Chinese “Ramen” in Akasaka

IMG_4294Ramen is synonymous with Japan, but it is commonly thought to have come from China sometime during the Meiji period. The term “ramen” is supposedly the Japanese pronunciation for the Chinese word for pulled noodles, lamian. Additionally, an alternative term for ramen is chuka soba, literally “Chinese noodles.” However, food historians dispute whether there was ever any direct connection between the two. As anyone who has had both ramen and lamian can tell you, the types of noodle dishes are very different.

Even if they are unrelated, I thought it would be interesting to compare the original Chinese “ramen” with the Japanese version that has taken the world by storm. But in a country as obsessed with noodles as Japan, I could not find any restaurants that served fresh, hand-pulled, reasonably authentic lamian.

That is, until now.

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Robot Restaurant

Robot Restaurant. Wow, where do I begin?

First of all, Robot Restaurant (ロボットレストラン) is barely a restaurant. It’s really a burlesque/dinner show on an acid trip, liberally splattered with enough bright flashing lights to induce a mild seizure. It is over-the-top, tacky, silly, gaudy, and bizarre. And yet, for many folks, Robot Restaurant could be one of the most oddly entertaining things they have ever seen. It’s actually rather fitting that I went there the weekend before Halloween.

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Tsukemen: A Dip in the Noodles

You all know the gist about ramen: noodles in hot soup. But you’re probably much less familiar with tsukemen — dipping noodles. Continue reading