Ichiran Canal City Hakata (一蘭 キャナルシティ博多店) – Hakata-ku, Fukuoka, Japan (Kyushu)

If you thought the highlight of Canal City was the 5th floor Raumen Stadium…think again. Ichiran’s flagship ramen-ya located on the 1st floor screams greatness in the most peaceful fashion. From the unique private individual stalls to the highly customized ordering system, the Canal City location is the only one to feature the black coffin-like bowls, otherwise known as “Juubako.” The very smooth tonkotsu soup takes on a tangy, yet spicy, flavor when mixed with the special red sauce. It’s to die for, hence the coffin-like bowls (I made that up). So the next time you’re searching for ramen in Hakata’s Canal City, try not to overlook the first floor.

From Hakata Station head West on the main street. Stay to your right as the street splits and make a left at the 7-Eleven (the 2nd one). Then make a quick right and you should see an entrance to Canal City next to the Washington Hotel. Head to the 1st floor. Open everyday from 10am to midnight. Ordering may be a bit difficult for the first timer, but they have plenty of guides in English that show you how to do it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Other sites that mention Ichiran Canal City:

Video from YouTube via amanoobune2000:

Thank You Wonton Forest!

I’d like to take a break from my recent series of posts to say thank you and goodbye to what quickly became my favorite local hangout. As you may already know, Wonton Forest sadly closed its doors today. With amazing wontons, refreshing soup, and the coolest staff, it’s very hard to believe that this day has come. But what can you do. Blame it on location, blame it on the economy, blame it on the rain, blame it on whatever you want. Good food or not, the people just didn’t come.

I first came here last November right after I had completed that crazy Foo-Foo Challenge. It was then that I learned Chef Paul and I shared a mutual friend from college. Wonton Forest soon became my Cheers. It was on my way home from work and I soon found myself stopping by 2-4 times a week. The food was great and the friendships I formed with the staff were priceless.

I first posted about WoFo on a popular food site. I won’t say whiCH one, but I was soon banned from making any comments related to Wonton Forest. Yeah, their reason (sent to me in a f’d up email) was because I was too close to the owners and my opinions were now biased. Flattered, I decided never to use that site again.

In recent weeks, Paul gave me a chance to work at WoFo so I could experience first hand a day in the life of a small restaurant. He had me cutting green onions, shredding chicken, mincing pork, taking orders, bussing tables, washing dishes, and more. I got to see the frustrations that come with being slow and the stresses that come with being busy. Overall, it gave me a totally different view of things and much more respect for what small local restaurants and their owners go through everyday. You’re right Paul, it’s bitter sweet!

So before I get too emotional, I just want to say thanks to everyone at Wonton Forest. Thanks for putting up with all my drama and thanks for being there to share my joys. And even though you’ll be replaced by a ramen shop, it’s never gonna be the same. Good luck to everyone, especially Paul and Sarah. I know you’ll be back!

Now let’s go finish off the rest of the Jack!

Raumen Stadium 2 (ラーメンスタジアム2) – Canal City, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka, Japan (Kyushu)

When you think of “rasta” what comes to mind? Okay, sure Jamaica does, but no! Rasta is short for Raumen Stadium 2! From the same group that brought us the Shinyokohama Raumen Museum, Raumen Stadium 2 is the southern island’s version. With 8 different shops from around the country rotating every now and then, it is definitely one of THE “must-visit” ramen attractions of Japan. But then again, Hakata itself is a “must-visit” ramen attraction.

From Hakata Station head West on the main street. Stay to your right as the street splits and make a left at the 7-Eleven (the 2nd one). Then make a quick right and you should see an entrance to Canal City next to the Washington Hotel. Head to the 5th floor. Open everyday from 11am to 11pm.

Other sites that mention Raumen Stadium 2:

Hakata Tsukemen Gensuke (博多つけ麺 元助) – Canal City, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka, Japan (Kyushu)

A wise ramen adventurer once said: “all these tsukemen shops taste the same to me.” Quite frankly, I’d have to agree. Even at Gensuke, a so-called Hakata-style shop, I felt like I was back in Tokyo at one of the popular tsukemen joints. Don’t get me wrong, the Tokusei Tsukemen here at Gensuke is bomb, but I wasn’t sure what “Hakata-style” really added to it or took away from it. Nevertheless, I was happy and satisfied with their Tonkotsu/Gyoukai soup and thick, chewy noodles.

From Hakata Station head West on the main street. Stay to your right as the street splits and make a left at the 7-Eleven (the 2nd one). Then make a quick right and you should see an entrance to Canal City next to the Washington Hotel. Head to the Raumen Stadium on the 5th floor. Open everyday from 11am to 11pm.

Other sites that mention Hakata Gensuke Canal City:

Ganso Nagahamaya (元祖長浜屋ラーメン) – Chuo-ku, Nagahama, Fukuoka, Japan (Kyushu)

Ganso means originator, but to ramen geeks it means da sh**! And Ganso Nagahamaya is just that. After being raised mostly on Tokyo-style shoyu ramen, I really underestimated the goodness of Hakata/Nagahama-style tonkotsu. I was pleasantly surprised how smooth and light the pure pork-bone soup actually tasted. It was awe-inspiring. Even the massive amounts of msg had no ill-effects. Perhaps it was the balancing effects of the shōga (ginger). There’s also some tare on the table to enhance the soup even more, but use it sparingly. Ramen is 400 yen and kaedama is another 100. That’s like a total of $5. It was definitely one of the cheapest bowls I encountered on my trip. If you’re in the area, don’t miss it!

From Hakata Station take the Kūkō Line to Akasaka Station and it’s about a 10-minute walk from there. Head North for 3 blocks, make a left and walk around the slight bend. You’ll eventually see it on your right. Stand in line and order from the ticket machine. Try not to waste too much time at the machine cuz the line moves fast. Stand at the door and wait to be called. After sitting down, give the server your ticket and wait patiently. If you ordered kaedama, give the server that ticket AFTER you finish the first batch of noodles. Yell out the firmness to get their attention. For example: “katamen!!”

Other sites that mention Ganso Nagahamaya:

Video from YouTube via KyushuWalkerCH:

Kurume Taiho (大砲ラーメン 本店) – Kurume, Fukuoka, Japan (Kyushu)

No please I like that finger…how else will I do my Dr. Evil impression?

Okay…so it wasn’t quite that dramatic, but I thought it might have come down to it if I didn’t stop taking pictures of the place. Anyway, Kurume Taiho is like the capitol of ramen in Kyushu. My first sip had me saying “Kurume Taiho~~ly sh** this stuff is good!!” Seriously folks, Taiho is legit. The creaminess of the tonkotsu soup is indescribable and my mouth is watering just thinking about it. The gyoza may not have been that great, but the ramen was incredible. I’d gladly give up a finger for a bowl like this again.

It’s about a 10-minute walk from Nishitetsukurume Station…I think. But if you can get to Kurume Station, just take a taxi. You’ll thank me later. Open from 11am to 9pm and closed every 2nd and 4th Thursday. You are only allowed to take pictures of the food, but there are ways to get around that…hehe.

Other sites that mention Kurume Taiho Honten:

Komurasaki Honten (こむらさき 本店) – Kumamoto City, Kumamoto, Japan (Kyushu)

With only an hour to spare in Kumamoto, I was determined to stop at one ramen-ya and one ramen-ya only. That shop just happened to be one of Kumamoto’s best–Komurasaki. With over 50 years of experience, they will not open unless the soup is perfect. A whitish, cloudy tonkotsu is their staple and the Osama Ramen is their most popular. The garlic chips give the rather light soup some extra zest and slurping the thin noodles is a breeze.

You can take the streetcar from Kumamoto Station, but I’m not sure where to get off and you’re still gonna have to walk a few blocks anyway. My advice: Take a taxi. Open from 11am to 7:30pm and closed every Tuesday.

Other sites that mention Komurasaki Honten:

Ramen Kimura (ラーメンきむら 大淀店) – Miyazaki City, Miyazaki, Japan (Kyushu)

Ramen Kimura had something I’ve never seen before. True…I’ve never seen their ramen, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I am referring to a garlic shoyu concoction that had me and a couple friends fearing for our lives…j/k. But seriously, Dracula wouldn’t even be able to resist this stuff. Adding a dab to the ramen will most likely lead to another dab. The ramen itself is a light tonkotsu so the garlic shoyu provides a welcome enhancement. Another plus was the chashu. Ohhh…the chashu. Moist and flavorful, you’ll curse at yourself for not ordering the Chashu Ramen. I did.

If you start at Miyazaki Station, take the Nippou Main Line to Minamimiyazaki Station. From there head West and walk along the main street for about 10-minutes. When you get to the 3-way intersection, cross the street and you’ll see it on your right. Open from 11am to 9:30pm and closed on Wednesdays.

Other sites that mention Ramen Kimura:

Hibiki (九州宮崎ラーメン響) – Miyazaki City, Miyazaki, Japan (Kyushu)

If you’re looking for good ramen in Miyazaki, you may have to travel outside of the main city. Sure there’s a few here or there within the city, but I was told one of the best is called Hibiki. Undeterred by the distance, I got in a friends car and just drove. Hibiki is now a chain ramen-ya with several locations outside of the country, but the original location is still very popular with the locals. The ramen here is tonkotsu-based with a hint of shoyu. In other words, it’s good with a hint of great. The egg and the chashu are downright dreamy but unfortunately, the noodles are simply ordinary.

It’s more than a bit far from any station. You’re best bet is to go by car, although I still won’t be able to tell you how I got there. Hopefully, the map below will help. They are closed on Wednesday’s.

Other sites that mention Hibiki:

Garufu Ramen (我流風ラーメン 本丸店) – Kagoshima City, Kagoshima, Japan (Kyushu)

Kagoshima is known for their Kurobuta (Berkshire Pork). So when I was lazily walking around the Tenmonkan shopping street one Spring afternoon, I couldn’t help but notice a delectable-looking Kurobuta Ramen at a place called Garufu. I was semi-full at the time, but the wax bowl in the window kept calling my name and the two hanjuku eggs were staring straight at me. So I had to enter. OMG! Oh My Garufu! The oils from the kurobuta mixed in with the tonkotsu soup was heartstoppingly paralyzing. If this ramen had a weakspot, it would be in the noodles, but seriously, the kurobuta was incredible! And those eggs…speechless.

From Kagoshimachuo Station jump on one of the trolleys headed for the Tenmonkan Street. There should be a Tenmonkan trolley station. Get off there and head left (Northwest). After one block make a left and you’ll see Garufu on your left. Head inside, order from the ticket machine and be seated. They’re open from 11am to 9pm everyday.

Other sites that mention Garufu Honmaru-ten: