Saturday, July 31, 2010

ラーメン札幌 一粒庵 Sapporo Ramen Ichi Ryuu An

Ichi Ryuu An: "A Single Grain Shack". A generation 3 Sapporo restaurant, cooperating with Yashoku Ramen.

They're popular, they're hip, they're new. And worth an entry in the guide.

Ichi Ryuu An began in 2007, setting up in the basement food hall of an office building down the street from Sapporo Station. As such, getting to the place is extremely easy for the tourist, and since it's near the station which is filled with places for shopping and such, the incentive to be in the area is high. In terms of location, Ichi Ryuu An is a winner for sure.

However, the shop is somewhat hard to find, being in the basement level of an office building. Please look for a sign that looks like this:

Note: the colors will actually be in reverse, black lettering and a white background. But the script looks like this.

This shop specializes in miso ramen, particularly in something they call 元気のでるみそラーメン Genki no Deru Miso Ramen, which roughly translates to "Uplifting Miso Ramen".

It's called that because it includes extremely high end ingredients like 7 year aged miso, which includes special wild garlic found only in Hokkaido. These ingredients are supposedly good at giving you energy, and being medically beneficial. The concept is using high quality, healthy ingredients to make a high quality meal. The chef went to so far as to consult doctors on what foods were good for this task, in which he discovered not only this high quality Garlic, but also how to maximize its use.

This shows in the price; one bowl is a whopping 1000 yen.

At first this may seem to be a large negative point, but particularly, this shop has a lot of praise for it's food, especially that Uplifting Miso Ramen. As if this writing it has appeared on several TV shows including Tvh, STV, HTB, and HBC. Furthermore, it has a full page section in the Ramen 1000 book, and its average rating on Tabelog is 3.67/5, substantially high for a ramen restaurant. Tabelog has even been advertising the restaurant; if you search ramen in Hokkaido on that website, this shop appears first regardless of actual search results.

So let's take a look.

Despite not having any windows, being underground and all, the show is rather inviting. Nice dim mood lighting makes the place feel relaxed, comfortable, and contemporary. Warm wood counter tops and shades of brown on the walls further add to a very high end atmosphere. Still, the place is small, only 16 seats or so, which plays nicely on the overall feel of the shop.

Also it's a good example of Rule Three

Sit down, and order a bowl of Genki no Deru Miso Ramen, that Uplifting Miso Ramen. This is what Yashoku claims it looks like.

And this is what came when I ordered:

You can choose "futomen" (thick noodles) or "hosomen" (thin noodles). Thick noodles are a concept developed to pair well with Miso, they're Sapporo characteristic, and the chef recommended I go this way, so I chose thick.

Just based on looks, this ramen is amazingly appealing. Wonderful color contrasts, with the deep greens from the leafy arugula, the hint of red and bright yellow from the stir fried chili egg. The earthenware bowl is colorful but subtle, modern yet ancient. The color play is nice.

The key characteristic of this Uplifting Miso Ramen that makes it different from the normal Miso ramen on the menu is  this sort of egg/pork stir fry delight on top. I don't particularly know how to describe it, but the pork is tender and flavorful, and the egg is an interesting contemporary play on the soft boiled egg people frequently see on ramen. And it has chili slices for a bit of heat and color.

Overall, this is an extremely good bowl of Ramen. The noodles are well cooked, a wonderful dark golden color, the soup has interesting notes of garlic and onion along with the miso, and it's not overbearingly rich, but has just the right amount of fat content to be fulfilling. No crazy lard cap or anything. The toppings pair well with the noodles, and the portion is very good considering the price. With the chili's in the egg, I was expecting a bigger explosion of flavor in the soup, like a crash of garlic, herbs, spices, and miso, but the quality taste is still superb. The soup is quite complex and extremely interesting. The mellow garlic contrast is at times nice with the sharp arugula. It's certainly unique for miso ramen, and quite delicious.

For those hanging around the Sapporo Station, this is easily the best ramen shop in the area. I recommend this shop without question.

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Ramen Ichi Ryuu An
Monday- Saturday:
11:30 am - 3:00 pm. 5:00 pm - 9:00 pm.
Closed Sunday

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