Monday, April 6, 2015


Location: Honmokua

Rating: Not great
Meal:  Lunch
Price:  1120 yen
Payment:  Cash Only - Ticket Machine
Dishes:  Tonkotsu Ramen with extra pork and an egg
English Menu: Yes
Smoking: Probably not

Ramen...there are so many ramen restaurants here it's a bit overwhelming, especially if you are new in town.  I would humbly suggest trying your first ramen at Honmokuya.  It is across road 16 from Daie mall, right next to Coco's curry.  The sign looks a bit imposing, but if you take a look inside, you'll usually see lots of gaijin (foreigners) enjoying lunch there.  Today, the only Japanese person I saw the whole time was the owner.  Not that he speaks much english, but there is plenty of help to make your first ramen experience as trauma free as possible.

First, there's a nice signboard out front with pictures and english to help you know what things are.  It helps that things are very simple here, only one kind of ramen (tonkotsu - pork bone broth) and one kind of noodle.  There are 3 weights of noodles, which dictate the base cost.  Then you can add various toppings, such as pork, egg, corn, negi (green onion), etc...  You can a bowl of rice too and there are a few "dons" available (toppings on rice).

Having perused this, enter the store and on the left is the typical (though vastly simplified) ticket vending machine.  At first, these can seem intimidating, but here each button has the English for the item printed on it.  Put your money in (5000 and 10000 yen bills will have to be broken by the cook) and hit your buttons.  Tickets are extruded.  Take your tickets to your seat and hand to the cook.  

If you want, you can now customize your order several ways, though I only specify one thing:  noodle hardness.  I like mine chewy (al dente), so I say "katamede" (with hardness) and leave it at that.  If you want to get fancy, there is a huge board printed with all 3 options:  soup thickness, oil/fat content, and noodle firmness.  I do wish they printed the romaji or hiragana for all of the options so we could learn easier, but hey, now we have some homework to do.  Shouldn't be too difficult to look those words up on if you are really interested.

Once finished, your bowl will be presented, and you can ladle on all the toppings available:  spicy sauce, garlic, ginger and pepper.  I strongly suggest grabbing a napkin from under the water dispenser (you need to get your own here) to wipe the oily broth when the noodles slap you in the face on their way down your gullet.  Please note that you do not have to finish all the broth.  It is very rich and probably not very good for you to drink it all down.  I usually just eat the noodles and other stuff and leave the rest of the broth in there.  Unless it's too good to pass up of course.  When you are done, put your bowl up on the counter and say "gouchisosamadeshita", a polite form of "thanks for the delicious food!"  It's a mouthful but after a while it rolls off the tongue.  Now...get up and check to pay because you already bought your ticket (this is when I love the ticket system).

Now...while this ramen place is where I might bring someone for their first time due to all the help it is definitely not a very good example of ramen.  The soup is not very flavorful, overly oily, and price is pretty up there for what you are getting.  The pork is kind of tough and rubbery.  Also, they don't have very many veggie options which I like to have in my ramen.  The noodles however are pretty decent in my opinion...thick and chewy.  Just know that having started here, there are so very many other, better places to try next time!  And most of them operate in the same way, just with more options.  It will help to learn the basic kanji/katakana for what you know you like though, and this is a good place to practice.

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