Wednesday, August 11, 2010

麺 eiji, Men eiji

There is one Ramen Shop doing things so very differently from everyone else to the greatest recognition. Number 4 on Tabelog in all of Japan, the best ramen shop in Hokkaido. It has the guidebook love, the reviews, even a deal with Yashoku.

The NAME, is 麺 eiji. Men Eiji. Noodle Infant... er... yeah.

This tinsy tiny shop is located in the Toyohira "Ramen Warzone" district of Sapporo, which makes sense considering its wild popularity.

Currently the shop has a 4.02/5 rating, which just barely scrapes by other fan favorite "Menya Saimi".  However, it doesn't seem very fair to compare the two, one specializes in Miso, the other in something called "Seafood Pork bone Broth", a combination of fish stock and pork stock.

There's one thing you notice as soon as you walk in though. Not the small size (about 8 seats), or how the shop was completely full just 10 minutes into service. Nope, none of those things.

Everything is pink. Everything. The counter wood is a light shade of pink, the walls, the seats. Everything is in a shade of pink. (Pardon my less than wonderful camera)

Even the chopstick holders and napkin boxes.

So... pink huh? I assume this is because the word "Eiji" can mean infant, though I really have no idea. Yes I translated it that earlier, but the word "Eiji" on the sign is written in Roman characters, so the meaning is truly unknown. But the place is pink. Certainly a unique characteristic by any regard.

Like many Ramen shops, both popular and not, you order with a vending machine style device. Insert your money, push the appropriate button for the type of ramen you want, and a ticket comes out. You hand said ticket to the cooks, they make your food, and you're good to go. Slurp your noodles, enjoy your meal, and no tip or extra cash to pay.

Eiji is currently known for one of two things, it's tsukemen (dipping noddles) and its Seafood Pork bone broth Ramen. Today we will focus on the Ramen of course. It goes for 850 yen. This is what came.

There's a lot of good to say about this bowl of noodles. It comes with raw diced onions, long onions, hand made noodles, slow roasted pork, and that dark orange jelly like stuff, which is collagen. The broth is rich but not overly thick. The noodles are house hand made, which like any restaurant that sells noodles, is rare, and they are perfect, slightly eggy, just cooked right. The pork is tender, but not totally fall apart mushy like some, it's maintained it's texture. The raw onions are sharp, kind of a nice bite in comparison to the smooth mellow soup, which brings thoughts of gravy to be honest. It's complex and deep, and very satisfying.

That dark collagen, which tastes like pork essence, slowly melts into the soup, making it even richer and delivering a crazy mouth feel.

In a word, it's a very very good bowl of noodles. I can easily see why it has the #1 spot. Everything about this is surprisingly unique and quite lovely. I would refrain from saying however, that it is the best shop in Sapporo, this is a title very hard to merely give away after all. But make no mistake, Eiji will not disappoint.

For the tourist then, this may certainly be worth a look. However, the unique flavor profile might not match up with some of the less adventurous eaters; to them, classics like miso may be easier. But this is clearly top grade culinary stuff. 

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Men Eiji:
11:00am-3:00pm, 6:00pm-8:30pm
Closed 3 Tuesdays a month, Closed Wednesday.


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