30 2013 Dec

Entering the City of Ramen

Japan, SapporoTagged bus, gyoza, locals, miso, rad brothers, ramen, ramen alley, wok

After our wonderful lunch it was off to Sapporo, the second destination of my trip. It was a bit of a mystery how we got there since there was a mix up on our bus ride. Our pick up was at an adjacent hotel and when a driver came in around the time we were expecting pick-up (there were several buses that came and went), the driver said he wasn’t there for us. This was troubling given the schedule. The 4pm shuttle, our shuttle, was the last one for the day. We talked to the clerk who called the bus line and within a minute of departure, we were on the bus that was supposedly not our bus. Go figure. And even more surprising, we were the first to be let off. Wonder if they made an exception for us.

Anyways, we checked into the Sapporo Excel Hotel Tokyu. A good hotel, but no One Niseko Resort Towers. Still, it was big enough for two beds and a sitting area in front of the TV. I won’t complain about that since most hotels in Japan were much smaller. Who cares anyways, we weren’t staying in.

It was off to this so-called Ramen Alley. A mythical sounding place where bowls of delightful noodles sing songs of beauty to lure you into its trap. Bam! An eternity of slurping one endless ramen noodle until the end of time. Muhahaha. Wait. This may be heaven to some of us. And actually, this place sorta was, especially for the ramen affectionado. There are two alleys and we only found the newer one. It had about ten ramen shops all peddling their own version of this meal. We didn’t do any research before hand so we went with the one with the best pictures and a place that wasn’t empty. We ended up at Toraya Shokudo toward the middle of the alley. It’s small like the other shops, seating about six people at a time. And when we ordered, the chef did something I wasn’t used to, he fired up the wok. I must not know how ramen was made, but I always thought everything was boiled. Silly me. What I’ll learn later was that this brings out the individual tastes. Something that will turn me into a junky. More about that later.

Toraya Shokudo
Somewhere in Ramen Alley

Verdict: Most likely will skip next time around.

After our meal, we went for some drinks at Rad Brothers. An expat bar which didn’t resemble expat bars in other major cities. There were far fewer foreigners than we expected. In fact, our presence doubled the number of foreigners there. Yay? Well, we ended up meeting some really cool locals who gave us the 411 on places to go and eat. This is how I gauge “getting to know a city” and that’s through it’s people. Hurrah!

Sidewalks of Sapporo

There's such a eerie calm walking through these slippery streets. Almost deadly. Winter's at a hush waiting to see if you'd have an accident on the icy streets. I've almost bit it several times being distracted by scenes like this. "Pay attention to where you're walking fool."

Streets of Sapporo

Even with all the snow, the cabs scour the streets looking for patrons. I swear this place has the highest cab to pedestrian ratio in the world. And most of them are sitting on the curb waiting. Some of the drivers even are sleeping in this madness. Crazy people.

Ramen Alley

Not the best picture, but hopefully it's a decent reference. We walked down the wrong alley earlier wondering it were the place. Not it. You need this neon sign and the groups of people searching for a meal to know you're in the right place.

Miso Ramen @Toraya Shokudo

I got the normal ramen to start off my binge. Not bad, but not good enough to satiate my desires. Even worse, it probably kicked my appetite into gear being a good, but boring bowl of soup. My expectations of this place were high. Pork was alright, eggs were done perfectly, noodles were the right consistency, and broth was adequate. Is this the start of ramen snobbery? ¥800JPY

Ox Impressions: 

Spicy Miso Ramen @Toraya Shokudo

Here's the ramen my buddy got. I forgot to ask how he liked it. But guessing that both of us didn't have much to say about our food, kinda meant the same thing. We were just okay with our meals. ¥800JPY

Ox Impressions: 

Gyoza @Toraya Shokudo

What a great price for a wonderful side dish. Probably the only compliment I'm willing to splurge when it comes to a bowl of ramen. Split between two people, these are perfect. ¥400JPY

Ox Impressions: 

The Perfect Gyoza @Toraya Shokudo

I may be exhagerrating or maybe I haven't been havin good gyoza back in the states, but to me, this place made me reconsider the gyoza and a must have. This was perfectly crisped on the bottom while leaving the rest light and delicate. Man, if only the ramen left that sort of mental scar.

Ox Impressions: 

The OxPosted December 30, 2013 By the hungry ox


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