Hokkaido ramen is, of course, a favorite among locals and visitors. However, not all ramen shops are created equal. While any bowl of hot soup noodle can warm you up during the wintry season, a truly satisfying ramen experience is one that you can taste the shop owners’ pride in their craft. This is where Ueno-san of Irito Ramen truly delivers. Not satisfied with serving just any run-of-the-mill bowl of noodle, Ueno-san concocted his own recipes for his three styles of ramen: pork soup, curry and salt flavor (commonly called shio ramen). Each bowl of noodle strikes the perfect balance of taste and thickness that is appropriate for that particular style. The soup base has the distinctive flavor of one that has taken pride and patient to make. The noodle used is also Ueno-san’s own recipe which he commissions a local noodle maker to produce for him. The noodle has a thicker body and a wonderful firmness that allows just the right amount of soup to adhere to it; ensuring each mouthful to be ramen nirvana.
Want to add an update on this awesome restaurant. I say restaurant and not ramen shop because at night, this place transforms into a kick-ass izakaya. Serving wonderful dishes with Chef Ueno’s special touch. I had the pleasure of having dinner here last night. Unlike the ramen shop feel on the ground floor, the upstairs of this century old former soy warehouse is tatami style seating decorated with a charming collection of Japanese memorabilia. The dishes we had were a wonderful showcase of the fresh ingredients from Hokkaido. After starting with a round of Sapporo draft and some Shochu, we began with the nama-ham with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella, followed by a hearty baked pumpkin with potato and garlic. Next was a wonderfully creative and tasty crustless chashu “pizza”. While we were already getting quite full by this time, the arrivals of the perfectly pan fried pork fillets were simply irresistible and they quickly disappeared. The dishes served were as eclectic as they were unpretentious. The combination of top quality ingredients and an adventurous spirit really captures the essence of Hokkaido foods. Irito incredibly embodies this as either a ramen shop or an izakaya.