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Hanabi: True labor-of-love ramen

by

Special To The Japan Times

It is all too easy to overlook Hanabi. Every day streams of visitors walk past this unprepossessing noodle joint without giving it a second look as they hike between the center of Kamakura and the Hase area and its famous Great Buddha. That’s their loss, as it serves some of the best ramen in town.

Hanabi is a classic labor-of-love story, opened some 12 years ago by a husband-and-wife team armed with a great recipe and bags of enthusiasm. What with their two huge soup vats and other equipment, there is only room for an eight-seat kitchen counter, plus a small extension where all you see is the water filtering equipment.

They make their basic ramen in the shōyu (soy sauce) style, but with two choices of soup: a classic meaty version — they call it mukashinagara (old-fashioned) — made with chicken and pork; or the house-special Hanabi ramen, made with gyokai (fish-based) soup mixed in. This latter is favored by their regular customers, they say, perhaps reflecting their location close to the coast.

They also offer a shio (salt) ramen, tsukemen (dipping noodles) and a gently spicy, summer-only hiyashi (chilled) version. Regardless, the noodles are light and freshly made in-house. The provenance of everything is listed. The water is specially filtered and there’s no artificial anything in the mix. What’s not to like?

Ramen from ¥720; tsukemen ¥820; English menu; some English spoken