Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum
I absolutely detest museums. You could offer to pay me a million dollars to go stand in line at someplace like the Louvre and I still wouldn't do it. (Well, OK - maybe I'll do it for a million, but on the condition that I only need to stay inside for 15 minutes after checking out what kind of treats are being sold at the cafes inside.) There are some museums that I will happily go to though, and many of them are here in Japan. Why? Well, these are museums dedicated to food, and the Raumen Museum is a quintessential example (2-14-21 Shin-Yokohama, 045-471-0503).
"Museum" may be a bit of a euphemism here. One could argue that this is no more than an overglorified food court put into a Pirates of the Carribean-like faux-outdoor setting. (I seem to remember years ago that they had display cases showing the history of ramen, the invention of instant noodles, etc. up on the ground floor, but I did not see it today...did they get rid of it for some reason?) Still, "food court" would be a total insult to this place, considering that these guys pulled some of the best ramen proprietors around the country to showcase all of the regional variations in one spot. You get to sample the goods...just pay for your selection from the little ticket machines and hand them in. "Mini" sizes are available, which liberated enough stomach space for me to try three of the eight shops today.
My favorite type of ramen is from Kyushu, so my first choice easily went to Komurasaki, which sprinkled grilled garlic onto its bowls. The full-tasting tonkotsu broth was done just the way I like it, and the bowl also featured a thin - but very tender and tasty- slice of chashu. Thumbs up on that one. What's next?
Hachiya was another one that caught my eye. From Asahikawa, these guys added grilled lard to the broth, which gave it a musky/smoky aroma that was a bit peculiar at first but became rather addictive after a few slurps. A green garlic paste was also available on the side for one to add to taste. Good stuff - and a perfect example of how drastically these bowls will change depending on which side of the country it's from.
And what seemed to be the most popular vendor here with lines forming outside its door was Ryushanhai, known for its Akayu karamiso ramen, the spicy red karamiso topping being the key. The broth struck me as a bit sweet at first, but the taste was also very complex, and was very enjoyable once mixed up. Even in the "mini" bowl, they were very generous with their noodle portions, and the springy texture was a delight. That one was worth the wait.
No, the "burned ramen" guys were not here. Sadly, we also found out the hard way the other night that the Curry Museum in Yokohama shut down last year. But on this note, it would be interesting if a similar museum could be started in the US featuring hamburgers: showcase the regional differences between SoCal's In-N-Out versus Chicago's Billy Goat Tavern and even the abomination known as White Castle all in one spot. Vegas would be a great place for something like that, wouldn't it?