Ramen Yajirushi (Ramen), Shimokitazawa

There are a few spots quite tough to find or get to in Shimokitazawa, like the infamously hard to spot "Frisco" (which unfortunately closed last week as the old building it was in will be destroyed), and this Ramen joint "Yajirushi" that I am featuring today is one of them. I am not sure how long it's been there but I have NEVER noticed it.
True, I've seen its red flag saying らーめん (Ramen) on the side of the street probably a good several hundred times, but never seeing the actual joint close-by (or at least at the end of the alley where the flag is) made me not pay attention to the place at all.
Just as a search result not on your Google top page is unfortunately almost irrelevant, a restaurant which is not close by its billboard or sign has a chance of remaining largely unnoticed. Or, like "Nasu Oyaji" which is slightly away from the main street, opt for a fun sign such as "we are 64 steps from this sign" and you know that some people will end up in front of your shop just for the sake of trying the little challenge.
Alright, enough digressing.

Ramen Yajirushi (Yajirushi means "arrow", and I must have completely missed it...) occupies one of the ground floor rooms (furthest from the street) of a really average looking apartment, and can probably sit 10 people at the counter. The owner/cook is mute as a fish and I had to wonder whether the meal ticket distributor at the entrance was another way for him to avoid communicating with customers.

There were few press clippings outside the restaurant recommending the Shio Ramen (salty Ramen) so that's what ordered with a topping of Moyashi (soy sprout) and an Aji-Tama (simmered egg).
The said bowl of noodles got to me in less than five minutes and I have to say that the initial tasting of the transparent soup was a pleasant surprise. The broth is a simmered blend of Genkotsu (the succulent pork knee joint bone which resembles the human knuckle, thus dubbed the equivalent in Japanese), Torigara (Chicken carcass), vegetables, Niboshi (dry baby sardines) as well as Sababushi (dry mackerel shavings), and manages to keep a delicious balance between the meat and fish aromas (the later is stronger). I would not recommend that you down it though, as there was a relatively consequent amount of fat floating on top the soup, capable of boosting your calorie intake for the day before you know it.

The homemade white-colored square noodles are about 1.5mm thick and have a nice firmness. A sign on the counter says that the dough contains some alkaline water, which explains the consistency, as such water is usually added to give the noodles a harder bite. I loved it, as they somehow had a hint of jelly texture to them.

The toppings were all good with a special mention for the very tender and melting in your mouth Chashu (Chinese style pork bbq), once again homemade, stewed six hours before being marinated in a special Shoyu-based glaze for an hour.
I also loved the perfectly simmered egg, which unfortunately I would have preferred more half-boiled. Mine was tasting perfectly but was 90% boiled when I love them runnier.

Don't go to this place thinking you'll be able to practice your Japanese as you will most probably end up not exchanging a single word with the cook (not that he seemed like a bad guy). However, I can recommend the Shio-Ramen. The place seems famous for its Tsukemen (dipping noodles in a separate bowl of hot broth) as well, so please give it a try if you feel like it.

Ramen Yajirushi is closed on Tuesdays and open the rest of the week from 11:30am to 21:00pm
Setagaya-Ku, Kitazawa 2-28-7
Click here for a MAP

Pannya (Curry), Shimokitazawa

I am not sure whether it's the horrendous humidity that makes me crave for spices, but I have found myself going to curry joints a lot lately. Our latest currying spree brought us to Pannya, a specialized curry restaurant which opened a year and a half ago, ten minutes or so from the station. The owner is well-known actor Takashi Matsuo, a notorious curry fan.

The shop is a clean, small twelve-seater with movies and theater posters on the white walls.
We got there around nine in the evening and the place was full, so it does seem to be quite popular.
Though the menu said that one should try their specialty Chicken Curry, I opted for the "Tokubetsu Na KatsuKare" (the "very special" curry with topped deep-fried pork cutlet) which I ordered from the charming smily little lady in the kitchen. For your reference, I have featured another Katsu-Kare in this post about the old-school Yoshoku eatery "Kitchen Nankai".

It took her ten minutes or so to cook three other curries on wait and ours so that's really not bad of a performance.
As you can see from the picture, the plate is quite large and the light-colored curry relatively soupy. This is one of the characteristic of this place: the recipe doesn't include any flour which is usually rather common in Japanese curries and gives it its thickness. The curry in itself is rather low in salt (so does the cutlet), not too spicy (would prefer it with more spices) and full of stewed onion. There is a strong emphasis on cardamom flavor so if you don't like that specific spice, you will probably not like this dish.

The very tender rice is a blend of regular white rice and whole grain one and its very boiled texture combines very well with the soup, the grains almost sucking the juice.

The pork comes from Nakasei, a specialized aged-meat shop located in the very chic and residential area Denen-Chofu, which might explain why this curry costs a whopping ¥1,500 when the Chicken one is charged ¥800. The "expensive"meat is almost pink, so if you're the worrying kind when it comes to how your pork is cooked, you might get a little concerned here. However, given the tight hygiene standard put by the Japanese government, I wouldn't be too paranoid about this; I guess you can always ask to have your meat well-done (Telling the cook "Katsuretsu O Yoku Yaite Kudasai" will probably do) if you want to.
Though slightly too low on salt, I found the thin-breaded meat tender and delicious, greatly pairing with the curry sauce.

Once again, I found the whole dish to lack spices and therefore characteristics (or maybe that is the characteristic) , but it was definitely tasting good so I'll go back. Next time I guess I will try their Keema and Chicken half and half curry: our neighbor was eating it and it did look quite good.

Pannya is closed on Mondays and open the rest of the week from 11:30am to 16:00pm and 17:00pm to 22:00pm (L.O.)
Setagaya-Ku, Kitazawa 3-23-23
Click here for a MAP

Hara Donuts (Doughnuts), Shimokitazawa

The cute little doughnut shop with its white walls

Today's feature is not about a restaurant but about a doughnut shop that has become a must visit while in Shimokitazawa (locals come here a lot as well). Things have definitely slowed down a little bit, but when they opened over a year ago, people were lining up like crazy: definitely a better time to try their specialty now. By the way, this is a chain with 13 shops as of today, so you don't necessarily need to try it here. However, they are right across my favorite espresso joint "Bear Pond Espresso", so if you want something to munch on with your coffee, you can always buy some doughnuts at the shop and bring them in the cafe.

I am sure doughnuts ask for no explanations for you, but it's always nice to have a little glimpse at the ever-educational wiki articles (where you can learn among other things that Canada has the most doughnuts stores per capita), so here it is for you. By the way, have you ever wondered why some people starting to make doughnuts in a ring shape? (the not so mind-blowing answer at the end of the post!)

The red-tinted Tomato doughnut

Hara Donuts (spelt like that) started a couple of years ago in the town of Kobe (near Osaka), when someone had the great idea of combining in the batter some of that great Tofu (soy milk cheese) by-product Okara (the substance left when soybeans are pressed to make soy milk) and Tonyu (soy milk) from the Hara Tofu Shop in business since 1968 in that same town.

The doughnuts here are quite dry (at least more than the Krispy Kreme's Original Glaze ones, for example) and you may feel like you would need a drink to finish one, but you will quickly realize that the initial dryness quickly disappears to give way to a nice chew and taste. I am not sure how the Okara affects the texture, but the doughnuts here feel interestingly more and more "doughy" as you chew. Also, though they look oily, they don't really feel that way in your mouth.

The Satokibi doughnut

The Okara added in the batter is full of vitamins and minerals, so if you don't eat three at a time, it is quite safe to say that they're "healthy". They have several different tastes, from which I would recommend the Satokibi (regular doughnut sprinkled with sugar-cane powdered sugar) and Tomato (doughnut which batter is mixed with fresh tomato).

The slightly pinkish, red Tomato Doughnut

The "Satokibi" ones are sweetened just perfectly and may go extremely with some fresh milk or some nice coffee. The "Tomato" are stranger in the way that they don't taste that much like tomato first, but as you keep on chewing, you can feel the nice aroma of the fruit getting stronger and stronger. And it actually tastes pretty good so definitely give it a try!

Once again, this did not necessarily have to be on this Shimokitazawa blog, but it has somehow become a little bit of a landmark in the neighborhood, and I find their specialty good, so I posted it!

In case you are still reading, the reason why someone started to make doughnuts in a ring shape is to avoid them being raw in the center...

Hara Donuts is open everyday from 10am to 19:00pm though they'll close when they're out of batter
Setaga-Ku, Kitazawa 3-27-2
Click here for a MAP