Wednesday, August 11, 2010

麺屋彩未 Menya Saimi

Any entry in food about Sapporo cannot be without Menya Saimi, its popularity is... obscene to be perfectly honest.

Saimi is a miso ramen restaurant that opened only about 10 years ago in the "Ramen Warzone" known as the Toyohira district of Sapporo. They boomed immediately, and to put it bluntly, are the most popular miso ramen restaurant in all of Sapporo. They have souvenirs, amazing online ratings, even ramen you can purchase in the super market. Saimi is a great success, hands down.

This is particularly interesting when we take a look at the sign.

The sign says "Saimi, from Sumire"

Sumire?? This Sumire?? The legends??

Yes. Apparently the owner had worked in Sumire prior to making his own shop. You can assume then that he attempts to take a more modern approach to Miso, and in turn step away from some of the more old school variants.

The popularity of this restaurant is ridiculous. It has an astounding 4/5 on Tabelog, officially ranking it one of the highest ranked restaurants, yes restaurants, not just ramen shops, in Hokkaido.

So we've just blown past Sapporo. That's pretty noteworthy by any standard. Other rating websites agree, and Saimi is always at the very least mentioned in some form of guidebook.

This popularity shows; expect to wait anywhere for 15-30 minutes, as there is always a line. I personally went on a Sunday and waited 30 minutes.

Out of the door...

And through the shop

The shop is so popular that the train station nearby actually lists directions on which exit to take to more easily access the shop. Just as you get off the Misono stop on the blue line, you'll see the sign.

Critics rave about how it takes the deep flavor of Junsumi style, but without the heavy richness and lard cap, a balance between light and heavy, perfect composition. Homemade noodles and fresh ground ginger complete the dish. Honestly, everyone says good things about this place.

Which honestly worries me. Why are the only negative comments about the wait? Is there such a thing as over hype?

It's possible.

This is Saimi's legendary bowl. The top rated, undisputed loved Miso Ramen.

It's... well. It's really good. As expected. I can't pick anything wrong with it. Even the way it looks is lovely, bright green, pink, yellow. popping out. The noodles are thick and curly and cooked perfectly, two types of wonderfully cooked pork, with a subtle sting of ginger in the mellow, complex soup. A touch of sweet, not overly salty, just right. Portion is ample as well. It's totally obvious why this shop is so popular. It's good.

But... a 30 minute wait for a bowl of 750 yen ramen? Let alone in far away Toyohira district. For the tourist, this may be extremely off putting; imagine going so far out of your way for food, only to be forced to wait. This isn't high class dining; it's still a ramen shop after all. Ramen is supposed to be fast.

It makes me wonder if the rating isn't just pumped up by consumer euphoria.

Furthermore, I can't overlook the issue with their ridiculous hours, which frequently include closing randomly for no reason. The fact that Saimi can pull off such wild business hours is certainly interesting however, but for the tourist, it may be weary.

But, to be honest, the experience in itself is unquestionably remarkable. I've never seen a place so packed. It's clearly hit home with Japanese people as being absolutely delicious. For those feeling like going on an adventure, this is the spot.

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Menya Saimi
11:00am-3:15pm 5:00 pm- 7:30
Closed Mondays and two times randomly per month.


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