So I decided to drop in on Chabuya tonight to see how the place has progressed since it opened. Everyone had the feeling initially that 'given some time, it could be really great.' It's only been a month and a half (i think?) but my rameniacal tendencies got the best of me. Anyway, I went in today around 7pm and the place was half empty (granted it's the holiday season, so I'm hoping that had something to do with it). On to the chow.
I really WANT Chabuya to succeed. I REALLY REALLY do. Mainly because it at least attempts to bring 'real ramen' to our shores. Some of the kinks that people have commented on from the beginning HAVE been worked out a bit. When I first went, a friend said that the noodles didn't "fight back". I'm happy to report that this has been for the most part ironed out - IF you order 'kata-men' at least, meaning EXTRA FIRM noodles. I think they've gotten used to the local water. Knowing them, they're probably using filter pie water, but it's probably still not the same as in Japan. So in that sense, they're getting there. Springy noodles that are starting to put up a good fight.
Alas, the soup. It's still missing something. Quite a few people thought that the soup was way too salty - I never really thought that but then again my taste buds might well be shot from all the high-octane food I regularly ingest. I would argue that the soup is NOT and has NEVER BEEN all that salty, it's just lacking a dimension of sweetness to it that would make you notice the salt a little bit less and the overall flavor a bit more.
Something in my gut (literally?) tells me that chef Morizumi's insistence on the finest natural, organic ingredients might be making it that much harder on the soup. Maybe some MSG would do the trick; or maybe a stronger konbu soup stock, although the soup seemed pretty glutinous as it was. It kind of reminded me of Chinese shark fin's soup (sans red vinegar and soy sauce), which, you would think, might be a good thing, but for ramen, is a bit incompatible. Maybe it needs more garlic (granted I didn't have the garlic chips this time). Either way, the soup is missing that certain something - that dimension of sweetness to it - that would really hit the spot.
Other than that, the pork was lovely and fatty, maybe even fattier than before. (The pigs must be packing it on in winter.) The gyoza was delicate and uncontestable. The wait staff was friendly and attentive, and I couldn't ask for more.
FIX THE SOUP, Morizumi-sensei. I know you're making shoyu tonkotsu from Tokyo but take a cue from Ippudo and Kurume Taiho and the great ramen shops of Northern Kyushu... sweeten your tare and saturate the flavors a little bit more and all will be right in the world.