Monday, June 15, 2015

Kami Buta

Location: Kami Buta

Rating: Very good
Meal:  Lunch
Price:  900 yes
Payment:  Cash only (ticket machine)
Dishes:  Small tonkotsu ramen with an extra egg and spice
English Menu: No

 Kami Buta is intense ramen, not for the faint of heart.  It's kind of like northwest style dry-hopped Imperial IPA...only with ramen, pork bone broth, and garlic.  Its name translates roughly to "Pork God", maybe..."Spirit of Pork."  I don't really know, but it's appropriate.

Kami Buta was the first ramen to truly blow my mind.  2 years in to my stay here in Yokosuka, I would have sworn, hands down, that this was the best ramen in town and probably given it an Excellent.  Since then, I've had a couple of times where the quality dipped and the staff seemed to change rapidly.  I still think it's probably the best in its style available locally, but I now have room for more ramen on my top-shelf.  I am sure that there is truly excellent ramen out there to be found and I look forward to it.

Still, it's quite the experience, and you owe it to yourself to give it a shot if you are here.  It's a bit far for a lunch spot, but I had my car today which made it much easier.  It's best to drive up blue street and turn left just before Chuo station.  The restaurant is in the middle of the block on the left, but parking is at the end of the block across the street diagonally.  It's 250 yen for enough time to grab a quick meal.  Kami Buta is recessed a little bit, just look for the bright yellow signs indicating "ninniku" in katakana (ニンニク) which means garlic.  There is a Thai restaurant above (I'll get to it...) with a fancy looking elephant below in front of the elevator.

It's a small place, so I always try to aim for arriving before the lunch rush, and if you go with someone there might not be enough spaces to sit together.  Don't worry, you can wait til the spots open up on the bench inside.

The menu machine is a bit confusing at first, but luckily they have a newly redesigned English menu just to the left.  You will have to translate to the appropriate button, but that shouldn't be too hard.  Also, the prices are only on the actual buttons, so that can make things fun.  The first time is a bit confusing, but after that it's pretty easy.  There are 5 sizes:  S (small), L (Lady size), M (Man size), M Super Big (bigger), and LL (incredispluge - if you completely eat this, they'll give you your money back, because they will feel bad about your death).

In addition, there are 2 styles available, regular (soup with noodles in a bowl) and dipping (tsukemen, bowl of concentrated broth and noodles for dipping).  I've never tried the tsukemen, I really should some day.

I find the broth so strong here that I can only do the S size and still feel normal afterward.  Today I got the S with two pork pieces and an extra egg, not having seen the note that the S size comes with an egg.  That's ok, I love the delicious soft yolk boiled eggs.

Now, there are a number of additions you can purchase for smaller fees, but some you will have to specify when you hand the ticket over as some prices can count for a couple of choices.  I noticed something new this time:  spicy, so I paid the 50 yen for an extra ticket and told the guy I wanted "spicy" and not "powder of fish" (which looked quite good...bonito flakes).  You can also get chives (for a dash of green, otherwise it's all very whitish brown), green onion with pork and spiciness (this is excellent but can be too much pork with the other slices), or pork with mayonnaise (for some creaminess).  There's also an extra egg, "no soup noodles" (I think this is just a portion of noodles with no soup) and cheese (this is gross, I don't recommend it).

Hand your tickets over and specify your noodle hardness ("katame de" for al dente) and they will get cooking.  Before they give it to you, you will be asked if you want garlic or not.  Just nod or say "Hai" and they'll pile it on.  If you don't want garlic you should say "ninniku nashi de" which means without garlic.  Tack on "onegaishimasu" for politeness (please).  They will also pile on lots of moyashi (bean sprouts) and wilted cabbage, making this ramen, oddly, one of the winners when it comes to veggies.

I don't really know how to describe the broth beyond "rich".  So rich it's almost sickening.  Like a decadent chocolate cake...but ramen instead.  I'm sure it's salty, but the saltiness doesn't overwhelm, as it is toned down by the fatty goodness in the soup itself.  The noodles are a darker brown, thick and very chewy, some of my favorite anywhere.  The pork is amazing...thick sliced, super fatty and soooo soft.  There will be no chewing going on sublimates on the tongue directly into the bloodstream.

I always thought this scene from the movie Tampopo was hype until I ate my first ramen at Kami Buta.  Now I always carefully tuck my slices of pork away to the side, pushing them gently down under the broth, and eye them affectionately as I slurp my soup.  Now...I know just what he means.

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