Almost everyone who travels to Japan would tell you one thing, the food is incredible. From my own experience I don’t think I’ve ever come across any bad food in Japan, my scales would always range from pretty ok, to yumsss, to freaking amazing. In this short post I’m going to share with you my humble opinion of my top 3 favourite spots for ramen in Tokyo.
My first top pick would be good old Ichiran ramen. You’d find this ramen joint all over Tokyo, from Shinjuku to Harajuku. For a more detailed location of all their outlets, click here to get the full address of every single store. To get your order taken, with most ramen stores you’d just have to make payment at the ticketing machine at the entrance, select your ramen of choice and head in to get a seat. After you get a seat, you just hand over your tickets to the person behind the blinds and he/she will hand you an order sheet which you just fill out to customise your ramen meal, from firmness of noodles to the level of spiciness you’d prefer. Wait a couple of minutes, and you’d be served with a magical bowl of comforting piping hot ramen to curb any hunger pangs.
If you’d like to top up more noodles when you’re done, kindly ring the bell on the table to get that done. Or do like what my Japanese friend recommends, order a bowl of rice and dump it into the remaining soup for a second meal. You can’t go wrong with Ichiran, it’s pretty much the gold standard for ramen eateries.
Secondly, let’s talk about the worlds first Michelin star awarded ramen store, Tsuta. When they were first given the coveted title, I remember setting my sights on this restaurant when I heard about it in late 2015. I visited this restaurant in Spring of 2016. They didn’t take any reservations, so off I went to hunt for it. When I arrived at 11am in the morning, we were told they were sold out for the afternoon, and that the next available slot would be 5 hours later at 4pm. We said yes, and had to put a deposit down for 1000 yen per person. After lingering around, waiting in anticipation we showed up again at 4pm thinking we had our seats, but nope. We had to queue with the other people who also got the 4pm slots. We took a number 5 hours earlier to get in queue, this is serious business. There was probably about 20 people in front of us, so that was about 45 minutes wait in line. When it was finally out turn to go in, the guy returned our 1000 yen deposits, and we had to take our orders at the ticketing machine, and wait again. Finally after so much time sacrificed for this meal, it proved to be worth the wait.
The little diner was much smaller inside than what I had imagined. About 9 seats in total, and the chef did say they only make about 150 bowls of noodles a day, hence the crazy wait at such a small establishment. It was unlike any other bowl of noodles I’ve had before, the scent of truffle and light flavoured soya sauce filled the air, and it tasted magical at my first slurp. The clean and clear shoyu broth certainly did hit the spot, which keeps you going back for more. Overall, it was a great experience trying this place out, but like I said the wait is a killer, I don’t foresee myself coming back, as I honestly do hate to queue up for food. If you have a couple of hours or half a day to spare, or if you’re a die hard ramen fan, go ahead and try this joint out, you will not be disappointed.
To find this restaurant, just head over to Sugamo station, and then key it in on google maps, it should be just a quick 3-5 minute walk from the station. Click here for a map link.
Thirdly, on my most recent trip to Tokyo my friend dragged us to his favourite ramen joint called Mutekiya. There’s only 1 location so far of this restaurant (as of April 2018), and it’s located in Ikebukuro. Head on over to Ikebukuro station and you’ll get there on foot in 3-5 minutes, click here for a map link. There was also a line, like in most places in Japan, but it moved pretty quickly, and when you’re almost at the entrance the staff will be swarming around you with the menu in all languages for a swift order, so you can get in, eat, and get out.
The ramen here is based on a tonkotsu broth, which originated from Kyushu, and unlike its shoyu and shio soup base, this was a porky broth that felt heavy. Good for a cold day, or when you just need some hearty food. At first slurp your lips will be coated with a layer of oil. It’s the greasy kind of ramen, but continue slurping and you’d be rewarded with a complex layer of flavours, and mix it up by taking a bite of the chunky char siu slices it comes with. It was quite a challenge to finish this as you’d be feeling full pretty fast. This bowl of noodles could probably keep you full for half a day.
There are so many more ramen joints all around Tokyo, but as a first time to this mega city, this would be my go to ramen joints that I’d highly recommend to people. Keep exploring and most importantly of all, keep on eating.