Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bon no Kaze 凡の風

Shio, salt ramen, as a concept is usually overlooked. It is the simplest flavor of ramen, usually just a chicken broth with nice noodles. It's easy to see how this could be boring to the palate in contrast to strong, pungent miso or creamy pork bone. Shio isn't about smacking you in the face with flavor, it's simple, clean and light. Indeed, Shio is by far the healthiest ramen you can eat, as it contains far less fat or calories than the others.

Naturally, shio's dragging popularity has obvious reasons; to the newer generation of rich fatty flavor loving teens, the old world style of shio doesn't hold up.

But there's a restaurant keeping Shio in the culinary spotlight, and that's Bon no Kaze, 凡の風.

"Wind of Mediocrity". I am not making this up.

Bon no Kaze is a ramen restaurant who was recently discovered by Yashoku, the legendary Sapporo ramen shipping company that sells top quality newcomer ramen shop product across Japan. They specialize in Shio ramen.

We can infer then, that this is a relatively new restaurant. It's got a remarkably good rating on Tabelog, around 3.6/5.

The outside exterior is kind of... strange. The shop is contemporary, but looks imbedded into the side of an apartment building. It's almost like a mix between super old school ramen shacks, and new world ramen emporiums.

The interior is more fitting. Warm, dark wood, glass sculpture, and the kitchen is surrounded on almost all sides by chairs. It really shows off the ramen making process, which was certainly time consuming.

Again, something about old world meets new here. I like it though. A pretty nice look thus far.

But let's take a look at the namesake dish; shio ramen. Yashoku claims it will look like this.

My photo, by the way, does not do this dish justice in terms of looks.

This thing is incredible looking. The soup is a shocking, bright gold color, but absolutely clear, which plays well with the curly, semi-thick noodles. The small droplets of fat on the surface glimmer like gold flakes, and all the toppings compliment the bright, intense color of the soup. This is honestly a gorgeous bowl of noodles

The taste, on the other hand, is confounding. Initially it's kind of simple, a basic, strong chicken stock, with classic onion notes. But then it starts to get more complex as you continue to eat. Hints of garlic oil and ginger pass on the nose, a bit of shitake earthiness, maybe a little bonito smoke, all the while mantaining a sort of "grandma's chicken noodle soup" feel.

I don't totally get it, because on one hand it's deceptively simple feeling, noodles and chicken broth really, but at the same time, I feel like the dish is based on incredible restraint and skill. Just hinting enough complexity in each variable to make the soup interesting. You keep drinking it because, "wait, did I just taste garlic? Was that a bit of carrot?" sits in your brain after each sip. Making the soup so ridiculously pigmented and crystal clear, but holding back on obtrusive levels of herbs or spices.

The noodles are surprisingly Sapporo style, classic wavy yellow, perfectly cooked of course. Chashu is good. Egg was good. Nori was a nice touch, and looked incredible. Bamboo shoots were thick and substantial. No problems on Gu.

I suppose then, that this restaurant really is like a combination of old and new world ramen. It has the classic, simple, filling ideas of old world, while also showing incredible technique and craft.

I loved this ramen. It was eye opening, especially for a bowl of Shio Ramen.

This may be one of the best bowls of Shio Ramen you can find. Shio is easily the healthiest ramen out there, so for those who are a bit conscious of the diet, this would be a good choice.

It's a little hard to get to for the tourist; you'll need to take a train and then a tram, but... well... it's really good.


View Larger Map

11:00 am - 8:00 pm, or until soup runs out.
Closed on Wednesday, and national holidays.