Horin Ramen & Sake

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Horin Ramen + Sake opened on Robson along with all the other ramen shops late last year. They feature Fukuoka style ramen, which is the thin straight kind, and one of my favourites. When we arrived, the shop was not too busy on a Friday night. We were seated immediately, but the shop did have a bit of a wait as we finished our dinner. The interior is modern with the seats along a narrow space. However, seating is pretty comfortable compared to many other ramen shops.

 

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They have a paper placemat which describes the back story of the restaurant. Apparently, their secret recipe is based on adding spicy chili peppers in their pork based Tonkotsu soup. Also, their noodles are made fresh in store. You can even see the machine and the workers making the noodles at the front of the store.

 

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Their menu is very simple with only tonkotsu pork broth ramen available. The four variations are just customized with different toppings, but the broth is the exact same. Like many ramen shops, you can also customize your bowl with texture of noodles (soft, standard, firm), amount of dashi (less salty, standard, extra salty), amount of chili blend (less spicy, standard, extra spicy), and amount of lard (less fat, standard, extra fat).

 

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Ajitama Ramen

Both S and I got the Ajitama Ramen which is their original but comes with one whole soft-boiled egg cut in half. The noodles come with chashu and green onions. As S does not like spicy, he opted out of the housemade chili blend. The bowl was clean with the focus really on the broth and noodles.

 

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Ajitama Ramen

For myself, I also got the Ajitama Ramen but with a standard amount of housemade chili blend. I found this style of ramen with the chili very similar to Ramen Danbo and Ichiran but I prefer the latter two over Horin. I found the broth to be lighter and not as creamy. This might be more suitable for others though as many have said Ramen Danbo is too salty and heavy for them. The chashu was pretty good here though as the ratio of fat to meat was just right. I asked to have the noodles firm and they indeed met my expectations although I found they felt a little soft near the end. You really need to eat this quick! As for the chili blend, I much prefer the ones from Ramen Danbo or Ichiran as they have more kick to it. I found the flavours at Horin to be milder in general. However, given the line ups at Ramen Danbo can get a bit ridiculous during peak hours, this is a good alternative if you’re looking for a similar style of ramen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kokoro Tokyo Mazesoba

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Niku Mazesoba

Last year, a new ramen restaurant opened up and it definitely found itself having long lines as expected. Kokoro Toyko Mazesoba is located just next to the Downtown BCIT campus which makes it a popular spot for all the students. If you come during peak lunch and dinner hours, expect to wait, although it is quite spacious and food comes out fast, so the turnover is quite quick. Mazesoba is essentially a mixed noodle or soupless ramen. I first tried something similar to this when I was in Tokyo.

I decided to try the Niku Mazesoba which seemed to be their most popular mazesoba. It features slow braised pork chashu, spicy minced pork, raw egg yolk, green onion, seaweed flakes, chives, minced garlic, grinded saba fish, and multi-grain noodle made in house. Noodles sit below all the ingredients and you mix all the ingredients and noodles together while breaking the yolk. It reminds me of a dan dan noodle with each noodle strand being coated with some sauce. The noodles were toothsome with a nice al dente texture. They are right when they say not udon but also not ramen as it is really something in between.

 

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Shio Mazesoba

S didn’t really want that raw egg yolk so he got the Shio Mazesoba which featured slow braised pork chashu, bamboo shoot, green onion, spinach, seaweed flakes, minced garlic, grinded saba fish, and multi-grain noodle made in house. Instead, he added a soft boiled egg on the side. His mazesoba was definitely less saucy without the egg so he actually did not have much sauce leftover. If you find the noodles a bit too heavy, you can also try adding vinegar to break the grease and saltiness. They also have chilli flakes on the table if you want to add some kick to your noodles.

 

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Although S’s bowl didn’t have much sauce left, my Niku bowl had plenty of sauce and ingredients left. The waiter will come by and ask if you’d like a free small bowl of rice which you can then drop into your leftover sauce and mix. It surprisingly tasted really good! But I could really only eat half the portion of rice after a whole bowl of noodles. If you’re hungry, then definitely go for the free rice!

 

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Mentaiko Cream Mazesoba

On another occasion, I came back during lunch hours to try their Mentaiko Cream Mazesoba. This featured mentaiko, slow braised pork chashu, raw egg yolk, seaweed flakes, spinach, green onion, minced garlic, japanese cream sauce, grinded saba fish, and multi-grain noodle made in house. I actually preferred this over the Niku Mazesoba as I found that the Niku was a bit heavy and salty for my liking. I found the mentaiko cream helped cut the grease a bit even before I added vinegar.

 

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Overall, I quite enjoyed the mazesobas but like ramen, it’s not something I can eat often as they are more on the heavy side. Plus, the prices are quite steep with most bowls going for $15-16 each. Definitely not a spot I could come for work lunch all the time. They do offer classic ramens with soup and a variety of appetizers and desserts, but I have yet to try those.

Pros:
– Mazesoba noodles are nice and chewy
– Extensive menu so there is something for everyone

Cons:
– Prices are steep for ramen
– Some of the bar seating isn’t very comfortable with the low backs

Price Range: $15-20 per person

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 4 Service: 3.5 Ambiance: 3.5 Parking: Paid street parking/ paid BCIT parking lot Overall: 3.5

 

 

Yaguchiya Ramen

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Looking for a lunch spot near Metrotown, I suggested we try Yaguchiya Ramen since it was just across the Metrotown mall. The interior was very simple with barely any renovations done. In the summer, they only had a fan so it was quite hot. The restaurant features iekei style ramen that originates from Yokohama, Japan. Iekei ramen is the perfect balance of the Tonkotsu style from Kyushu and Shoyu style from Tokyo.

 

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Yaguchiya Special Ramen

S chose the Yaguchiya Special Ramen which features a pork and chicken broth, 3 piece of pork chashu, seasoned egg, spinach, roasted seaweed, and leek. You can choose between regular, medium, and large and S chose the medium. You can also customize the amount of fat, texture of noodles, and amount of soy sauce. The broth was much clearer than a tonkotsu so fairly light. Noodles are the yellow squiggly type so I personally am not a huge fan as I enjoy the Fukuoka style straight thin noodles.

 

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Shoyu Ramen

For myself, I chose the Shoyu Ramen and ordered a regular size. The Shoyu Ramen had a pork and chicken broth, two slices of pork chashu, spinach, and roasted seaweed. I paid $1.50 to add a seasoned egg. I thought the broth was light and not too salty. However, the pork was a bit too dry for me. A regular also had a lot of noodles and I could barely finish my ramen which usually never happens! On the table, customers can also add complimentary condiments included grated garlic, chili paste, ginger, pepper and vinegar. On the wall, they recommend how much of these condiments you should add.

Overall, I thought the ramen was just average. It definitely does not compete with the ones in downtown and it wasn’t very memorable. Service was friendly and attentive though. They seem to still attract regulars who are in the area given there aren’t many ramen shops nearby.

Pros:
– Large portions for reasonable prices
– Broth is light and not greasy

Cons:
– Ramen and toppings are quite average

Price Range: $10-15 per person

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 3 Service: 3 Ambiance: 2.5 Parking: Paid meter parking on street Overall: 3

 

Yaguchiya Ramen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ramen Takanotsume

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Ramen Takanotsume took over the spot of Ramenman earlier this year. Ramenman relocated to the Davie Street area. Hearing that the new ramen spot originates from Hokkaido, I was excited to come check it out.

The interior still looks pretty much the same as the previous ramen shop, but the first thing we noticed was the Jay Chou and other mandarin songs playing in the background… It was definitely quite odd at a Japanese ramen shop.

 

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White Dragon Shio

What’s unique about Ramen Taka is that the soup is supposed to be super hot as it is topped with a sizzling spoonful of seasoned Hokkaido lard. And it was definitely as advertised. S got the White Dragon Shio which is flavoured with sea salt. It came with wood ear fungus, bamboo shoots, seaweed, green onion, a large slice of pork and marinated egg. The broth was very flavourful and I also enjoyed the squiggly noodles. However, the toppings were quite disappointing.

 

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Supreme Dragon Miso

For myself, I got the Supreme Dragon Miso which features a blend of several misos to create a super smooth and deep miso flavour. The broth is also slightly spicy. Again, the broth was extremely hot and remained hot throughout my meal. It was a bit too hot for me at the beginning and I really had to blow on my noodles to cool it down. With the same toppings as the White Dragon Shio, they were equally a bit disappointing. The pork was a thin slice but extremely lean and had no fat content at all. I usually like my pork a bit lean, but this was a bit too lean for me. I really needed to submerge the pork in the soup to soften the pork a bit. As for the egg, it was definitely overcooked and was closer to a hard boiled egg. However, the broth was also very flavourful and not too salty.

Overall, I really enjoyed the broths and noodles ane especially appreciated the fact that the broth stayed hot throughout my meal. However, I was personally not a fan of the pork and egg which I think are a major component of the dish. Also, the location, although on Robson is just a bit out of the way and a bit hidden. Will probably come back if I’m around the area though.

Pros:
– Soup remains hot throughout the meal
– Soup base is flavourful

Cons:
– I personally didn’t enjoy the pork and egg

Price Range: $15-20 per person

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 3.5 Service: 3 Ambiance: 3 Parking: Meter parking on streets Overall: 3.5

 

Ramen Taka Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Ramen Koika (Robson)

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Disclosure: All food and beverages were complimentary, but all opinions are my own.

Ramen Koika recently opened up their second location on Robson Street in Hapa Izakaya’s old location. Their original location is still at Davie Street but of course it’s good news that there is another ramen option in this area.

 

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The ramen shop has a nice modern decor and is quite spacious compared to many of the other ramen shops in the area. I like how they have tables that fit larger groups which most of the other ramen restaurants would not be able to accommodate. Just shortly after 6pm on a Tuesday evening, the restaurant was already at capacity, so make sure to come by early if you’re with a larger group.

 

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The menu is a decent size with a variety of appetizers and rice bowls available. These are great for sharing and a good option if someone in your group isn’t craving ramen. They also have beers, sakes, and soju. I noticed they also carry Fuggles and Warlock’s beers! Great to support local breweries!

 

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As for ramen, they have a variety of choices, from traditional miso ramens, to some very innovative ramen consisting of seafood. They claim that their noodles are made fresh the night before and the broth is made in the morning with no MSG. For the ramen, you can also choose to have your noodles soft or hard, and your chashu to be lean or fatty. You can also add side dishes and other toppings for additional costs. Extra noodle is also available for an additional $1.50.

 

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Puri-Puri Ebi

We started off with some appetizers including the Puri-Puri Ebi which is deep fried panko breaded jumbo shrimp served with tartar sauce, sesame, and parsley. The batter was really light and didn’t feel greasy at all. The sauce and seasoning was also not overpowering as you could still taste the sweetness of the shrimp. Great dish for sharing!

 

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Coco Karaage

The Coco Karaage was also a great deep fried dish. The deep fried house battered boneless chicken karaage was juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside. The chicken pieces are quite big and a regular order comes with around 4-5 pieces.

 

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Triple Black Garlic Ramen

As for ramen, we tried two of their best sellers. The first was the Triple Black Garlic Ramen which features cha-shu, spinach, seasoned egg, bamboo shoot, roasted seaweed, green onion, garlic chip, and triple black garlic oil served with thin noodles. The egg was cooked perfectly and S chose lean cha-shu which was not overly dry.

 

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As for the noodles, he had chosen hard but we both found the noodles to be more “regular” rather than hard. Our personal preference is for the noodles to be a bit firmer, so when we chose hard, we expected them to be a bit more firm. I liked the thin straight noodles though and these were great at soaking up the broth. The broth was rich but S thought it could be slightly stronger in garlic. I personally thought it was sufficient, but I guess it depends on how much you love garlic.

 

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King’s Seafood Ramen

For myself, I chose the King’s Seafood Ramen. This is their most expensive ramen on the menu at almost $17! But of course, the price is justified with the abundance of ingredients including blue crab, clam, green mussel, cabbage, black tree fungus, onion, red pepper, green pepper, thai chili, and bean sprouts with red pepper powder on top. They definitely do not skimp on the ingredients. Although the blue crab does not have much meat in the legs, you can suck the meat out from the center which was really sweet in flavour. The clams and mussels were also tasty and were not over cooked or tough.

 

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This ramen is served with thicker noodles and I also felt like this bowl was larger than the previous ramen. So definitely the perfect bowl for a big eater! You can choose from no spicy, mild to spicy as well. This one was mild and is great for people who just want a little hint of spice. I typically like my ramen very plain with few ingredients, but this seafood ramen seemed to work and wasn’t too overwhelming.

Overall, I thought Ramen Koika offers some unique twists to ramen, many of which I have not seen in metro Vancouver. I would say that most of the ramen has more ingredients and the bowls are also a decent size for the price. If you’re looking to try more creative ramen, then Ramen Koika is the spot for you. Also a great spot if you have a larger party!

 

Ramen Koika Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Ichigo Ichie Ramen

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Shoyu Ramen

The newest ramen spot in Richmond is called Ichigo Ichie Ramen and is located across Ironwood Mall near BMO. The restaurant doesn’t seem to be run by Japanese, so I wouldn’t expect authentic Japanese ramens. There are a variety of broths available and S chose the Shoyu. It featured soy sauce broth, green onion, seasoned egg, naruto maki, spinach, and shiitake mushrooms. The noodles here are medium thickness which I wasn’t a huge fan of. The broth itself was too salty and the consistency was very thin. We both found that it lacked flavour as it was more of one dimension salty flavour. The egg was also a hard boiled egg, so I wasn’t too happy with that.

 

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Mayu

For myself, I got the Mayu which is their spicy option. It featured garlic black oil, green onion, seasoned egg, bean sprouts, deep-fried garlic, and shiitake. Again, the broth was very thin in consistency and the broth lacked flavour. It was just very spicy, and tasted sort of like the instant ramen broths. I mean, the ramen, especially the noodles itself, weren’t bad, but we found it to be very average and too salty for our liking.

We also ordered a side of Karaage and these were excellent. The batter was crispy and the chicken remained very moist and juicy. I would come back for the fried chicken!

 

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Overall, we found Ichigo Ichie Ramen to be quite average. It’s a nice addition to people who work in the Steveston area given the limited options available, but I wouldn’t make a trip out here just for their ramen. If they can work on their broths, this could become a pretty good spot!

Pros:
– Chicken Karaage was really juicy
– Prices are quite reasonable

Cons:
– Broths could use improvement

Price Range: $10-15

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 3 Service: 3 Ambiance: 3 Parking: 3 Overall: 3

 

Ichigo Ichie Ramen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Yuzu Shokutei

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Yuzu Shokutei opened up earlier this year on Denman Street nearby Kingyo. The branding of the restaurant really caught my attention since its bright and fun. Plus, the pictures on their Instagram page really looked good! S and I decided to give it a try earlier in the summer when they were having a promo going on (yes – this post is from a while ago!).

 

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The deal was that if we liked their Instagram page, then we could get an appetizer and a pint of beer for $5. We got a pint of Sapporo which was refreshing after a long day at work!

 

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Takoyaki

For the appetizer, we got the Takoyaki (octopus balls) which were topped with mayo, bonito flakes and nori powder. I really enjoyed this as the outside batter was crispy with the center piping hot and soft. They had a large piece of octopus in each ball.

 

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Paiten Sea Salt Ramen

Both of us decided to try their ramen. Keep in mind that the restaurant actually has a variety of rice dishes as well, as they are more izakaya style, then a full on ramen restaurant. S got the Paiten Sea Salt Ramen which featured medium thickness noodles, slow cooked chicken broth, shio seasoning, aji-tamago, pork chashu, bamboo shoots, and green onions. The bowl had more than enough noodles but we both prefer the thin noodles at Danbo, so personally were not a huge fan. The broth itself was light in flavour and wasn’t overly salty, but we found it to be rather thick. As for the chashu, it was very interesting because the outer edges were very dark but not crispy. We thought it was slightly too fatty on the outer edge. I think if you like medium consistency noodles, then you will probably enjoy this.

 

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Chicken Truffle Sea Salt Ramen

For myself, I had to try the famous Chicken Truffle Sea Salt Ramen. This features their signature tori broth, truffle oil, shio seasoning, pork and chicken chashu, aji-tamago, bamboo shoots, green onion, enoki, and wilted gem tomatoes. There are so many toppings on this that I found it a little overwhelming. But the first thing I noticed was the smell of truffle! I could smell it as the server brought it over. To my disappointment, I found that the truffle flavour is not very apparent in the broth itself. You can definitely smell it, but the taste is not as strong. The broth is basically the same as the Paitan Sea Salt, where it was too thick for my liking. Noodles were also medium consistency, so perhaps the reason I wasn’t a huge fan of it. The tamago yolk was spilling out in the center but the edges were slightly overcooked, so could be worked on.

 

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Overall, we personally found Yuzu Shokutei’s ramens to be quite average based on the ones we tried as we personally aren’t a huge fan of medium consistency noodles and the thick broth. However, I have to say the ramens are quite interesting and modernized. The portions are also pretty good for $12-14 in downtown. But with all the ramen joints around this area, it may be difficult for Yuzu Shokutei to compete, but hopefully their other izakaya items can draw the crowds!

 

Pros:
– Truffle ramen is really interesting
– Friendly service

Cons:
– Personally didn’t enjoy the medium thickness of noodles and thick broth

Price Range: $15-20

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 3 Service: 4 Ambiance: 3 Parking: 3 Overall: 3

Yuzu Shokutei Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

[Japan Series] Day 13: Takama Soba たかま, Abeno Harukas あべのハルカス, Ichiran 一蘭, Osaka 大阪市

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The next day, we decided to stay in Osaka to hit up a few more attractions. On my list was to try Takama (たかま), an affordable one Michelin star soba restaurant.  They open at 11:30am and I’m not sure if they take reservations, but were told to arrive 30 minutes before they open to ensure we get in during the first seating. The restaurant is tucked away in the side streets near Tenjinbashisuji Shotengai, a shopping alley, but this restaurant is super low key looking so you would miss it if you were just walking by. There is no English outside, so just look for this wooden house with a sliding door.

 

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We arrived around 11am and a small line was already forming.

 

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The restaurant is extremely small, with one round table that fits around 10 diners, and then a small four seater tucked on the other side. We were the second last couple to get a seat, so we ended up having to share a table with another another couple on the side. The only downside is that you can’t see what’s going on on the other side. I’m not sure if you can see the chefs on the other side making the soba, but we were lucky enough to get a seat, so it didn’t matter.

 

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They have a small number of appetizers available, including the Dashimaki-Tamago. Of course it was pricier than the tamago we have been getting at the markets, but this was so light and fluffy! You can really see each layer of egg and it came paired with some grated radish and light soy sauce. Highly recommend getting this!

 

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S got the Ebiten-oroshi Soba Set for 2,000 yen and it came with prawn and vegetable tempura. As you can see, the tempura batter is extremely light. It came with a variety of vegetables that we were not familiar with, but overall, it was very good.

 

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At Takama, they serve two types of soba. The first style is called mori, a regular-style soba made from marunuki flour. The second is called inaka, a noodle made with hikigurumi, a whole buckwheat flour. Both flours are extremely high-quality and are from the Fukui prefecture.  S can choose either type for his set. He went with the mori style and had it cold (zaru-style). The noodles are served cold with a light sweet soy dipping sauce. I really enjoyed this as the soba noodles were super thin and had a nice chewiness. The cold soba turned out to be my favourite. With the cold soba, you will also have leftover dipping sauce, and at the end of your meal, the server will bring a pot of hot water which you pour into your leftover dipping sauce to dilute it as a drinking broth. Really tasty!

 

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For myself, I decided to try the warm duck broth and got it with the inaka style, 100% buckwheat flour. The inaka style has a more nutty flavour, but I personally like the lighter mori-style. The duck broth is flavourful with 2-3 pieces of duck inside. However, I am not personally used to have soba in a warm broth and found that the duck broth overpowered the noodles. Back in Vancouver, I think the only comparable soba restaurant would be Kinome, but I think I have to say this is the best I’ve had. At the end of the day, the meal for two probably cost around $50 in total, which is extremely good given it is a one Michelin star restaurant. There are English menus available and the servers can speak simple English. Keep in mind, they are open open for lunch from11:30 am – 2:30am.

 

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Since we were nearby, we decided to check out Tenjinbashisuji Shotengai (天神橋筋商店街). This is the longest shopping street in Japan which stretches 2,600 meters and has over 600 shops. On a weekday afternoon, it actually wasn’t too busy when compared to the famous Dotonbori. I found that many of the pharmacy shops here (if you look for the non-chain shops) were slightly cheaper so perfect if you are looking to stock up on Japanese drugstore cosmetics and snacks.

 

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After some shopping, we decided to train to JR Tennoji station. Here, we visited Abeno Harukas which sits on top of the Kintetsu Osaka-Abenobashi Station, which is across the JR Tennoji station.

 

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The Abeno Harukas (あべのハルカス) is the tallest skyscraper in Japan at 300 meters tall. The building includes a department store, an art museum, a hotel and an observation deck. The observation deck is called Harukas 300 and provides a 360 view of Osaka from the 60th floor. Admission costs 1,500 yen so since we already checked out Osaka from Umeda Sky Tower, we decided to skip this.

 

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Instead, you can go to the 16th floor for free and enjoy the garden terrace. I really enjoyed this modern clean space and it is a good option if you don’t want to pay the admission price. Of course, I’m sure the 60th floor would offer better views.

 

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This is what you can see from the 16th floor at the garden terrace. Not bad since it’s free!

 

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After walking around the department store, we decided to go check out Amerikamura. This is supposed to be a district near Shinsaibashi which offers more American style shopping. Funny enough, we searched Amerikamura in Google maps, and ended up at Universal Studios… Yes we have no idea how we ended up here, so always be careful with Google Maps in a foreign country. Turned out there were quite a lot of brightly lit souvenir shops before the entrance, so we did get to walk around a bit. As it was late, there was no point in entering Universal Studios at the time.

 

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After our excursion, we decided to head back to the Dotonbori area and walking by Ichiran (一蘭 道頓堀店別館), I suggested we enjoy a warm bowl of ramen. There are two outlets in the Dotonbori area. One is by the canal outside, whereas the other is under the shopping area along the strip. We went for the latter because we heard this location has 3 floors and way more seats. Of course, there was still the usual crazy line up, but this one is super organized for the tourists. You will still have to purchase the ticket at the vending machine, but you will also be asked whether you want to sit at the traditional individual booths, or if you want family seating arrangements. If you have never been to Ichiran, then I suggest trying the unique individual booths. However, since we have already tried it, and the line up for family seating was quicker, we went with family seating. Definitely not as interesting, but this is perfect for large families or families with kids.

 

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Be sure to check out the bathrooms! How many rolls of toilet paper do you need?

 

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We ended our night with a delicious bowl of Ichiran and it did not disappoint. Consistent with the other locations we tried and service was quick.

Takama Soba
Address: 7-12-14 Tenjinbashi, Kita-ku, Osaka

Ichiran 一蘭 道頓堀店別館
Address: