Nanabe..Michelin-grade Ramen Sapporo

2016-10-06-19-24-29

So we had no idea what to expect for this place. I know that 3 Michelin stars has certain preconcieved notions like hand-ironed white sheets, maybe solid sterling silver chopsticks, waiters swaying to your every whim, like an army of background dancers in a music video supporting the super star jet-set Michelin diner, but this was none of the above. Rather sitting on a tatami mat Indian-style sans shoes. It seems as though all the stars here go towards the unadulterated flavor profile and uniqueness of the ramen. I was not expecting the broth to be as barnyard stinky as it was, and the funky smell threw me for a loop. I did a double take at my wife and said, “Is this really poopy vardeeg (Armenian slang for tighty whities) that I smell and taste?” I could not believe my senses, it smelled like wet, fermented stinky hay, like a pig’s dirty ass covered with the musky smell of wet mud. I later verified that the reason I was getting this terroir of ‘shit’ was that the bamboo strips in the ramen were fermented.

Apparently it is lactate fermented bamboo called menma that gives this unique flavor. Of course, this would never fly in the US as people are so germophobic and dank-averse plain asses, plus health and safety inspections would never allow such deliciousness to exist. One obvious example is how the health department does not allow bamboo steam pots for the din tai fung soup dumplings, but rather metal trays, leading to that lack of aromatic essence that the bamboo imparts to the flavor. I digress, back to the ramen. It was in a milky chicken bone broth, but the meat was a large diameter multilobular giagantic slice of pink chashu pork that I have never seen in the US or other ramen places even in Japan. It was like the diameter of a mini-pita bread. The pork, with the chicken bone broth, and the almost fishy fermentation ass-esque flavor of the menma led to an unusual combo of flavors, which was a further novelty for us in the flavor combination profile.

We also liked how light the broth was, not the typical dark and cloudy broth, which allowed us to finish the entire bowl. To clarify, this restaurant does not have 3 Michelin stars, but it is Bib Gourmand, which is a recommendation of the Michelin Guide. However, it was later clarified that there was a regional contest of ramen conducted by the Guide, and this restaurant’s ramen won the top prize, basically stating that it is equivalent to 3 stars in the ramen world, and is basically the best ramen in Hokkaido. The story is convoluted, and despite endless searches on the internet, we can’t seem to get to the bottom of the story, but I guess getting to bottom of the bowl is good enough for us.

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