Tuesday, August 3, 2010

札幌ラーメン零 Sapporo Ramen Zero

There are a variety of toppings ramen shops like to put on their dishes, called "Gu" 具. They range from bamboo shoots to sliced onions, and of course the infamously delicious roasted pork called Chashu.

In Sapporo, usually this roasted pork is only a part of the whole meal.

Except at Sapporo Ramen Zero. Zero has pork. An insane amount of pork.

Interestingly enough, the Calligraphy symbol there means "Zero", and since zero as a word was imported into the Japanese lexicon, the kanji itself can be read as Zero, rather than the Japanese concept of "nothingness"

I have to admit something before we begin; Zero was the first ramen shop I visited in Sapporo, so I suppose there is some bias in my analysis of this shop.

Anyways. Zero is a pork legend. Their ramen is renown for the massive chashu slow cooked pork they serve on top, approximately 3.5 ounces/100grams of pork steak per order. Considering basically all other shops have less than a single tiny slice, this is a huge selling point that Zero certainly doesn't hide.

Zero is actually an experimental shop owned by the semi-chain Barikiya, which is known for selling Kyushu style ramen. So what does a Kyushu style store know about appealing to the more Sapporo style of ramen?

Apparently a bit. Zero has been written about in quite a few books based on this massive pork steak they serve. But despite the publicity, this shop's reviews are fairly average, mostly due to the tsuke-men (noodles you dip into a separate bowl of soup) craze currently sweeping Sapporo.

Which brings me to rule 4.

4. Order the shop's specialty; avoid trends and "limited time" gimmicks.

This may seem like an obvious rule, but regardless, I believe it to be true. Frequently a shop will attempt to boost sales by jumping on a food bandwagon so to speak. Sometimes this has good results, but frequently, a shop with a distinct style attempting to cross over elsewhere fails. Stick to what the shop is known for. In this case, this is the pork.

Zero is located in Tanuki Kouji. As I've explained earlier, this is pretty much one of the best spots shops can pick for tourism and business. Excellent.

Furthermore, Zero has a ticket machine, and the Barikiya Company is working on English menus. Also excellent for the tourist.

The inside of the shop is nice. Fairly small, 16 seats, 8 of which are composed of 2 tables. Dark wood tables and walls, shades of red and brown on the walls. Pretty standard. But we're here for the bowl. So here it is.

Oh... oh boy I didn't expect it to be so massive. Pork comes with all 3 main types of Ramen, Salt, Soy Sauce, and Miso, however, the Miso is recommended by guidebooks.

The pork here is massive. It totally dominates the dish. 100 grams, they weren't kidding!
The pork is made with a combination of slow cooking and fast flash broiling at the end. It tastes, well. Amazing. It's easily the best roasted pork in Sapporo.That's all I can really say about it. It's succulent, rich, with just a hint of char and crisp, and totally flavorful. Amazing stuff.

Unfortunately, such ramen will cost you a bit of cash. Be prepared to spend anywhere from 750-1000 yen for a bowl. But such is the price for godly pork.

You'll notice however, that this analysis isn't really about the actual dish overall. The reason for that is rather unfortunate: the pork totally overplays the ramen itself. By comparison, the noodles and soup can't even come close. The ramen is good no doubt, actually above average if anything; the noodles are well cooked, thick, yellow, curly, and the soup has some interesting components, a little bit of sweet, and caramel notes float through the savory miso. But there's a reason this shop has a 3.1/5 among eaters: the actual dish feels like it has too much emphasis on the pork, and not on the overall dish.

For the meat lover, you pretty much can't beat Zero. Honestly. The roasted pork here destroys just about any pork period. It's that good. But as a ramen dish, some of the components can't keep up with the insanity that is Zero's Chashu. Which isn't totally fair; since the pork is so unbelievably good and huge, it's hard to imagine anything could even match it. But this is Sapporo Ramen, not Sapporo Pork; these characteristics have to be taken into consideration as well.

Can't forget about the noodles and soup!

If you're around Tanuki Kouji, this is certainly a viable option. This is pretty much a viable option any time if you like meat.

View Larger Map

札幌ラーメン零 Sapporo Ramen Zero
11:00am-10:00 pm
Closed Tuesdays


No comments:

Post a Comment