Ramen Suzuran, Ebisu, “It was like a religious experience!”

The quote is from a friend of mine who visited.  Suzuran is small, just 11 counter seats.  Its decor is finished to a high standard unlike many Ramenyas.  Lighting is warm and the room is nicely air conditioned.  From this alone it comes across differently from your traditional Ramenya.  The pricing too is above average.  Still for those who pilgrimage here the quality is exceptional.

In fact, Suzuran began in Shibuya about thirty years.  Known for its home made men (noodles) it had a strong following and a fairly ordinary menu.  It was when it moved to Ebisu that Suzuran really blossomed.  The menu was upgraded significantly and took in new styles.  Not haphazardly though, with a keen respect for the new dishes they took on.  Gone was Shio Ramen, Miso Ramen.  In came Donabe Mabou Men, Kuri Tan Tan Men and others.

The attention to detail at Suzuran is wonderful and presentation is given an appropriate amount of respect, including some dishes with height and bowls reminiscent of a fancy French restaurant. Even on their simplest dish of Chukamen, care was taken to add some crazily tasty powdered scallop and pork, just hidden under the shredded negi.  The Kaku Ni Men, where the braised pork belly comes on a side plate, is perhaps their signature dish and you won’t find better Kaku Ni than this.  The noodles, home made, are predominantly a Hosomen, which keeps its Hagotai (al-dente texture) perfectly the time it takes to eat it.  The soup stock is clear and a mix of the sea and the land.  Most of the menu is Shoyu based but their specials offer plenty of off the beaten track choices.  The flavours are strong and powerful in all the dishes.  Suzuran really offers you something to feast your eyes and taste buds on.

In terms of atmosphere my friends’ quote catches the mood.  The place is quiet and church like.  There is no “Irashaimase!” screamed out as you walk in.  People tend to eat quietly and you rarely see big groups.  Weekends and some evenings you may have to order a drink too.  If you do and you like Yuzu, the Yuzushu is phenomenal.  You might like to add just a splash of water as the Yuzu flavour is very powerful.

If you know Ramen culture in Japan you will immediately feel the difference between this place and the rest.  This is a celebration of a staple, that elevates it to a higher level.  You can only applaud the owners who took the time to really reconsider what Ramen can be.  No need to recommend a dish at this place. They are all wonderful.  Unfortunately no photos.

Masa’s Kitchen 47, Ebisu, lunch with friends.

Masa’s Kitchen 47, hidden away in a basement at the back of Ebisu is a lovely Sichuan chinese restaurant run by Masa.  The decor is modern a little cool but very well done.  There is an imposing marble counter behind which is the kitchen, bustling with chefs and the clatter of the woks.

The lunch menu is simple a short course menu or a choice of a series of different noodle or rice sets.  The sets come with truly divine Shoronpou, served with black vinegar and finely julienned ginger.  Pricing is around 2000 Yen or a litle under, which for Tokyo might feel pricey, but diner here is at least 10,000 Yen.

The food is predictably spicy, but not pure heat.  The chef has taken care to make it rightly spicy.  The use of Sichuan peppers and Chillies leave a very harmonious tingle in the mouth.  The food feels authentic and there are some lovely details.  The Mabou rice comes in a clay pot, which when served is puffing steam as if a dragon was caged inside.  The Okoge at the bottom must be something to relish.  The small soup and the two small amuse-bouche included just take the lunch up a level and make this a lovely lunch spot.

img_20160907_120932
Beef Tendon Ramen

It would probably be wise to book, if you decide to go.  Queues have been witnessed before and it fills up quickly.  On the basis of a couple of lunch visits, Masa’s is likely to be a decent diner spot too.  Hopefully a pleasure to be had in the future.

Stall, Nakameguro, Simple lunch plate & nice decor

In a somewhat off the beaten track place, all the way up the Meguro river, is an old converted warehouse.  On the ground floor is Stall a cafe/restaurant.  This place is great for a quiet easy lunch.

Stall, Nakameguro
Stall, Nakameguro
Linen, flowers and wood
Linen, flowers and wood

Food is western.  The menu limited but adequate, a Salad, a Deli plate, choice of two Pasta dishes or a Meat dish.  The lunches come with soup, bread and coffee or tea.  I plumped for the Deli Plate with 5 salads; a nice green salad with vinaigrette, sweet potato quiche, non traditional Tabouleh, carrot rapée, and a small piece of grilled chicken.  The soup was a nice little pumpkin soup. The bread basket of lightly toasted brown bread and the coffee were both of a good standard. The food is very acceptable, not extraordinary, but above par.  For 1200 Yen there are certainly no grumbles.

Pumpkin soup starter
Pumpkin soup starter
Deli salad plate
Deli salad plate
Coffee to finish off
Coffee to finish off

However it is the interior decor and spaciousness that tip this place over into the worthwhile.  Being what I assume is a warehouse conversion, the ceiling is nice and high.  The tables are large, with plenty of space around them.  The large windows on this sunny day made the room very bright and the quality of the interior design, the furniture, the linen napkins, the heavy set tumbler for water just gave it all a little “Je ne sais quoi”.  I would be tempted to come back of an evening to see what the cocktails are like.

So treat yourself to a nice stroll along the Meguro river.  Lunch at Stall, followed by a walk back popping into a few of the small designer clothes shops. It will be an afternoon well spent.

Introduction

Dear Reader,

Welcome to Tokyo Food Odyssey.  Tokyo is a lovely place for many reasons but food is surely one of the top draws.  From the raw to the cooked, the sweet to the savoury, the street food to the Michelin starred meccas, the Japanese to the foreign, it is a perfect place for a gastronomical odyssey.

This Blog will give the curious a little eye into the world of food in Tokyo.  For those lucky enough to be here on holiday or living, hopefully it will inspire you to explore some of the off the beaten track eateries or less well know dishes that can be found.  More than anything you can expect to find restaurant and food reviews.  You will also find a few recipes and diatribes about etiquette, authenticity, shop design, and ambience.  Happy reading!

 

A couple of Epcicurean Tokyoites