Isonokatsuo is a ramen shop in Suskino, the drinking district of Sapporo, Hokkaido, that opens its shutters around the time the city night life starts revving up into full swing and continues to serve up hot bowls of noodles until 7  o’clock the next morning.

All-night ramen shops are not unheard of in Japan, but Isonokatsuo is known for making ramen so delicious that people line up for it in the middle of the cold Sapporo night. On a recent trip to Hokkaido, one of our reporters decided to burn the midnight chili oil and try out Isonokatsuo for himself.

Check his report below!

・The Ramen Shop, Isonokatsuo
Part of its appeal is due to its location in Suskino, Sapporo.  Suskino, is like any bustling drinking district in Japan but has a softer image than, say, Shinjuku’s Kabukichou.  Many people who can compare, claim Suskino as a favorite place to go out.  Isonokatsuo is one of the many hidden-to-tourists yet famous-with-the-locals gourmet shops which can be found in Suskino.  After all, it’s the ramen shop with the longest line in the middle of the night!

Suskino district

Down this narrow little hallway…

…to Isonokatsuo

・Superb Ramen
Now I like to think I know ramen, and the best shoyu (soy sauce)-flavored ramen is one that uses soy sauce simple in taste so you can enjoy drinking the soup as well as the other ingredients.  Isonokatsuo’s “Sapporo Black Ramen” is exactly like that, despite its dark appearance (and what is it with Japan and black these days?).  This is a bowl of ramen you can enjoy from the first slurp of noodles, down to the very last drop of soup.

Sapporo black shoyu ramen

Don’t peer at the layer of oil too long. Just drink!

・Only the goodness of the soy sauce and oil reaches your taste buds
Oil is at the heart of a good ramen soup.  If something is oily it is usually thought of as ‘greasy’ and, well, bad.  But this ramen, with all its oil, has a secret ingredient that keeps it from being too greasy:  the refreshing taste of black soy sauce, which gives this soup it’s good temperament.  It brings out the best in the soup base and the oils so that only goodness reaches your taste buds.  It is the secret to the success of this soup.

You can ask for grated ginger to add to your soup. The menu says to try it on its own, then add the ginger for even more flavour!

・The noodles are covered in the flavorful soup.
When you raise the noodles from the soup on your chopsticks they are dark with the color of the soup.  The noodles for this ramen are especially thick so that even though the flavor of the soup is absorbed by the noodles to some extent, they still retain their noodle flavor to the core. This makes them an even better match for the soup.

・Just a bit of rice
When you get to the end of your noodles and there is still some soup left in your bowl, you can order ‘just a bit of rice’ to make a tasty finish to your soup.  All it takes is just a little bit to make the soup perfect.  You can also get some free grated garlic to go with that soup and rice, giving it an even more refreshing flavour.

‘Just a bit of rice’

Save some of your meat to go with the rice, Mmmmm, good!

The Sapporo Black Ramen is 750 yen (about $9.40 US).  You can get extra toppings of meat and onions for 200 yen ($2.50 US) and 100 yen ($1.25 US).  The ‘just a bit of rice’ is 50 yen ($.63 US).

・Shop Info
Isonokatsuo
Address: south 5 – west 5 – 21,  2 Kyukankou Building 1F, Minami ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido
Hours: 22:00~07:00  (or until the soup runs out)
Closed: Sundays

[ Read in Japanese ]