shop.
Interesting... kind of a.. house feel to it I suppose. Two floors and 40 seats, that's ambitious.
There's a very warm, contemporary feel to the shop. The menu has drawings instead of photos, reminds me of the indie hand drawn Americana that we saw in movies like Juno and Napoleon Dynamite. The walls are wood and deep red, it's incredibly inviting, and the new feel is exciting.
The shop is famous for its 黒八味噌ラーメン, Black 8 Miso Ramen. Yes, that name is weird. What does it mean?
I spoke briefly with the shop owner, one of two actually, and he told me essentially his philosophy on food was that foods with black color are good for you, and so he combines 8 black foods in this miso ramen. Black vinegar, black bean miso, black pepper, among other ingredients he wouldn't share.
Ah, the chef's secret.
The result of this black heavy ingredient mixture is... well... Something of fame and glory.
Black miso ramen with pork and egg. 780 yen.
Quite literally, a soup that is black in color.
Film of fat floating on the top, reminiscent of the Junsumi style loved by those in Sapporo. But the soup is black. I mean black to the core.
My question is... how in the world did this soup get so black? It's AWESOME.
This bowl of ramen, in my opinion, is amazing. Period.
The color is amazing, the flavor is complex, rich, and unique, as these black ingredients are actually not violent at all, smooth and deep in their flavor. Slightly sweet and musky in it's composition, with good miso flavor. This is a miso bowl after all, and I'm very impressed that this flavor came through as well. The thin straight noodles are house made (YES!!) with an old style machine they have in the back. It gives them amazing texture and length, and they hold up well to the delightful concoction of the soup. The fresh cracked black pepper adds a nice bit of heat and fragrance as the pieces pop in your mouth while chewing. It also has fried slices of garlic, which give just an amazing aroma and flavor to the already superb bowl.
Even the vegetables, (bean sprouts, onions, cabbage) that had been stir fried and mounded up on top, tasted perfect, a touch of flame broiled char and scent. The portion was deceptively big, and every bite of it was delightful.
I drank the whole thing, to put it bluntly.
Plus points: The owner said he is making an English menu. For the tourist, this is amazing.
The shop is located just a three minute walk from the Misono station on the blue line. If you're looking for something completely unique in not just Ramen but food in general, and something quite delicious, I'd say it's well worth the trip. Honestly I was thoroughly impressed.
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Open 7 days a week.