Tag Archives: japanese food

The best Japanese ramen in Seoul at Ittengo

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The Tonkotsu Ramen at Ittengo, a Japanese ramen restaurant in Hapjeong, Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

For months, my friends and I have been obsessing over Ittengo, a small Japanese ramen shop located in a hip dining neighborhood near Hapjeong station. Day after day, rain or shine, the line of customers waiting to dine at Ittengo never seemed to get shorter. We pressed our faces up against the restaurant’s small windows like stray cats trying to see what made this food so special.

After watching dozens of people brave Seoul’s humid summer nights and, later, the freezing winter ones just to eat some of this ramen… We knew we had to try it. And, finally, we did.

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The minimalist facade of Ittengo in Hapjeong. SCREAMfmLondon

There was, of course, a long wait when we eventually made it to Ittengo. And, of course, it was extremely cold out. But, at this restaurant, you write your name and your full order on the list out front, so you can kill some of that wait time deciding what to eat.

Ittengo is known for its special basil-based broth that comes out a kind of algae green color, but this was unfortunately all sold out when we dined there. There are three types of ramen served at Ittengo, all given animal names in Japanese depending on the broth’s color. Kitsune (wolf) is the lightest, a traditional tonkotsu ramen (7,000 KRW). Next on the list is the Midori Kame (green turtle), which is the aforementioned basil pesto-infused ramen (10,000 KRW). And last is the Kayomasa (red tiger), which is the spicy ramen (8,000 KRW).

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Ittengo’s Kitsune (wolf) ramen, named after its light-colored broth. SCREAMfmLondon

Once your party is taken inside and seated, the ramen is served almost immediately. The restaurant’s intimate set-up is, I’m sure, a main reason for the lengthy wait. The dining room is comprised of just one central table around which all of the customers sit and eat together. The room is dimly lit, and the counter is sprinkled with candles and small knick-knacks.

Another reason for the wait is, obviously, because the ramen is delicious. It’s absolutely the best Japanese ramen I’ve had in Seoul. The pork bone broth is beautifully rich and flavorful. The noodles are thin and mixed with green onions, served with tasty slices of braised pork belly on top. Every bite is excellent, and every element of this dish is done perfectly. Peppers covered in yuzu juice are served on the side to contrast the strong savory flavors of the ramen.

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Amazing thin ramen noodles at Ittengo in Hapjeong. SCREAMfmLondon

Ittengo
11 Poeun-ro, Mapo-gu
Hours: daily from 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. Closed on Sundays.

Food: Ichiran Ramen in Shibuya

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Fantastic ramen at Ichiran in Shibuya, Tokyo. SCREAMfmLondon

Ichiran is the perfect restaurant for someone like me who likes to travel alone and eat delicious food at all hours without having to interact with mankind. This 24-hour Japanese ramen chain is famous for its tasty dishes and private, one-person booths in the dining area.

You can spot Ichiran’s Shibuya location from down the block because of the long line that winds up the narrow staircase and spills out onto the street. It moves moderately quickly as you inch your way closer to the red cloth signs hanging over the door.

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The ominous entryway to Ichiran. SCREAMfmLondon

Once inside the foyer, you insert money into a vending machine and make your initial ramen selection. The machine dispenses change and prints out a ticket.

While you wait for a seat to open up, you will fill out a worksheet about all the exact specifications of your desired bowl of ramen. The worksheet is super detailed and even offers suggestions, which I mostly took: medium-strength flavor, medium richness (oil content), regular garlic, green onion, sliced pork, half a serving of Ichiran’s original red sauce, and medium firmness for the noodles.

When a seat is available, you’re lead into the dining area. This is the best part. I love this set-up. I feel like every restaurant should be like this.

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The private ramen-eating booth for one at Ichiran in Shibuya, Tokyo. SCREAMfmLondon

Each diner is seated in an individual cubicle with high wooden walls separating you from the diners beside you and a thick bamboo curtain separating you from the kitchen staff. It’s just you and the ramen. When you’re ready to order, you ring a bell and slide your order sheet under the curtain. When the food is ready, they slide it back under. You never even see the chef’s face. It’s wild, and I love it!

There’s a little spout in the cubicle from which you can pour your own ice water, and you can even order extra noodles if you still have broth left after you finish.

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It’s so beautiful. SCREAMfmLondon

Have I mentioned that I love this restaurant? Because I love this. The ramen was delicious. The medium richness was perfectly spot-on, and the noodles and pork were tasty and flavorful. I wish I had gone a little stronger on flavor and definitely on the red sauce, which was not noticeably spicy. I would make some alterations to my ramen requests and add a soft-boiled egg next time, but Ichiran is certainly customizable enough. And all for about 800 JPY.

So private. So atmospheric. And nobody was there to see when I somehow dipped my hair in the broth. It was perfect.

Food: Angels Heart in Harajuku

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Angels Heart crêpes in Harajuku, Tokyo. SCREAMfmLondon

Crêpes are big in Tokyo, and there are about a million crêperies along Takeshita Street, one of Harajuku’s most popular pedestrian-only shopping streets. The foot traffic on Takeshita is so intense that there’s little room for actual movement, so the small restaurants and side streets are essential for a quick escape from the crowds.

Angels Heart is a crêperie located on the corner of one such side street, which provides a nice reprieve from the chaos of the main drag. There was periodically a line, but it went quite quickly.

Angels Heart serves a variety of freshly-made crêpes (both sweet and savory) with your choice of fillings. The girl in front of me definitely ordered some sort of leafy green crêpe filling, but I went with banana, chocolate and cheesecake for around 500 JPY. It was prepared quickly and served wrapped in a sturdy, pink paper cone. The entire side street is lined with people chillin’, eatin’ crêpes, and I was happy to join them.

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Banana, chocolate and cheesecake in one great crêpe. SCREAMfmLondon

The street is on a slight incline, so it provides a good vantage point from which you can do some great people-watching. While I was hanging out, I heard lots of shouting and clanging coming from the main street as several groups of men dressed in short robes pushed their way through the shoppers carrying some sorts of altars on their shoulders. I assume it had something to do with the Mid-Autumn Festival, Tsukimi, that was going on around the same time as the lunar eclipse during the last week of September.

But who knows.

At any rate, the crêpe was delicious: the slice of cheesecake was solid, the chocolate syrup was plentiful, the whipped cream was cool while the crêpe itself was warm. What more do you need? Angels Heart is a sweet spot to stop by when you become overwhelmed by the crowds in Harajuku.

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The view of Takeshita Street during Tsukimi 2015. SCREAMfmLondon

Food: Sushiro in Yeonsu-gu

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Sushiro at the Square 1 shopping mall in Yeonsu-gu. SCREAMfmLondon

Sushiro is my favorite restaurant in the Yeonsu Square 1 shopping mall. It is a Japanese chain — the first overseas Sushiro was opened in Seoul in 2011. I love conveyer belt sushi mainly for the privacy of the high booths and (surprise!) the lack of human interaction it requires.

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Squid with wasabi. That’ll wake you right up. SCREAMfmLondon

The most popular types of sushi are prepared behind a glass window at the back of the restaurant and then sent on their way past the tables on a rotating shelf. If you see something delicious, you grab it off the shelf as it passes your table.

The different plate colors signify different prices, but it’s all pretty reasonably priced — even if you eat excessively, as I do.

If you’re not seeing anything that appeals to you, you can order specific dishes using a touchscreen menu fastened above the table.

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The gang’s all here. SCREAMfmLondon

Everything I’ve had at Sushiro has been delicious, which differs wildly from my experience with other conveyer belt sushi restaurants. Usually, the fish is poor quality and the freshness is very doubtful when it’s been going around and around the room on the little belt all night. But Sushiro’s dishes are always freshly prepared and tasty.

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Delicious sushi comes down the conveyer belt faster than you can eat it. SCREAMfmLondon

I always have several orders of the butter octopus: two pieces of nigiri that are warm and savory, covered in delectable buttery goodness. I am also a fan of the fried eel and the wide variety of salmon.

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Octopus with butter: the best. SCREAMfmLondon

Sushiro also offers some more unusual dishes: rice topped with egg, beef, corn, something that looks like old meatloaf? But I can’t bring myself to try them even for novelty when the rest of the sushi is so good.

Convenient, scrumptious and private: Sushiro is definitely one of my favorite restaurants in Incheon for obvious reasons.

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Deep-fried scallops. SCREAMfmLondon

Food: Mizu shingen mochi ‘water cake’

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Mizu shingen mochi aka. “water cake” is this summer’s trendiest dessert. This strawberry-flavored cake was served in Myeongdong. SCREAMfmLondon

Have you ever found yourself thinking, “The problem with desserts is that they’re just too corporeal”? Have you been longing for a more abstract — perhaps even metaphysical — after-dinner treat?

Well, the search is over. It’s only a matter of time before you’ll come across this year’s most conceptual dessert trend: the Japanese water cake.

Mizu shingen mochi originated in the Japanese Alps, but it’s been gaining popularity worldwide this summer.

The cakes are round, translucent variations on the traditional mochi rice cakes, and they’re usually served with sugary syrup and kinako soybean powder on the side.

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Japanese-style water cakes for sale in Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

While last year, the croissant-donut hybrid cronut had customers lined up outside Dominique Ansel’s New York bakery for hours and hours, these water cakes have customers trekking out to Yamanashi Prefecture (a two-hour drive from Tokyo), where they climb a mountain before reaching the hour-long line to order a dessert. And, like the cronut, the mizu shingen mochi is specifically trademarked to one owner: the Kinseiken Seika Company.

Legend has it these special water cakes are jellies made using solidified water from one specific source on Mount Kaikoma and are so delicate that they’ll only retain their shape for about 30 minutes at room temperature. Although, now that they’ve reached the likes of Seoul and Orange County, Calif., I’m going to surmise that the process is a little less special and a little more like the making of Jello Jigglers.

The cakes are pretty cool to look at — but they’re kind of just gelatin in a fancy outfit. The soybean powder is the best part, adding a much-needed punch of texture and flavor to the relatively tasteless treat.

Water cakes are worth a try for the novelty, but nothing to get worked up about.

Food: Korean burgers, street food and more

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Crispy Korean fried chicken is one of the finer things in life. This popular street food is a cup filled with popcorn chicken, tater tots and fried rice cakes covered in sweet and spicy sauces. SCREAMfmLondon

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“Texas” burger at Brown Grill in the COEX Mall leaves a lot to be desired. Neither the hamburger patty nor the cheese tastes quite right, and it’s bathed in spicy barbeque and horseradish sauce. Umami, I miss you! SCREAMfmLondon

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Delicious spicy ramen and sushi at a Japanese restaurant in Dongdaemun. SCREAMfmLondon

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A most famous Korean street food: gyeranbbang. The sweet bread filled with egg is perfect for breakfast. SCREAMfmLondon

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For dessert, an ice cream waffle from Angel-in-us Coffee. The ideal treat. SCREAMfmLondon