When it comes to ramen, simply long, wheat based noodles slurped from giant bowls filled with a salty broth, all anyone in this town seems to know about is Monta, the iconic joint located in the Tokyo Plaza Mall. Without taking anything away from Monta, which is terrific, it is not the only place in town to experience a great bowl of ramen.
Ramen Sora-sora being the Japanese word for sky-is housed in a free-standing wood shack, the sort of place you still see between two skyscrapers in Tokyo’s posh districts, a phenomenon only possible because some crazy old Tokyo native refused an offer for $3 million dollars to sell his house for demolition. The restaurant specializes in ramen of a different sort, mainly that from Sapporo, the main city on Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido.
There are essentially three types of broth served here; shio, based on salt, miso, a piquant, milky, rich broth based on fermented soy bean, and shoyu, based on soy sauce and somehow even saltier than the shio ramen. The flavorful broths are slow-cooked for a rich flavor. What’s more, this ramen is chewy and thick, compared to Monta. Noodles are cooked strictly al dente here, so if you favor a softer noodle, this may not be for you.
I like my ramen deluxe here, which means topped with bamboo (menma), a hard-boiled egg, and slices of meltingly tender pork. I also like my broth spicy. Ramen Sora’s “can u handle it” is the spiciest soup in the restaurant, and I like the spices in a shoyu broth. I’m also addicted to shichimi, literally “seven peppers”, an incendiary red condiment that the restaurant supplies every table with. All of the ramen dishes here are under ten dollars if you don’t ask them to supersize your bowl, which they do, for an extra coupla bucks.
There’s more to eat here than ramen, but not much more. There are, of course, gyoza, a quintet of crisp boat shaped, meat filled dumplings, rather like Chinese pot stickers, if you subtract the grease. There is also edamame, green soy beans you pop from shells, and something called chashu rice bowl, essentially just sauced chunks of pork in sauce, on top of steamed Japanese short grain rice laced with chopped green onion.
I love to come here and eat simply, a bowl of ramen, some gyoza, and a towering glass of Kirin Ichiban, one of the world’s best beers, imho. The only thing I don’t like about the place is the hours. They close every night at 11 p.m., an hour when Japanese pubs like Ichiza-an izakaya (sake pub with small plates) across the street-is just getting started.
Did I mention that the broths here are shot through with garlic? I thought not. You won’t be in the mood for a late date after you wolf down a bowl of this stuff, unless you have a very tolerant significant other.
Ramen Sora, 4490 Spring Mountain Rd. 685-1011.
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