Yamaokaya - The smelliest but most delicious ramen
Just as some of the dodgiest, most ghetto looking yakitori shops end up being the best yakitori shops, so it is for ramen shops! It can be a dingy little hole that sells a deep, rich flavoured, heavenly broth to slurp your noodles with. So appearances aren't always the best indicator of quality in Japan like it is in restaurants in our home countries. Yamaokaya is one of these! A chain of 6 or 7 shops stretch across Sapporo, I know of 3 in the downtown area…….one on the corner of Minami 2 Nishi 2 (beside the Sunkus), one on Minami 4 in Susukino and another in the Tanuki Koji 4 shopping street. The thing here is the smell…..you can catch it a block or 2 away and I have to tell you, it does put you off! They boil their pork bones for 3 days to get every last yummy molecule out of the marrow of those bones and as a result the smell is somewhere between a sweaty gym bag and natto!! It is off putting, but believe me you won't regret going into the shop. All the restaurants have similar decor inside……..1970's esque Oyaji ramen hangout, so you know its gonna be no-frills, just bold, rich flavors. this is also reflected in the price where a regular bowl of ramen is only 710¥. I recommend going for the special miso ramen, its brilliant.
I moved up to Sapporo last year from the coastal area of Kanagawa near to Yokohama, where the noodles are thick and straight, the broth is rich and can be a little oily. THIS is why you go to Yamaokaya, it serves a Kanto/Kanagawa style ramen, where you can tweak the softness of your noodles, the amount of oil in your broth and the strength of flavour of your soup. I always go for normal noodles, low oil and strong flavored miso.
The resulting flavor is fantastic and is perfect for some pre-emptive hangover attack the night before or after the fact hangover recovery the following lunchtime. I love Sapporo ramen but I do sometimes crave the bolder more pungent flavour of the Kanagawa/kanto style.