Most if not all of the Ramen covered this far has been Miso. While this makes sense - Miso Ramen was invented and perfected in Sapporo - we should not discredit the other two main flavors, Soy Sauce and Salt.
Perhaps the reason that the other two are less focused on is merely because of the ambiguity of their use. Soy sauce, and especially salt ramen, can have all sorts of flavor; if anything these ingredients merely compliment the broth. In this case, the broth is the star.
After all, what does it really mean to be salt broth? That can taste like just about anything. Chicken, fish, pork, bonito, vegetable even. Depending on what else you add to the soup, the flavor can change so dramatically, it's hard to even classify all Salt ramen or Soy Sauce ramen as the same category.
By contrast, miso is a specific, complex flavor. When we eat miso, we expect at the least to taste miso as a flavor. This is not usually the case for Soy Sauce and Salt.
Except at Hotarubi. Hotarubi does Soy Sauce ramen rather differently.
Hotarubi's Soy Sauce ramen is specific in it's uniqueness for... tasting like soy sauce.
If you can't imagine soy sauce tasting like much of anything, well, this shop will change that for you.
Just off of the Hachiken 八軒 JR train stop, Hotarubi opened fairly recently to positive reviews, spinning the concept of Soy Sauce to focus on... the soy sauce.
As of today however, Hotarubi's rating currently sits at around 3.1/5. This make some sense, as this website claims their ramen is reminiscent of Junsumi style, and this is a fairly polarizing, old world style. Most Sapporo dwellers tend to enjoy less rich styles (though your palate and mine may certainly be different), and thus the rating reflects this.
But a 3.1 rating? Seems fairly low.
To be honest, I don't have much information about this store beyond that it opened just in 2006, and they specialize in rich ramen, which is the shop owner's preference. Since the ramen book I found the store in, "One Day One Noodle 2", recommended the soy sauce ramen, I figured this was the way to go.
So let's take a look.
Right off the bat, we notice the insane color. This is a dark bowl of ramen; it looks like it has been steeped in soy sauce. I thought the color was remarkable, and rather unique, though certainly not black miso unique.
The soy sauce flavor is quite potent, which is pretty impressive. This honestly tastes like... soy sauce. It's actually appealing to me at least; it has a sort of old world soup feel to it, with a concentrated, yet fairly simple flavor. However, this soy sauce focus also means it has a good amount of salt; I would be silly to suggest that this bowl of ramen isn't salty. Still, I wouldn't say it was an unbearable amount. The soup, as it seems, is certainly rich; it has a good bit of oil on the surface, which helps cut some of the powerful taste of the broth. I had no problem drinking some of the broth, though I did feel guilty at times. Toppings were good but not incredible. Noodles were thin style and well cooked and don't fall to the soup. The bowl was quite good, and leaves a rather interesting impression.
All meals come with complimentary 杏仁豆腐, Annindoufu, or Almond Tofu Pudding, which is an excellent compliment to the savory, salty, rich ramen. Sweet, milky, and a good way to end the meal.
To put it bluntly, if you love soy sauce, then this shop is for you, without exception. Soy sauce as a single component being highlighted in ramen is rare, and this may be the only shop to do it in Sapporo with any sort of prowess. Otherwise, considering its location, the appeal of this bowl doesn't climb high enough to urge anyone to go out of their way for it.
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ほたる火 Hotarubi, Firefly's Light
Mon-Sat: 11:00am-3:30pm, 5:00pm-9:00pm